Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Question about Dealing with Access Disputes

I have a question about how we deal with access disputes.  Not about the legal aspect of it but the social implications, the ethics of it all.  Let me see if I can explain this correctly. What do you do - or what should we do - when faced with an access dispute when we are with another person and it's sort of their event?

For example, what if you are accompanying your mother to an appointment with her doctor and someone at the doctor's office says you can't bring your SD in? Do you handle it the same way you would if you were going to your own doctor's appointment, or do you let your mother handle it since it's her doctor, or do you stop and ask her how she'd like you to handle it?

Or what if you are going with a friend to get her hair done and someone at the hair dresser's says you can't bring your SD in? Do you handle it the same way you would if you were going to get your hair done, or do you let your friend handle it, or do you ask her what she'd like you to do?

Or what if it is your friend's birthday and you are going out to dinner with him and some other friends and you are denied access at the restaurant? Or... you probably get the idea. In situations like these, do you just deal with the access dispute as you normally would? Do you feel it's the other person's responsibility or place to deal with it? Do you deal with it together?

And if you were in the place of the mother or the friend, and the person accompanying you experienced an access issue, how would you want it to be dealt with?

I don't know the answer.  I'm curious about what others would say.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Biggest Access Dispute So Far

Last week I had an access dispute, by far the most upsetting I've had since getting my SD. I thought I'd share what happened, how I handled it, what's been done to date to deal with it, and I will provide updates as I get them.

This was in a health care setting. I was informed I could not visit a friend in a particular unit and had to wait until they were moved to a private room "because the service dog is not allowed in there."

Me: What? Why not? The Americans with Disabilities Act says if visitors are allowed, I can take my service dog.

Employee: That's what I thought but I am being told we don't allow dogs in there.

Me: But why?

Employee: It's a sterile area.

Me: Oh. So visitors have to change into scrubs and wear masks and gloves and stuff?

Employee: Well, no.

Me: They can wear street clothes?

Employee: Yes.

Me: Then that's not a sterile area. But I'll tell you what. Let's call the ADA Info Line at the Department of Justice and ask them. Here, I have them on speed dial.

Employee: Well, there are other patients in there.

Me: So?

Employee: The doctor doesn't want the dog in there.

Me: My friend's doctor doesn't? May I speak to him, please? He can call the ADA Info Line. They will be happy to explain the federal law to him.

Employee: Well, not that doctor specifically. It's all the doctors. It's just their policy.

Me: Well, the doctors cannot have a policy that violates the federal law. Who can I speak to about this?

Employee: Well, it's the head nurse that is saying service dogs aren't allowed.

Me: May I speak to her? Or how about her supervisor? You are violating my civil rights and you cannot do that.

Employee: Well, I can check again in an hour or so.

Me: No, that's not acceptable. I want to speak to someone right now.

Employee: Let me go check.

So the employee comes back and says I can visit "just for a few minutes."

I ask who I would speak to in order to prevent this from happening again because "discriminating against visitors with disabilities is not OK." I am told I should speak to the patient advocate. I ask for contact information and she says she'll get it for me but she never does. 

I really feel like she did not give it to me on purpose, not that it was just an oversight, but that she did not want me to complain.  Dude, that does not work with me.  I can find that information.

On my way into the unit to visit my friend, a nurse calls out, "Hey! That dog can't come back here!"

I say, "Someone already checked on it and said he could. The Department of Justice also says he can," and continue on my way.

So yesterday I get online and look up a phone number for the patient advocate at this facility. And no, it was not that hard to find.  I call and speak to someone who sounds appropriately concerned.

She says she will need to check because she knows there are certain areas where they can deny access to a SD, like an OR. I say yes, sterile areas, like an OR or a burn unit, where visitors would have to wear special clothing. But on this unit, visitors wore street clothes. I tell her the Dept of Justice says that's not a sterile area and they can't deny access and encourage her to call the ADA Info Line and ask for herself. She thanks me for clearing that up for her, says I answered her question about that.

She tells me she needs to talk to a bunch of people. The employee that denied me access and gave me the run around when I asked who I could speak to about it. The head nurse of the unit my friend was on. The facility's regulatory compliance person. She says that clearly their staff needs to be retrained on the ADA. She asks if she can call me back later in the week to let me know what progress she's made.

What made this access dispute the most upsetting?  Well, it had already been a long, stressful day.  Other employees had been semi-rude or unhelpful - for instance, one refused to give me directions to the cafeteria because it was apparently to hard to explain how to get there. But also, it's not like I could choose to go visit my friend at another health care facility.  They were a patient at this facility.  It's not like if a fast food place denies access and you can just go down the street to another fast food place.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Door Number One or Door Number Two

We are out of town and Isaac has had the opportunity to experience a number of new things over the past few days. One of those is elevators with doors in both front and back, where which door opens depends on which floor you stop on.

The first couple times we rode in one, Isaac was confused. Normally, he gets on an elevator and then turns around to face the door he just walked through, just like a person would do.

When the door opened behind him, he hesitated to turn around and walk out. He was still waiting for the door in front of him to open again. I had to tell him to come with me. 

 But after riding the elevator a couple times, he caught on. We've been in that same elevator a total of six times now, I think, and the last two times, he remembered and faced the correct door. 

He learns so fast. But it's also fun to watch him try to figure things out and he just had no idea elevators could have doors on both sides.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rest in Peace, My Friend

Monday I learned that a friend of mine passed away the day before.

I was on the way to Washington DC to stay with a friend, a different friend, for a week while she had surgery.

You know it's not going to be good news when someone calls you and, upon being informed you are in your car and driving, gently asks you to find a place to pull over so they can tell you something.

This was an hour or so after Isaac and I had stopped to take a lovely hike on a trail beside a beautiful lake. I was just getting ready to eat the other half of the sandwich I'd packed for my lunch. After I'd heard the news, I just sat there for a while. 

I remembered how my friend had sent me a box of dog toys and treats right after I got Isaac. One of the toys, a red thing made of the material fire hoses are made from (and therefor almost indestructible), Isaac still has. He and Jamie play keep away with it.

This friend not only donated money so I could afford to bring Whiskers home from Nebraska, she organized a GoFundMe to encourage others to donate. She is probably the reason I could afford to make the trip.

I sat there in my car and thought about how she was going to come visit me soon. We were going to go explore old country graveyards and she was going to photograph them.

She died in her sleep.

I sat there in my car for a while, and finally decided I needed to get back on the road. I had about two hours still to go. And I needed to eat my sandwich. It's so strange, how life goes on, you know?

She'd asked if I could visit her soon. I'd told her after the first of the year.

We always think there's plenty of time, don't we?

My friends are too young to die. I am too young to have friends that die in their sleep.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Not-a-Service-Dog at Family Dollar

Today at Family Dollar, the cashier commented on how well-behaved Isaac was and then went on to tell me that they recently had a man come in with a dog he said was a service dog but they knew it wasn't. They knew his dog was not a service dog, she said, because of how it was behaving (and they are used to seeing Isaac in the store so they know how a service dog should behave) and because the dog was not on a leash. The man was on one side of the store and the dog was wandering around on the other side.

I explained to her that the Americans with Disabilities Act says a service dog has to be on leash except if it must be off leash to do a task, and that even then, the handler should be right there and the dog should be under the control of the handler. I wanted to make sure she knew what the law says.

She said the manager was worried the man would "get nasty" if they asked him to leave but she told the manager if that happened, they could just call the police. I told her that the ADA absolutely says they can ask someone to remove their dog if the dog is not under control and asked her what happened. Well, they told him the dog had to leave and he just left. They did not need to call the police.

I am so pleased they handled that well and I was glad to have the chance to just make sure she knew that the law was on their side.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bedtime for Brave Doggies

I just took Isaac out to pee. Mid-tinkle, he spotted a deer walking across the street in our direction. He finished tinkling, then began to bark ferociously. I guess it is not possible to bark and pee at the same time?

Anyway, the deer just stood there staring at him like he was an idiot (like Isaac was the idiot, I mean, not the deer). I informed Isaac that was what the deer was doing, but Isaac said no, the deer was paralyzed by fear of the ferocious dog. The ferocious dog's momma then made him go inside for bed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Get It

Isaac and I were at the dog park and were getting ready to leave. His friend Clyde was leaving at the same time. 
Now, Isaac acts like such a labradork at the dog park, I usually do not tell people he is a service dog. I told his friend Iris's dad and he looked at me like he did not believe me. Probably because I'd just gotten done yelling at my dog to come back as he swam around the divider into the other section of the dog beach. Or maybe he because he still thinks Isaac does not know "drop" since he won't drop a ball so you can throw it for him.

Anyway. I pulled my car keys out of my pocket and my glove fell out.
Clyde's dad said, "I think you dropped a glove." 
I looked down at it on the ground, pointed at it, and told Isaac, "Get it."

Clyde's dad kind of chuckled, like he thought I was joking. 
"No," I told him, "He'll get it." 
Meanwhile, Isaac was trying to sniff Clyde's butt. I got his attention, pointed again, and said, "Get it for me." And he did!

Clyde's dad was suitably impressed.