Guide Dog Users Group launches Innovative Mobile App

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Guide Dog Users Group launches Innovative Mobile App

Tampa, Florida (September 17, 2014): The National Association of Guide dog Users Inc., a division of the National Federation of the Blind and the nation’s leading service animal advocacy organization, announced today that it has release the NAGDU Guide & Service Dog Advocacy & Information app. This new IOS app provides comprehensive information about the rights and responsibilities of service animal users under state and federal law.

“Every law in the United States concerning service animals can now be in your pocket,” says Marion Gwizdala, NAGDU’s president and a guide dog user himself. “There is no other single source for this type of information.”

The NAGDU app provides the entire text of the implementing regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerning service animals, along with the relevant laws of each state. It also offers specific guidance for those industries in which service animal users face the most challenges, such as restaurants, taxicabs, hotels, and health care facilities. In addition, those who face discrimination because of their service dog can use the app to call a special advocate trained to resolve such issues. The app is provided for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users free of charge as a public service by the National Association of guide dog Users. You can find the app by going to

https://appsto.re/us/F8jO2.i

or by simply searching for “NAGDU” in the Apple app store.

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About the National Association of guide dog Users

The National Association of Guide dog Users is the nation’s leading membership organization for blind people who use guide dogs.  NAGDU is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports sound policy and effective legislation to protect the rights of guide dog users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users and to support their work, you can visit their website at

HTTP://NAGDU.ORG

Or send an email message to

Info@NAGDU.ORG

About the NFB

        The National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and largest organization of the blind in the United States. The NFB believes that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight, but low expectations of the blind that create obstacles to achieving their highest potential. The Federation provides scholarships to blind students; support for those who are blind or losing their eyesight; advocacy for the blind facing discrimination; and educational programs for the general public on topics of blindness. The NFB is not an organization that speaks on behalf of the blind; they are the blind speaking for themselves. For more information about the National Federation of the Blind, you can visit their website at

http://NFB.ORG

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Service Animals in Stadium Seating

Service Animals in Stadium Seating
By Marion Gwizdala

The following information is intended as informal guidance only and should not be construed as legal advice. For more information, you may contact

National Association of Guide dog Users Inc.
National Federation of the Blind
Hotline: 888-624-3841 (888-NAGDU411)
Info@NAGDU.ORG

http://www.nagdu.org

This guidance is in response to the question as to whether a disabled individual accompanied by a service animal has the right to sit in general stadium seating or is required to sit in a seat specifically designated as disabled seating. This information is provided as informal guidance only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Title III of the Americans withDisabilities act (ADA prohibits private entities that provide public accommodations from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The implementing regulations of Title III of the ADA are contained in 28 CFR Part 36. According to the Act, public accommodations include “a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment“. (42 USC 12181(7)(C)) according to the implementing regulations of the ADA, “Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” (28 CFR Part 36.104) Places of public accommodation are required to modify their policies, practices, and procedures to permit individuals with disabilities accompanied by their service animals in all areas where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go. (28 CFR Part 36.302(7)

A place of public accommodation may refuse to allow an individual with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal if the presence of the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures (28 CFR Part 36.208), if the animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to correct the behavior (28 CFR Part 36.302(c)(2)(i)), or if the animal is not housebroken (28 CFR Part 36.302(c)(2)(ii)). If an entity asserts the animal poses a direct threat, it must demonstrate that such a threat exists. In determining if a direct threat to the health or safety of others exists, a public accommodation must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain the nature, duration, and severity of the risk, the probability that the potential injury will actually occur, and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures or the provision of auxiliary aids or services will mitigate the risk.; (28 CFR Part 36.208(b)) A public accommodation cannot assume such a threat exists. If a service animal is properly excluded, the public accommodation must allow the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises (28 CFR Part 36.302(c)(3)).

Though stadiums are required to have at least 1% of its capacity seating designated as wheelchair seating on an accessible path, there are no regulations requiring an individual with a disability accompanied by a service animal to make use of such seating. In fact, the implementing regulations specifically state, “Nothing in this part shall be construed to require an individual with a disability to accept an accommodation, aid, service, opportunity, or benefit available in this part that such individual chooses not to accept.” (28 CFR Part 36.203(c)(1))

In summary, a stadium is a place of public Accommodation. Disabled individuals must be allowed to occupy any area of a place of public accommodation that other patrons are allowed to occupy. In addition, a disabled individual is allowed to be accompanied by a service animal unless doing so poses a direct threat, the animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or the animal is not housebroken. Furthermore, disabled individuals accompanied by service animals may not be required to sit in designated areas if they so choose to not make use of such seating. For more information about the subject of stadium seating or other concerns involving the use of guide or other service dogs, you may contact the NAGDU Information & Advocacy Hotline at 888-NAGDU411 (888-624-3841) or send an email to

Info @NAGDU.ORG

The National Association of Guide dog Users is the nation’s leading membership organization for blind people who use guide dogs. NAGDU is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports sound policy and effective legislation to protect the rights of guide dog users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users and to support their work, you can visit their website at

HTTP://WWW.NAGDU.ORG

Or send an email message to

Info@NAGDU.ORG

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Bringing the Animals to the Zoo

Bringing the Animals to the Zoo\

By Marion Gwizdala

On Wednesday, August 6, 2014, my wife, Merry Schoch who serves as  Vice President of the florida Association of Guide Dog Users, and I met with the executive management team of the Lowry Park Zoological Garden. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss how Lowry Park Zoo and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) can work with the National Association of Guide Dog Users to afford individuals with disabilities who use service animals an optimal experience when visiting U.S. zoos. We have been interested in this project for quite some time, so I am pleased that all the necessary elements are in place to make this a reality!

Due to the unique challenges of displaying live wild animals, the issue of access to disabled individuals accompanied by service animals has been an area of concern for quite some time. Before the enactment of the Americans with disabilities Act, there were no nationally recognized policies or practices concerning service animals in zoos, leaving each exhibit to develop their own policies for such access. Some states had provisions allowing places that keep and display live animals for public enjoyment or education to deny individuals with disabilities accompanied by a service animal access to such places with their service animals. The state of Florida had such a provision that we worked to have repealed following the enactment of the ADA as it violated the implementing regulations of the Act. Since then, there has been some litigation to clarify the rights of access to zoos by service animal users. In spite of these cases, many zoos continue to have policies, practices, and procedures that are not congruent with the ADA ranging from restricted access to specific areas to a requirement for a chaperone while on the property.

The impetus for this specific project and our collaboration with AZA came when Dr. Don Woodman, a veterinarian and zookeeper from St. Petersburg, Florida who was raising a guide dog puppy, visited the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse New York and was denied access in spite of New York statutes allowing service dog trainers the same access as disabled individuals accompanied by their trained service dogs. Dr. Woodman was told that even a fully trained service dog had limited access to the exhibits. Dr. Woodman suggested we contact AZA and the rest of the story unfolds from there.

I want to acknowledge the support and encouragement of Steve Olson, vice President of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and mark Trieglaff, president of ACTServices, an ADA consulting firm specializing in work with zoos. It is through Mr. Olson’s suggestion after attending the 2013 annual meeting of the National Association of Guide Dog Users in Orlando that we are embarking upon this project. Mr. Trieglaff also attended this meeting, solidifying his commitment to ensuring the least restrictive access to zoo exhibits. I appreciate Mark’s introduction to Craig Pugh with whom he had worked while at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. I commend Mr. Pugh’s energetic and enthusiastic support of our efforts demonstrated by his willingness to dedicate more than two hours of his time to meet with us, along with that of three of his executive management staff, as well as his commitment to the long-term goals of this project. I was also very encouraged by Mr. Pugh’s willingness to lead by example, allowing us the opportunity to take a critical look at Lowry park Zoo’s policies, practices, and procedures and to make immediate changes based upon our input.

It was very refreshing that the management team valued and respected our experiences and suggestions. We were especially impressed with the willingness of Dr. Larry Killmar, Lowry Park Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Science and Conservation, to think outside the box and even more so to recognize the value of our expertise. I believe his willingness to be a part of the training curriculum by demonstrating how systematic desensitization of live animal exhibits will improve the experiences of all concerned will help this program be more widely accepted by those who exhibit their animals. We were especially impressed with Dr. Killmar’s understanding that no simulation experience, such as blindfolding sighted people or putting ambulatory individuals in wheelchairs,  can replicate the experience of the disabled person, underscoring the importance of our involvement in the creation and implementation of the project.

We also want to give credit to tony Moore who presented some issues from an operational perspective. As Lowry Park’s Chief Operating Officer, he is acutely aware of the practical issues faced by the staff with direct visitor contact. We realize that, in order to shift the paradigm of what constitutes reasonable access to individuals accompanied by service animals, we need to address the real concerns that are unique to live wild animal exhibits by creating sound solutions to these issues and concerns. As we progress on this project, anticipating the objections will help us advance solutions.

When we first conceived of this project, our vision was to create and market a video program for dissemination among AZA members. When we shared this vision with the team, Ruth Myers’s, Grants Manager for Lowry Park Zoo, helped us expand our perspective by raising our sights from a stand-alone video program about the rights and responsibilities of service dog users to a more comprehensive curriculum of instruction for live animal exhibits on the importance of effective policies, practices, and procedures for which the video would be one element. She suggested we increase the scope of the project, as well as the budget. Since the Institute of Museum & Library Sciences is one of the most obvious funding sources for this project and Ms. Myers is a former grant reviewer for IMLS, her expertise will help us create the best possible proposal for this project. Dr. Killmar shared that the San Diego Zoo has a web-based instructional platform where this curriculum could be made easily accessible to all personnel of subscribers to that service. As a member of the Board of directors for the Florida Association of Museums, Mr. Pugh also shared that this project could be a springboard for training other types of museums about how to make their collections more accessible to the blind and otherwise disabled.

We are now beginning the process of preparing the grant proposal and identifying the necessary resources to carry out this project. These resources include videography and editing technicians, other types of service animal users, volunteers to assist in desensitization programs, other marketing channels, curriculum development, grant research & writing, and additional funding streams.

As we move forward on this initiative, we intend to keep everyone abreast of the developments. The success of this project will depend upon a team effort. This team will likely expand, as more zoos embrace the concepts for which we are advocating. The team will include more individuals becoming involved in staff training, those willing to invest time in the process of systematic desensitization, and other needs we will identify as it unfolds. If you have suggestions for this initiative, please feel free to write to me directly. My contact information is

Marion Gwizdala, President

National Association of Guide Dog users Inc.

National Federation of the Blind

813-626-2789

Hotline: 888-NAGDU411 (888-624-3841)

President@nagdu.org

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NFB Files lawsuit Against Uber

During the annual meeting of the National Association of Guide dog Users, Tim elder, a disability rights attorney and member of the National Federation of the Blind, shared with us his efforts to require Uber to comply with the code of federal Regulations concerning access to guide dog users on Uber’s platform. The following information is the result of Uber’s failure to comply with that request.

Marion Gwizdala, President

Uber sued for allegedly refusing rides to the blind and putting a dog in the trunk
By Gail Sullivan September 10 at 5:06 AM
An advocacy group for the blind is suing the app-based ride-sharing service Uber, alleging the company discriminates against passengers with service dogs.
The federal civil rights suit filed Tuesday by the California chapter of the National Federation of the Blind cites instances in California and elsewhere when blind Uber customers summoned a car only to be refused a ride once the driver saw them with a service dog. In some cases, drivers allegedly abandoned blind travelers in extreme weather and charged cancellation fees after denying them rides, the complaint said.
The complaint filed in a Northern California District Court cites one instance where a California UberX driver put a service dog in the trunk and refused to pull over when the blind passenger realized where the animal was.
On another occasion a passenger was trying to explain that his dog was not a pet but a service animal when the driver allegedly cursed at him and accelerated abruptly, nearly injuring the dog and striking the passenger’s friend, who is also blind, with an open car door.
The group said it’s aware of more than 30 times blind customers were denied rides in violation of the American with Disabilities Act and California state law.
As a result, blind passengers are confronting unexpected delays and “face the degrading experience of being denied a basic service that is available to all other paying customers,” the complaint said.
Services such as Uber are quickly supplanting traditional taxis, a service blind people rely on due to the limitations of public transportation.
The National Federation of the Blind wants Uber to educate its drivers about disability rights and punish the violators in addition to providing a way for disabled passengers to immediately register complaints when they are refused rides because of service dogs.
In a statement reported by the San Francisco Examiner, Uber said its policy is to terminate drivers who refuse to transport service animals. “The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” the statement said.
However, Uber allegedly told some passengers it can’t control what drivers do because they are independent contractors. The company advised them to let drivers know about their animals ahead of time, said the Federation, which filed suit after Uber rejected its request to negotiate a solution.
The group claims the company closely monitors and controls its drivers by managing payments and services through the app, and by assessing driver performance based on customer feedback.
In September 2013, California’s Public Utilities Commission classified UberX as a transportation provider because it functions like a taxi dispatch. The commission also said that UberX may not discriminate against the disabled, the Federation noted.
Figuring out whether to treat Uber like a traditional taxi service or something else is the subject of heated debate across the country. Taxi services are required by federal law to serve the disabled, even if drivers are independent contractors.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/10/uber-sued-for-allegedly-refusing-rides-to-the-blind-and-putting-a-dog-in-the-trunk/

Uber sued for allegedly refusing rides to the blind and putting a dog in the trunk
By Gail Sullivan September 10 at 5:06 AM
An advocacy group for the blind is suing the app-based ride-sharing service Uber, alleging the company discriminates against passengers with service dogs.
The federal civil rights suit filed Tuesday by the California chapter of the National Federation of the Blind cites instances in California and elsewhere when blind Uber customers summoned a car only to be refused a ride once the driver saw them with a service dog. In some cases, drivers allegedly abandoned blind travelers in extreme weather and charged cancellation fees after denying them rides, the complaint said.
The complaint filed in a Northern California District Court cites one instance where a California UberX driver put a service dog in the trunk and refused to pull over when the blind passenger realized where the animal was.
On another occasion a passenger was trying to explain that his dog was not a pet but a service animal when the driver allegedly cursed at him and accelerated abruptly, nearly injuring the dog and striking the passenger’s friend, who is also blind, with an open car door.
The group said it’s aware of more than 30 times blind customers were denied rides in violation of the American with Disabilities Act and California state law.
As a result, blind passengers are confronting unexpected delays and “face the degrading experience of being denied a basic service that is available to all other paying customers,” the complaint said.
Services such as Uber are quickly supplanting traditional taxis, a service blind people rely on due to the limitations of public transportation.
The National Federation of the Blind wants Uber to educate its drivers about disability rights and punish the violators in addition to providing a way for disabled passengers to immediately register complaints when they are refused rides because of service dogs.
In a statement reported by the San Francisco Examiner, Uber said its policy is to terminate drivers who refuse to transport service animals. “The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” the statement said.
However, Uber allegedly told some passengers it can’t control what drivers do because they are independent contractors. The company advised them to let drivers know about their animals ahead of time, said the Federation, which filed suit after Uber rejected its request to negotiate a solution.
The group claims the company closely monitors and controls its drivers by managing payments and services through the app, and by assessing driver performance based on customer feedback.
In September 2013, California’s Public Utilities Commission classified UberX as a transportation provider because it functions like a taxi dispatch. The commission also said that UberX may not discriminate against the disabled, the Federation noted.
Figuring out whether to treat Uber like a traditional taxi service or something else is the subject of heated debate across the country. Taxi services are required by federal law to serve the disabled, even if drivers are independent contractors.
to-the-blind-and-putting-a-dog-in-the-trunk/

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McLawsuit Filed

McLawsuit

5

When my wife and I had an issue at a Tampa Mcdonald’s owned by Caspars Company, bob Conigliaro, Vice President of Marketing & Public relations, put the blame on us. (See blog post below). Acknowleging that his franchise participated in the same sort of discrimination alleged by this disabled individual would have added weight to the complaint, demonstrating a pattern of discrimination that might add to the preponderance of evidence against mcDonald’s. It is becoming clear why our local Mcdonald’s franchise – which seemed to be an ally of ours – has taken the position they have and placed the blame on us, telling us we were the ones who discriminated against their employees by using the analogy of ethnicity to help them understand the impact of discrimination against the disabled.

Marion Gwizdala, President

Man Sues Minnesota McDonald’s For Not Allowing Him To Eat Inside With Service Dog

By Ashlee Kieler April 25, 2014

(Morton Fox)
(Morton Fox)

It’s against the law for companies to discriminate or refuse service to people with service animals. But a Minnesota McDonald’s allegedly violated those laws and now faces a federal lawsuit.

A disabled Minneapolis man filed suit against a local McDonald’s owner and the global corporation alleging the restaurant violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when he was refused service twice while accompanied by his service dog. The man is seeking damages and requirements that company employees be trained and educated about the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The man, who has muscular dystrophy and a chronic back ailment, uses a wheelchair and has limited use of his arms and hands. His 4-year-old service dog helps with many of his daily duties, such as opening and closing doors.

According to the lawsuit, in late August 2012 the man wheeled himself into the McDonald’s with his service dog in tow. An employee behind the counter told him that the dog prevented him from being served. The man then rode his wheelchair into the drive-through and was told “we don’t serve those things in the drive-through.”

Upon returning back inside the restaurant the man was allowed to buy his meal but was told he could not come back.

Several months later in May 2013, the man once again returned to the McDonald’s location. This time he says his order was taken without issues, but while waiting the restaurant’s manager told him he had to leave.

According to the lawsuit, the manager demanded to see documentation that the dog was in fact a service animal, and told the man he could not eat in the dining area with the dog.

When the man said the law allowed him to eat there, the manager replied: “I am the manager here, and I am the law,” to which other customers laughed. Upon receiving his food, the man and his service dog left.

The man says he hopes the lawsuit shines light on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires that state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public must allow service animals to accompany those with disabilities.

Additionally, the Act puts limitations on inquiries about a service dog’s validity; asking a disabled person to produce the documentation of need is illegal.

“The best thing that could come out of this,” the man tells the Star Tribune, “is that all McDonald’s employees are required to undergo sensitivity training concerning people with disabilities.”

In a statement, the McDonald’s manager says he takes “complaints like this seriously [and] we do our best to provide a great customer experience to every customer.”

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Discrimination Under the Golden Arches: McDonald’s franchise ignores unjust treatment

Discrimination Under the Golden Arches;
McDonald’s Franchise Condones Unjust Treatment
By Marion Gwizdala

On Friday, July 11 at about 7:15 p.m., my wife, Merry Schoch, and I entered the McDonald’s Restaurant located at 1002 S. 78th Street in Tampa, Fla. This store is a Casper’s company franchise. Both Merry and I are blind and use guide dogs. Our dogs were both in harness and were obviously guiding us. We stood together in the lobby for a few minutes waiting to place our order. When we approached the counter, a young man came from the back of the restaurant and stated that the manager told him to tell us that dogs were not allowed. We shared these were service dogs and the female employee taking our order stated such, as well. I then asked to speak with his manager. He replied that his manager did not speak English. Merry stated to the female employee that she found it difficult to believe that the manager did not speak English and such conduct was being encountered. The female employee was very apologetic, stating she knew service animals were allowed. I asked her for the name of the manager and was told it was Olga Montana. We ordered our food, got our drinks and sat down to eat.

As we ate our meals, we discussed with each other that we needed to ask for a translator, educate the manager, and video record this interaction. Beginning at 7:37 p.m., we recorded an introduction before moving toward the counter area. (This introduction and the following interaction can be viewed by going to the link provided later in this narrative.) As we began to approach the counter, a woman stopped us. Merry asked to speak with the manager and the woman identified herself as the manager. Contradictory to the male employees assertion and as the recording clearly demonstrates, the manager does speak English, although she does assert “only a little”. She seems to have no problem understanding us; however, she also seems disinterested in what merry was saying to her, as evidenced by the fact that she continually turns her head away from us and finally simply walks away. Her apologies seem insincere and there was never an offer to resolve the issue. Rather, she shifted the blame to her employee, putting him on the spot and he shifts the blame to another employee, indicating that he was the one who told him to confront us about our service dogs. No matter under whose direction the employee acted, the manager is ultimately accountable, yet she takes no responsibility and seems to develop a ruse that she speaks little English. I contend it is a ruse because the female employee who took our order and attempted to intervene at the time of the confrontation was taking a break in the lobby after our recorded discussion with the manager and she told us the manager speaks better English than she is letting on.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a “Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” (28 CFR Part 36.104) According to the ADA, a “public accommodation shall modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.” (28 CFR § 36.302(c)(1)) “A public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Generally, a public accommodation may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision”. (28 CFR § 36.302(c)(6)) As stated earlier, our dogs were in harness and obviously guiding us. According to Florida law, “An individual with a disability is entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges in all public accommodations.” (413.08(2) f.s.) Florida law further provides that “Any person, firm, or corporation, or the agent of any person, firm, or corporation, who denies or interferes with admittance to, or enjoyment of, a public accommodation or otherwise interferes with the rights of an individual with a disability…commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.” (413.08(4) f.s.) Second degree misdemeanors are punishable by incarceration of up to 60 days and/or a fine of $500.

We have worked with Casper’s Company in the past to raise awareness among the general public on issues of blindness. We are aware that such conduct is not in keeping with the corporate culture of Casper’s Company nor McDonald’s. What we find most offensive is the conduct of the manager. Rather than taking responsibility for the situation – no matter on whose direction the first employee acted – is how the manager absolves herself of responsibility, seems to discount the issue of discrimination, offers what appeared insincere apologies, blames her entry level employees for the incident, turns her back on us and walks away, leaving her entry level employees with us. In defense of this employee, he seemed to be acting under another’s direction; whether that was of the manager or some other employee – and seemed genuinely and sincerely apologetic for the incident, in stark contrast to the manager. In such a setting, the manager is the ultimate authority, but her conduct demonstrated very poor leadership. We are also disturbed by the manager’s assertions that she speaks very little English. As already stated, she seemed to have no problem understanding us and her employee contradicts this apparent deceit. If this is so, it goes to the integrity of the manager and this behavior reflects poorly on McDonald’s. Please click on the following link to view the aforementioned video.

http://youtu.be/kePK2vedOog

It was our intention to resolve this issue amicably and attempted to discuss it with bob Conigliaro, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Casper’s Company. The National Federation of the Blind had worked with Mr. Conigliaro in the past on issues of blindness and felt he would fairly and appropriately resolve this issue. This, however, was not the case.

I spoke with Mr. Conigliaro on July 14 at about 4:40 p.m., explained the situation to him, and briefly discussed the incident. He confirmed that Olga Montana spoke perfect English and he would look into the incident. I sent him the above narrative, including the link to the video.
Within 40 minutes, Mr. Conigliaro called me back to tell me how embarrassed I should be by the way my wife and I conducted ourselves. He told me that we were not discriminated against because we were allowed to remain in the restaurant, to which I replied that the discrimination occurred when we were told we were not welcome with our guide dogs. He told us that we handled the situation inappropriately, that we brow-beat his employees, and that we were the ones who discriminated against his employees by asking them how they would feel if they were told they were not welcome because of their ethnicity. Mr. Conigliaro, in his convoluted logic, turns this incident into our fault, absolving Casper’s Company from any responsibility for the blatant discrimination we face! Mr. Conigliaro asserted that the manager in the video is not Olga Montana, but never identified who she is. Mr. Conigliaro asked me what I wanted and I told him I wanted this employees to be better trained about the rights of service animal users to which he replied they were already adequately trained. I replied they obviously were not! Mr. Conigliaro stated he was “unwilling to continue on the Merry-go-round” and, like the manager, abruptly ended the call.

Unfortunately, those of us who face discrimination know that we are often made to be the ones at fault, while those who discriminate against us assert they are the victims. We are the ones who are unreasonable. We are the ones who are rude. We are the ones who lack compassion. However, I did not expect this posture from someone I considered our ally! Then again, what else should I expect from a multimillion dollar company whose perspective is the need to protect their assets? He could have resolved this issue in the amicable manner with which we approached it; rather, he chose to take the stance of a victim by failing to take responsibility for his company’s actions and blame the ones who faced the indignities levied against them! Such a tactic has been used in nearly every incident of discrimination I have ever encountered.

Like the manager in the video recording, Mr. Conigliaro has turned his back on us. He tells us we are the ones who are rude by resisting unfair treatment. He tells us our assertiveness in protecting our civil rights by confronting discrimination and educating his employees is brow-beating. He tells us we should accept the insincere apology of a manager who refused to speak to us when we asked and when the incident first occurs and only approaches us when we begin to make a video recording twenty minutes later. Mr. Conigliaro would ask us to believe the manager’s apologies were sincere, in spite of the facts that she kept blaming someone Mr. Conigliaro calls “an entry level employee”, constantly looked away from us, attempted to deceive us into believing she spoke very little English, and then walked away from us without so much as an “Excuse me!”, leaving her entry level employees we are accused of brow-beating behind! Of course, Mr. Conigliaro justifies the manager’s quick exit by telling me she had a multimillion dollar corporation to run. And Mr. Conigliaro has the audacity to tell us we should be the ones who are embarrassed?

Bob Conigliaro contends we created this situation and that we should not be angry with his employees. He may contend it was not discrimination, but no matter how he colors it, discrimination it was. Mr. Conigliaro seems to have never faced the humiliation of discrimination. He probably has never been denied the right to eat in a restaurant, enter a store, ride in a taxicab, obtain a hotel room, rent an apartment, or choose his seat on an airplane. He has likely never faced the indignity of being asked by a doctor who bathes him, has never had a waitress ask his five-year-old what her father wants to drink or had a stranger tell her how proud she should be for the way she takes care of her dad, nor had a bus driver tell him there was a special seat just for people like him. Bob Conigliaro has never faced the humiliation and anxiety those of us who are blind face as we strive to participate in society on terms of equality, never knowing where the next instance of discrimination will occur. And when it does occur to be blamed for its occurrence! Mr. Conigliaro has likely never faced the social, legal, and economic barriers we face as blind people striving to live the lives we want. If Mr. Conigliaro has ever faced such an indignity, he has left it behind as he sits in the seat of the Vice Presidency of his multimillion dollar company that we, as his consumers have helped him build! Mr. Conigliaro may tell me we should be ashamed of the way we confronted the discrimination we encountered by Casper’s Company and McDonald’s; however, we are not ashamed! I am proud of how my wife had the courage to stand up to the injustice! It is Mr. Conigliaro who should be ashamed of how he condoned the unjust and discriminatory actions of his employees toward their consumers and then turns it around to make it our fault! It is his embarrassment and shame that he projects upon us so he can ignore the injustice he promulgates by ignoring this issue and blaming us for his company’s unjust behavior.

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School District to Modify Service Animal Policies and Pay Fines

As a advocate for guide dog users and one who is currently working to change the policies of several school districts and colleges with oppressive policies concerning service animals, I found this settlement very encouraging. I hope you will feel the same!

 

Marion Gwizdala, President

National Association of guide dog Users

National Federation of the Blind

 

New Jersey School District to Adopt Service Animal Policies and Pay Fine to Resolve Justice Department Investigation

June 24, 2014

Source: http://www.enewspf.com/latest-news/law-and-order/federal-and-international/53937-new-jersey-school-district-to-adopt-service-animal-policies-and-pay-fine-to-resolve-justice-department-investigation.html

 

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—June 24, 2014. The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with the Delran Township School District in New Jersey under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The agreement resolves allegations that the school district violated the ADA by refusing to allow a student with autism and encephalopathy to have his service dog in school or at school-related activities.  The service dog alerts to the student’s seizures, provides mobility and body support and mitigates the symptoms of his autism.

 

The department found that the student’s mother spent six months responding to burdensome requests for information and documentation, and still the school district refused to allow the student to be accompanied by his service dog.  Despite her efforts, the student was even prevented from bringing his service dog with him on the bus for his school’s end of the year field trip.  Instead, his mother followed the school bus with the service dog in her car.

 

Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public schools.  Under the ADA, public schools must generally modify policies, practices or procedures to permit the use of a service dog by a student with a disability at school and school-related activities.  Because service dogs must be under the control of a handler, students often act as the handler of their own service dog; when that is not possible, the family may provide an independent handler, as the family offered to do here.

 

The school district worked cooperatively with the department throughout the investigation.  Under the agreement, the school district will pay $10,000 to the family to compensate them for the harm they endured as a result of the school district’s actions.  In addition, the school district will adopt an ADA-compliant service animal policy and provide training to designated staff on the school district’s obligations under Title II of the ADA, including requirements related to service dogs.

 

“The old view of service animals working only as guide dogs for individuals who are blind has given way to a new generation of service animals trained to perform tasks that further autonomy and independence for individuals with a myriad of disabilities , ” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the ADA to ensure that students who use service animals have a full and equal opportunity to participate in all school activities with their peers.”

 

Enforcing the ADA is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division.  Those interested in finding out more about this settlement or the obligations of public entities schools under the ADA may call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website.  ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov.

 

The Civil Rights Division would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for their assistance in this matter.

 

Source: justice.gov

 

 

 

 

 

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