Principal Tried to Bar Blind Counselor’s Guide Dog, Complaint Says

Principal Tried to Bar Blind Counselor’s Guide Dog, Complaint Says

By Katie Honan on October 16, 2014 7:29am

Over the past few years, the national Association of Guide dog Users has fielded a number of calls from those who allege schools have denied their right to be accompanied by their guide dogs. These complaints have been from employees, students, and the public who had business on school campuses. Schools are covered entities under Titles I, II, & III of the Americans with disabilities Act and their denials are being brought to task by the enforcement agencies. Here is the latest in our struggle to remove the barriers faced by those who choose to use service dogs.

Marion Gwizdala, President

BROOKLYN — A blind counselor was discriminated against by the principal of an East Flatbush school who tried to bar her guide dog from her workplace, according to a complaint and the Department of Education.

Tami Hernandez-Rosenberg, 46, of Queens, started teaching in 1993 and became a guidance counselor at I.S. 285 in 2001. Three years later, after brain surgery, she was left legally blind and suffered partial paralysis on her left side, she said.

But she continued to work as a guidance counselor with assistance from school aides, a special computer and other tools, she said.

In 2011, she tore her rotator cuff, making it hard to use a cane. The injury made her eligible for a seeing eye dog.

She trained with Lonnie, a black Lab, in the summer and brought him to school in August to meet with her principal, Frederick Underwood, according to the complaint with the city’s Commission on Human Rights filed by Borrelli & Associates in September.

“They all knew I was getting a service animal — I made it very clear to everyone that I was coming back with a guide dog in September,” she said.

She also received the necessary paperwork through the state Department of Education, which granted her the medical waiver for the pooch.

“Mr. Underwood was not happy about having the dog in the building,” she said.

According to the complaint, the principal allegedly told her “I don’t want that dog in this school.”

But he was advised by the Guide Dog Foundation that guide dogs must be allowed to accompany those who need them in public places under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the complaint said.

The dog stayed by her side and sat behind her during counseling sessions, she said. She even held an assembly to teach the middle schoolers about Lonnie.

But Underwood began to treat Hernandez-Rosenberg “adversely,” the complaint states.

She was assigned additional duties in 2011 that went above and beyond her job as guidance counselor, including student government adviser, ACS liaison and elementary school recruiter, she said.

She assisted students with high school applications and was even part of the building’s response team during emergencies.

“My job — I don’t know why I was chosen — was to go around and get all the kids with medical issues in an emergency drill,” she said.

“I’m blind! Yes, I had a para who read the list off and collected the kids. But there are two other guidance counselors who can see.”

Underwood also began switching up her work schedule, which forced her to retrain Lonnie, the complaint said.

In 2013, he removed her from the air-conditioned room she requires for her health and also switched the para-professionals that had been working with her, according to the complaint.

Underwood told her he could “do what he pleased,” the complaint said.

Later that year he told the paras working with Hernandez-Rosenberg that they could no longer write for her, telling them they were only supposed to read for her. This made her job more difficult, she said.

And when she told Underwood she couldn’t do some of the additional duties because of her disabilities, he wrote her up for insubordination, the complaint said.

The stress from the situation caused her to have a bleeding ulcer last April, she said. In June 2014 she was removed from her assignment at the school — but she still reports to I.S. 285 each day while waiting for another role.

She sits alone in the media center and has gone on one interview this fall.

“It’s isolating. It’s humiliating,” she said of her situation. “It’s sad.”

Underwood, though, denied the allegations in the complaint and said he couldn’t prevent the dog from entering the school since it’s not up to him.

He was supportive of Lonnie and said Hernandez-Rosenberg sent memos thanking him for holding a school assembly on the guide dog, which he felt fostered an “inclusive” environment.

“We did that which was above and beyond what we had to do,” he said. “We complied to all her accommodations.”

He also said she requested additional leadership roles, which is why she was assigned the other responsibilities.

Underwood said the complaint is a “contradiction to what took place” and said he was forced to let teachers and Hernandez-Rosenberg go after lower enrollment cut his budget and staff.

“I think she believes it’s some correlation between what we feel about her,” he said. “We also had to let go of teachers.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the agency “cannot comment on this matter as it is currently the subject of litigation.”

Hernandez-Rosenberg said she hopes to find work closer to her Howard Beach home, but also wants her former principal to recognize what he did to her.

“I told him, you wouldn’t take crutches away from someone with a broken leg,” she said.

Source: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20141016/east-flatbush/principal-tried-bar-blind-counselors-seeing-eye-dog-complaint-says

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Advocates rally for access for those with disabilities

Advocates rally for access for those with disabilities

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About a dozen blind citizens rallied in front of the Museum of Florida History calling the contracted guards there “bullies” after a woman reported she and her guide dog were mistreated last week when they tried to visit the museum.

The woman, Tiffany Baylor, was not at Friday’s rally, but National Association of Guide Dog Users President Marion Gwizdala and his 6-year-old German shepherd Sergeant were, calling on state officials to allow them to offer more training to state or contracted security and scolding the treatment of a person with disabilities.

“For a blind person to go into a public building and be harassed by security officers is unconscionable,” Gwizdala said. “We are here to demand these security officers be reprimanded and if the state is not going to enforce the laws that three blocks away from here they passed then we’ve got a serious problem.”

Baylor said museum guards asked her to provide documentation of her disability and need for the guide dog. By law, specific questions about a person’s disabilities are prohibited, but asking what service a guide animal provides is allowed.

Officials with the Department of Management Services, the state’s building manager, released a brief video of Baylor at the museum capturing a small portion of the encounter. The agency has also called on the company to review protocols and provide training.

“The Department of Management Services strives to make all guests feel comfortable in its buildings with respect to accessibility and safety,” wrote DMS Spokesman in an email Thursday. “We will continue to make every effort to ensure all guests can access our managed buildings appropriately to conduct business or enjoy Florida’s history. The company is apologizing and we feel that is the right thing to do.”

The museum is housed in the bottom floor of the R.A. Gray Building that is home to the Department of State in Tallahassee.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner called Baylor to apologize for the incident in his building and offered a personal tour through the museum.

In a letter to Baylor, U.S. Security Associates’ Southern Division Vice President Deborah Kalert said the company regretted the actions the guards took and that officers must uphold the constitutional rights of all people.

“That their actions were perceived as being anything less than that is not what we or our officers expect,” Kalert wrote. “As a testament to our strive for perfection, we have implemented additional training for our officers and are committed to providing you and all visitors with the highest level of service.”

Merry Schoch, vice president of the Florida Association of Guide Dog Users, said her concern was that the incident would be dismissed or quickly forgotten by state officials.

“We have access denials all over the state of Florida and what is concerning to me is that they’re not taken seriously,” she said. “My hope is that the state of Florida takes this seriously and they will be role models for businesses, restaurants, hotels and cab drivers throughout the state of Florida. What’s very sad is we live in the 21st century and why did this happen in the first place?”

David Oliver, an Orlando lawyer for Morgan & Morgan who primarily handles Americans with Disability Act cases, said access restrictions are common, not just in public places and disabled individuals are not require to carry paperwork.

He said even if a person’s level of visual impairment may not be wholly apparent “that just stretches the bounds of outrageousness for anyone to question that,” Oliver said.

He added that there is potential for people to abuse the guide-animal claim, but “ADA guidelines are intended to avoid the public embarrassment of a disabled person for having to explain their disability,” Oliver said. “A guide dog, that’s a pretty simple answer and the questioning needs to stop there.”

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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND PROTESTS DISCRIMINATION BY STATE SECURITY CONTRACTOR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Marion Gwizdala, President

National Association of Guide dog Users

National Federation of the Blind

813-626-2789

President@NAGDU.ORG

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND PROTESTS DISCRIMINATION BY STATE SECURITY CONTRACTOR

Tallahassee, Fla. (October 7, 2014): On Friday, October 10, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., members of the National Federation of the Blind will gather outside the Museum of Florida History to protest an attempt to forcibly remove a blind woman who uses a guide dog from the museum. The incident occurred when Tiffany Baylor, a contract specialist for the Florida Division of Blind Services, visited the museum on the first day of Meet the Blind Month, a nationally recognized campaign of the National Federation of the Blind. Governor Rick Scott has also proclaimed October as Disability Awareness Month. Ms. Baylor was visiting the museum to view a special quilt created by the Lighthouse of the Big Bend to commemorate the month-long awareness campaign. One security officer grabbed the dog’s harness and attempted to pull the dog out of the building. When Ms. Baylor attempted to educate the officers about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Florida law regarding service animals, the officers asserted that those laws did not apply in state buildings.

“We are here to demand that criminal charges be brought against the offending officers as set forth in Florida law,” said Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), the National Federation of the Blind’s special interest group for guide dog users. “We also demand that they be appropriately disciplined by their employer, that clear written policies be created, and that all staff and contract personnel receive training on these policies and the laws concerning service dogs.”

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act states, “No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity” and allows disabled individuals to be accompanied by a service dog in any place the general public is allowed. Florida statute makes it a second degree misdemeanor to interfere with the rights of a disabled individual or to obstruct, intimidate, or otherwise jeopardize the safety of a service animal or its user. The implementing regulations of the ADA and the pertinent sections of Florida statute are available upon request.

# # #
About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

About the National Association of Guide Dog Users

The National Association of Guide dog Users is the nation’s leading 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 our work, you can visit our website at HTTP://WWW.NAGDU.ORG or send an email message to Info@NAGDU.ORG.

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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.

# # #

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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