National Association Of Guide Dog Users Chooses Twilio To Power Their Hotline

The National Association Of Guide Dog Users Chooses Twilio To Power Their Hotline, Track Down Illegal Denial Of Service Issues

There’s a good reason guide dogs have “don’t pet me, I’m working” printed on their harnesses. They may be adorable, but they’re working dogs first and foremost. Guide dogs offer blind men and women tremendously valuable services from navigation, to security, to companionship. The National Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, gives blind people the access, training and information they need to be successful with their guide dog.

The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) uses Twilio to power one of the most powerful resources they offer their members – their hotline. It provides members with instant access to critical information on the American with Disabilities Act and their rights to take their guide dogs on planes, in restaurants etc. If they need any more help, the NAGDU has a team of volunteers ready and waiting to answer any questions members might have.

Getting Back Flexibility: NAGDU Switches To Twilio

NAGDU president Marion Gwizdala started the hotline to answer common questions members had when getting accustomed to their guide dog. But their first service provider it hard for Marion to keep that hotline up and running. It was costly and brittle. Updating the hotline’s critical pre-recorded messages and announcements was a hassle. Marion had to contact his service provider, give them the audio, pay them to change the audio prompts and then wait weeks for the change to go ship. Worse, the audio quality of the hotline was less than stellar, a big sticking point for NAGDU members.

Marion contacted developer and NAGDU member Aaron Cannon to see if he had any ideas on how they could improve the hotline, and get rid of their current provide. Aaron already had a plan. He told Marion about Twilio, the pricing, and the flexibility. Marion still was skeptical. He asked Aaron “Are you sure they’re not going to change their pricing structure in six months?” Aaron was sure, and quickly got to work switching there hotline over to Twilio and joined Twilio.org

Tapping Untapped Potential: Revamping Audio Quality and Hotline Features

“My concern was not only the price but rather the flexibility, of lack thereof, to change the messages and update the messages and to do a lot more with the hotline. I saw some untapped potential,” said Cannon. “We got it all done very quickly. We’re very pleased,” he added.

When NAGDU switched to Twilio, they got to work on three primary areas of concern they had with their previous provider: audio fidelity, flexibility, and call recording.

NAGDU re-recorded all their voice prompts in a studio, confident that Twilio would deliver the level of audio fidelity their members expected. They also built a feature for NAGDU hotline volunteers that allows them to login to the hotline remotely, from their personal phone, and set hours in which they will accept hotline calls forwarded to their personal phone. However, the most valuable asset NAGDU added is call recording.

Using Twilio <Record> To Track Down Illegal Denial Of Service

When NAGDU members have an issue with denial of service in a restaurant because they have a guide dog with them, that’s not only a problem, it’s illegal. NAGDU President Marion Gwizdala heard stories time and time again about restaurants denying service, and later claiming the denial never happened.

Using Twilio, NAGDU gives members the option to call the hotline and be transferred to a volunteer while the call is being recorded. The NAGDU member who is having the issue can easily hand the phone to the restaurant owner, who will be on record with the volunteer. With this record, the NAGDU is well equipped with the evidence they need to get restaurants to respect the rights and of blind people.

NAGDU is currently working on iOS apps that integrate with the hotline as well as assembling a record of state specific regulations for guide dogs. Marion is confident they’ll be able to move fast now that they’re using Twilio.

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Dr. larry Kilmar in His own words: “We made history today!”

Summary of training session on 5/9/15

Today we had Marion Gwizdala, NAGDU President, his wife, Merry Schoch, their granddaughter, Hannah , and Marion’s dog, along with Chuck and Debbie Hietala, Area Coordinators for the Guide Dog Foundation, and 5 guide dogs in training and their trainers to tour the Zoo.

We first started in the Main Aviary and took two dogs in separately and walked about 60 feet into the aviary with little disruption.  Interesting the first dog was one of the younger dogs in training and birds had little to no concern about that dog,  when we brought the larger dog (Marion’s dog), they did alert; however, it was not anything of great concern. Both dogs were steady.

Next we went to the Lorikeet Landing and, again, used two dogs separately. We entered the aviary and took part in the feeding.  The second dog circled the complete pathway with little to no negative reaction from the Lorikeets and the Marbled Teal were closely observing  but did not leave their position next to the pool. In both cases birds fed from the hand of the trainers while their dogs watched.

We then proceeded to Wallaroo Station, walked around the station, and up to the goat petting area.  The goats did alert, however I think it was due to the number of dogs – 6 altogether. No aggression was exhibited to speak of, more curiosity on the goats part.

We walked past the penguins to the service road. There was no reaction from the penguins. We walked down the service road to the manatees, stopped for a few minutes pool side, and then on to the service road behind the chimps to the Sweet Shop.  The chimps were interested , the mandrill did alert, and the guenons were very interested, as were the dogs.

We finished the training tour in just under two hours and, without question, I would say that it was a great success.

We will schedule future training sessions using one or two dogs to allow for easier control and access. I will distribute that schedule once Marion, Chuck, and I  touch bases. We should follow-up with an article in Zoo Chatter and a future CTTV spot as well.

We made history today!!!

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Lyft plans to appeal Hillsborough ruling

With the ongoing litigation of the National Federation of the Blind alleging discrimination by Uber, another ride-sharing company, we are keeping our eye on this issue with Lyft. Uber and Lyft contend they are not transportation companies and, as such, not covered entities subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ruling by a Hillsborough County (Tampa, Fla.) hearing officer that they are acting as a taxi company subject to the rules of the county’s Public Transportation Comission (PTC) contradicts this assertion. Here is the latest on this issue.

Marion Gwizdala, President

Lyft plans to appeal Hillsborough ruling Hedly news offlead runs @ 2/42/2, plz. By Steve Contorno Times Staff Writer TAMPA Lyft officials say they will appeal a hearing officer’s decision to uphold a citation against the ride-sharing company issued by Hillsborough County. “Lyft’s peer-to-peer model is fundamentally different than a taxi or limo and we intend to appeal the decision to the Second District Court of Appeal,” spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson told the Tampa Bay Times. On Monday, a hearing officer upheld a $200 citation against Lyft issued during a December sting operation. The ruling said that while Lyft may not own any cars, it operates similar to a taxi company. And without the proper permitting, it wasn’t allowed to do business in Hillsborough. “Although the vehicle involved in the citation was not an actual taxicab, it was functioning in the same capacity,” hearing officer Susan More wrote, noting also that Lyft approves the drivers, completes background checks and provides commercial liability insurance. More issued a similar verdict against Lyft’s competitor Uber last year. The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is weighing how to regulate ride-sharing companies here. Lyft said it wants to find a solution. “People in Tampa have made it clear they want Lyft as an affordable, reliable way to get around their city,” Wilson said, “And we remain committed to working with the PTC toward a solution that secures a future for ride-sharing. Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com or @scontorno.

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Tampa Hearing Officer Calls Lyft a Taxi Company

The National Federation of the Blind has filed a lawsuit against Uber alleging discrimination for failing to transport blind people accompanied by their guide dogs. Uber asserts they are not a transportation provider; rather, they are a technology company. here is a story about the decision of a Hillsborough County (Tampa, Fla.) hearing officer who found that Lyft, a ride-sharing company similar to Uber, is a taxi company.

Marion Gwizdala, President

National Association of Guide dog Users

National Federation of the Blind

Hearing officer confirms Lyft acts as taxi company. By Steve Contorno Times Staff Writer TAMPA For all intents and purposes, Lyft is a taxi company, and it violated Hillsborough County rules by operating without proper permits. That’s the ruling from county hearing officer Susan More , who upheld a $200 citation against the ride-sharing company issued in December. In her ruling Monday, More said police witnessed a driver using a cellphone with Lyft software that “calculated distance and fare, which, in essence, serves as a taximeter. “Although the vehicle involved in the citation was not an actual taxicab, it was functioning in the same capacity,” More wrote. Lyft asserted during the hearing that it was not a transportation-for-hire company because it did not own cars. Lyft has said it’s a technology company that helps connect passengers and drivers. More rejected that argument. She said approving the drivers, completing background checks and providing commercial liability insurance “demonstrate an involvement by Lyft in the causing or allowing of the operation of a public vehicle without a permit. The hearing pertained to just one citation, but the county and Lyft agreed in advance that the ruling would apply to 38 other tickets issued last year. Ride-sharing has become a controversial issue for state and local governments around the country. Users enjoy the ease of ordering and paying for a ride on their phones without the hassle of cash or credit. But regulators worry drivers are not properly vetted or certified, and that the rate flexibility ride-sharing companies enjoy is not afforded to taxicabs. The Hillsborough County Commission is weighing how to balance those competing concerns. In the meantime, Uber and Lyft aren’t supposed to operate here. On Tuesday, Uber asked its Florida customers to sign a petition asking lawmakers to enact a law in the upcoming special session allowing ride-sharing. Lyft can appeal the results of the hearing to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission board and then to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to pay a $400 hearing fee.

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Hearing Officer confirms Lyft is Acts as Taxi company

The National Federation of the Blind is currently suing Uber for discrimination because they have denied or interfered with blind people who use guide dogs in the access of their services. Uber contends they are not a transportation company; rather, they assert, they are a technology company. Here is a decision by the Hillsborough County (Tampa, Fla.) concerning another ride-sharing service similar to Uber.

Marion Gwizdala, President

Hearing officer confirms Lyft acts as taxi company. By Steve Contorno Times Staff Writer

TAMPA For all intents and purposes, Lyft is a taxi company, and it violated Hillsborough County rules by operating without proper permits. That’s the ruling from county hearing officer Susan More , who upheld a $200 citation against the ride-sharing company issued in December. In her ruling Monday, More said police witnessed a driver using a cellphone with Lyft software that “calculated distance and fare, which, in essence, serves as a taximeter. “Although the vehicle involved in the citation was not an actual taxicab, it was functioning in the same capacity,” More wrote. Lyft asserted during the hearing that it was not a transportation-for-hire company because it did not own cars. Lyft has said it’s a technology company that helps connect passengers and drivers. More rejected that argument. She said approving the drivers, completing background checks and providing commercial liability insurance “demonstrate an involvement by Lyft in the causing or allowing of the operation of a public vehicle without a permit. The hearing pertained to just one citation, but the county and Lyft agreed in advance that the ruling would apply to 38 other tickets issued last year. Ride-sharing has become a controversial issue for state and local governments around the country. Users enjoy the ease of ordering and paying for a ride on their phones without the hassle of cash or credit. But regulators worry drivers are not properly vetted or certified, and that the rate flexibility ride-sharing companies enjoy is not afforded to taxicabs. The Hillsborough County Commission is weighing how to balance those competing concerns. In the meantime, Uber and Lyft aren’t supposed to operate here. On Tuesday, Uber asked its Florida customers to sign a petition asking lawmakers to enact a law in the upcoming special session allowing ride-sharing. Lyft can appeal the results of the hearing to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission board and then to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to pay a $400 hearing fee.

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More About Bringing Our animals to the zoo

The National Association of Guide dog Users (NAGDU), with the support of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), has applied for a grant from the Institute of Museums & Library Services (IMLS) to create a program to educate zoos about the importance of desensitizing their collections to the presence of service animals in order to allow greater access to their facilities by guide and other service dog users. Here is an announcement from the Suncoast Puppy Raisers of the Guide dog Foundation concerning the first of our efforts with lowry park Zoo in tampa, Florida.

May 2015.pdf

Puppy Saturday Meeting
Date: May 9, 2015
Where: Lowry Park Zoo
1101 W. Sligh Ave. Tampa, FL
33604
Time: 10:00 – 12:00pm
Hi everyone,
Many of us think of our puppies as
our kids, so this month, we are taking
our “kids” to the Zoo. Although we
know it’s fun to see all the exotic
animals, our visit to the zoo has a
greater purpose. This time instead of
focusing on exposing our puppies to the
zoo animals, we are trying to expose
the zoo animals to our puppies. In a captive environment, some of the animals view the dogs as a threat and can
show fear or aggression towards their presence. It is for this reason that guests accompanied by a service
animal have been denied access reasoning that it may harm the residential animals, even though this is in
violation of the Federal Service Animal Access Law.
The National Association of Guide Dog Users along with other service animal organizations have been
pushing back, no longer tolerating denial of access to all areas of zoos and theme parks that house exotic
animals. In a joint effort, zoological societies are working with service animal groups to create a program
educating staff about service dogs and how to introduce service dogs to residential animals.
The Suncoast Puppy Raisers have been invited by Larry Kilmer, Ph. D., Vice President of Lowry Park Zoo
and Animal Conservationist, for an introductory visit for training and assessment purposes. On a previous
visit, Larry accompanied Marion Gwizdala, President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users with his
dog Sarge, and a separate visit with Chuck, Maddox and myself to test the waters. Although the animals were
curious and cautious, they didn’t seem too alarmed. Larry wants to expand the experience with our entire group
and plans to give us a more in depth tour of the park. This is a training experience for our pups and the staff at
the zoo, as well as an exposure to our pups and the animals at the zoo. It should be a lot of fun as well as
serious work for our pups.
Directions: Go to I275 northbound thru Tampa, take the Sligh Avenue exit, head west on Sligh, when you cross
North Blvd. the entrance to the zoo will be your next right. Park in the parking lot relive your pup and we will
meet in front of the main entrance. Do not be late for this meeting. We will be met by Dr. Kilmer and escorted
into the zoo. If you are not there when we enter the zoo you will be on your own! Call Chuck on his cell if you
have any issues or cannot find us or need different directions.

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Consumer Alert: Service animal Scam

Consumer Alert: Service dog scam

Posted: Apr 28, 2015 8:06 PM EDT

By Danielle Serino

Posted by 19 Action News Digital Team

http://www.19actionnews.com/story/28924510/consumer-alert-service-dog-scam

“Service Dog Scam” causing concern among disability advocates (Source: WOIO)

“Service Dog Scam” causing concern among disability advocates (Source: WOIO)

A mailing is going around promising that for a fee you can get everything you need to turn your family pet into a service dog.

It’s being called the “Service Dog Scam” and it makes cracking down on service dog fakers very hard.

“They are basically telling people to violate the law by doing this,” said disability rights advocate Lou Erteschik.

Erteschik got very upset when he saw a 15-page color brochure that’s arriving in mailboxes.

It claims customers can legally turn their family pets into service dogs if they pay anywhere from $69 to $197, plus extra for rush delivery.

They can receive service dog ID cards and certificates.

The problem is, there is no federal process for certifying service dogs.

“This, to me, creates a backlash and it sets back the disability movement because these people are obviously fakers and the people who use their service are likely to be fakers,” said Erteschik.

Legitimate service dogs help people every day.

But others try to claim that their family dogs are service animals, trying to get them access to public facilities

“At its core, it’s deceptive advertising and the least, at the worst, it’s another scam,” said Erteschik.

The head of the Better Business Bureau says the Oregon-based company behind the brochure has a history of get-rich-quick schemes.

“And it’s unfortunate that scams such as this and deceptive marketing lead people to believe that it’s okay to represent your family pet as something that it’s not,” says Gregory Dunn.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a business cannot require a person with a service animal to disclose what disability they have, or provide proof the dog is certified, according to consumer advocate Angus McKelvey.

“People are now being able to get fraudulent badges and certificates saying ‘this is an actual service animal to help me with a disability’ when there’s no such thing. They just want to be able to bring their dog into the restaurants or on the plane or everything else,” said McKelvey.

While a business owner can’t ask about a person’s disability, they can ask what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. If the dog misbehaves, barks, jumps or soils the premises, the owner can ask for the dog to be removed.

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