Sunday, October 9, 2011

Service Dog Access: The Law & Good Customer Service

Recently I ventured out to meet Facebook friends. I brailed the world with Goodee the Service Dog. Well, not before making 7 calls to the airline to make the reservation.
However, the day arrived Service Dog and human navigated successfully through two airports. Flight crew friendly Hotel wonderful. Desk Clerk smiling, room service outstanding --- “
Everything is going right this trip.” I thought to myself.

Just then Goodee opened the laptop. —The Service Dog has a serious Facebook addiction

. “No dogs in the hotel” “ Are they serious?”
“Goodee, stop talking I am trying to read my book.”
“But mom, our Service Dog friends are in the lobby and they are being told --- “No Dogs, in the hotel.”

“OMG” I screamed. Goodee the Service Dog was right. —

Luis Carlos Montalvan( & his Service Dog Tuesday posted to their FB status that in fact they had problems checking into the hotel.
Fmr Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan is a highly decorated Army officer, has a New York Times Best Seller, and one of the most recognizable Service Dogs in the U.S. yet, the hotel says: “No Dogs.”

Luis & Tuesday have toured the country this year for the sole purpose of helping others. They were not there for pleasure. They came to deliver the Key Note address for the Invisible Disabilities Association( Honor Banquet. This was all lost on the hotel clerk. She says, “No Dogs.”

This made me feel horrible. We had enjoyed the hotel all day. “No Dogs,” really? In fact every other Service Dog Team checked into the hotel with no “misunderstanding”

This is an example of both unlawful action and poor customer service. The fact that Cpt. Montalvan & others similarly situated had totally different experiences illustrates the bulk of the problem. - - Companies assume that all of their employees know Service Dog Access Laws when in fact they don’t

Access: What’s the Big Deal?

I was born with Cerebral Palsy a disorder involving brain and nervous system functions. Simply put: my brain works faster than my physical body. I often experience a lack of balance or inability to climb.
For years I have experienced what I call “after thought access” where the ramp is at the back of a building away from other customers. Often I struggled up steps because my poor peripheral vision would not allow me to see the handicap access ramp

“Goodee, find the ramp.” My Service Dog goes right to the ramp built into the side of the building. Right away I see the access and I feel Goodee’s movement towards the indentation. My mind, eyes, and hips move in perfect harmony forward. The slight step downward that use to cause me a fall is now of no concern. I can do this on my own! No more having to wait for two people to escort me through a door. No more barriers. Goodee the Service Dog goes everywhere!

All places of public access= Everywhere (unless dog = threat to others).

—This is a simple formula that should be easy to apply
In most cases, just allow the dog and handler and treat them as you would any other customer. ---This is easy to learn and apply, right?


Goodee the Service Dog gets up the ramp with the human and----
“Excuse me Miss, No Dogs” “Excuse me Miss, No PETS.” --- or the stronger “I can’t have you running all over with you PET!”

After years of barriers I finally get a Service Dog to assist me with the barriers. We break through the barriers to find. --- Another barrier that of human ignorance (lack of knowledge).
For anyone who needs education here is Service Dog Access in a nutshell:
A service dog is NOT A PET. The Service Dog is a MEDICAL DEVICE under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Local PET laws including food ordinances do not apply to Service Dogs.

The events you are about to read are real. The names have been left out. Names don’t matter. Sadly these events happen every day across every industry:

• A taxi patron is told she must put her Service Dog in the trunk.
• An airline employee asks a Service Dog handler to “check” their dog with the baggage.
• A Disabled American Veteran is told she can’t have her Service Dog in her apartment.

Are these events legally wrong?

You bet!

Why do they happen?

–lack of education.

How can we fix this?

Well, the Department of Justice has taken lots of legal action over the years and it has helped but lawsuits are not always the answer.

I have enough free flight coupons and hotel vouchers to take several expense paid vacations. Why? Because every time I have ventured out of the house a company has had an employee that denied my Service Dog access or tried to charge me a fee for having the Service Dog.

I accepted apologies and I have taken items offered as a gesture of good will. I have also asked that the establishments re-train their staff on ADA & Service Dog access laws. —In most cases management tells me that their employees know about Service Dog access--- oh really? That is not exactly true is it?

If I am having to talk to you at Midnight instead of sleeping in my hotel room then there is still education to be done!

Why am I making such a big deal one Customer Service Manager asked me? After all he reasoned that I was already in the hotel being served. --- Only one of his weekend Assistant Managers yelled at me in a crowded hallway to “get my PET out”—then she repeated “IT is STILL JUST A DOG,” after being shown the Service Dog designations on Goodee’s vest

“I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.” The manager said. “What you had was not a legal problem it was just crappy customer service.” --- “OK, you have me on that one.” It is “crappy” so don’t you think it would be a good idea to get it addressed ?“

“The big deal” about Service Dog When a person experiences barrier after barrier everyday, it’s more than just poor customer service, it rises to the level of mental anguish.

When we are out and about you may see us with an intense look. Looking ahead or behind in search of access, ready for human challenges we must say:

“Not Now We Are Working!”