My little red tether is my anchor in running with my friends. A beautiful guide dog has been my tether/anchor in mobility and independence for 17 years: 1. Pantera 2. Cricket, and now my beautiful 3. Georgina (Georgie). A life of family and friends is my joy and anchor in life.

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it. CC Scott

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Advocacy in Public

About six months after I returned with Pantera, my first guide; Steve and I were at the grocery store. We had stopped in to pick up a few items and redeem a gift certificate we had to this store for a free ham from the holidays from my employer. I recall we were talking and laughing and still the newness and joy of walking so well with a guide dog was part of my experience. As we walked in to the produce section, the manager stated you need to leave this store - you can't come in with a dog. I recall smiling and saying she is a guide dog. Steve said the manager indicated there was a sign that said no pets to which we again explained she was a guide dog. He became adamant that we needed to leave. I pulled out my identification that showed that Pantera was a working guide dog and he refused to listen and indicated if we did not leave he would call the police. We tried to explain to him that I was blind -- Pantera was a guide dog. He said again if we didn't leave he was going to call the police. While he went to call the police we went back and grabbed our purchase while he followed us from aisle to aisle waiting for the police to arrive. (I knew we were fine, of course, to be in the store.) It was rather unsettling still. As we made our purchase he asked us to leave the store. We left. At this point, for the first time I remember feeling a sense of what it was like to be discriminated against and being refused access. It was a feeling I won't forget. A couple minutes later the police arrived and told this store manager that he would be very wise to allow us into the store and explained the Americans with Disabilities Act and the right of a guide dog to be in the store. The policeman gave Pantera a pet and let us leave. The next day, I was telling my superviser about this experience. She proceeded to contact the owner of this store - who as appalled and this store manager had to have one week of unpaid leave. He also had to write a letter of apology to us that arrived registered mail which included a gift card to PetSmart for Pantera! As the owner of this grocery store chain apologized and asked what they could do, I asked for the opportunity to educate all the mangers about guide dogs -- and the rights and responsibilities of a team. This became a great opportunity to educate them on the rights of a guide dog accessibility. I reflect on this experience 13 years later as a good practice for being able to now stand up and be assertive. Under the ADA and its implementing regulations, the right of a blind person to be accompanied by a dog guide in places which serve the public is guaranteed.


Alphini's Puppy Raiser said...

I know it's unsettling enough, as a puppy raiser, to be challenged in public. But to be blind, have a working guide, and be asked to leave seems even more scary! Yet I love how you responded and turned this negative experience into a positive, educational opportunity. You're an inspiration!

Katrin said...

That's great that the store owner was so wonderful, and worked to teach the manager the proper laws, and that the police stood up for you.

I have learned over the years to plaster a smile on my face, talk with sugar sweetness, and just not back down.

Access disputes can be so difficult, but it's always nice when positive change happens after.

wendy said...

That must have been very awkward indeed. I can't imagine what it would feel like to have that FEELING of being disciminated against.
How awesome though that you got the opportunity to TEACH them
Sometimes all it takes is an opportunity to teach, and help people UNDERSTAND

Reddunappy said...

As puppy raisers we have only been challenged a couple of times, the first time at a little podunk chevron convienience store out in the middle of no where, I chalked that up to ignorance, that was with our first puppy. The second time was when we took the puppy into the butcher shop, the owner came flying out of the back and looked really angry, my hubby said, untill he seen the puppys jacket and said, oh its a guide dog. People for the most part here in SW Washington are very nice about the dog coming into the stores. We as puppy raisers do .not have the same rights as you do, and if someone got really nasty, we would have to leave.
Thats really cool the way the store owner reacted! Most merchants are so nice!

Lisa, Ellie and Hosta said...

Good for you!

Sarah and the Pack. said...

So glad you were able to turn a dispute into a teaching opportunity! It blows me away that people with working guides still have access disputes!