As I reflect on the topic of this Blog Carnival: Opportunities in relation to having a guide dog, many, many experiences and thoughts come to mind. I reflect on my first walk with my guide. I walked with a big smile on my face realizing that my world had opened back up. It was an amazing moment of seeing the opportunities that were ahead. This has continued for the past 17 plus years with wonderful opportunities as a guide dog team.
Milton Berle said, If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.
Its not easy to build a door when someone has said - the door doesn't open for you. I reflect on graduate school, a school adviser telling me that I would not be able to do the career that I wanted to because of my disability ... the door is closed. I knew it was something I was passionate about and could do just fine! I would simply find another opportunity to build a door of which I did and have had a very successful practice for many years.
I reflect on a situation as an early guide dog team with Pantera - March 1998. We had been to a wedding reception and stopped in our way home at a grocery store. Steve and I were chatting and Pantera was guiding me when the manager came up to me and said: You need to leave. Your dog is not allowed in the store. I explained she was a guide dog. He again said - no dogs and pointed to a sign that indicated no dogs. Steve and I both explained she was a guide dog. I then pulled out my identification which also showed that she was a working guide dog. He indicated he was going to call the police. We knew we were allowed in the store so while he called the police we walked back to the store and bought our item. After we paid, this store manager told us the police would be here shortly to talk to us and told us to go out into the parking lot to wait. We again explained to him Pantera was a guide dog and allowed - he would not listen. As we stood in the parking lot on a chilly March evening, we talked about how grateful we were for the Americans with Disabilities Act. I felt such empathy for others who had been treated this way. The police arrived and greeted my guide, Pantera, with a warm welcome. He told us he was sorry we had to go through this and of course we were allowed in the store. He then educated the store manager and told him there was a hefty fine for his behavior. We left and I knew I couldn't just let this go I needed to see this as an opportunity for further education. I contacted the owner of this store chain on Monday, explained the situation and offered to come do a presentation to all the store managers so this didn't happen to someone else.
This became an opportunity to educate all the store managers of this grocery store chain. It also became an opportunity for me to become assertive and understand my rights further. I was able to return for a manager training and spend time educating them on the Americans with Disabilities Act, Guide Dogs, etc. This manager sent us a letter of apology with a gift certificate for Pantera to a pet store :).
When I reflect on this experience, I am grateful for this opportunity to educate and be proactive in a difficult situation. Fortunately, most are educated on the Americans with Disabilities Act and this situation is rare - however, when I have run into situations like this, it is as an opportunity to educate.
Cricket and I had a situation 18 months ago that again became an opportunity to educate and open a door and certainly turn lemons into lemonade!
|Another opportunity to educate. They have given back in some beautiful ways.|