We’re Still in the Stone Age as far as People with Disabilities are Concerned

When I got my first guide dog, back when the earth and I were young, we didn’t  have the ADA. We didn’t have the second Fair Housing Law spelling out to landlords that they had to rent to persons with disabilities and, yes, those pesky guide dogs too.

But now we have those laws If you listened to the insipid coverage given by NPR and other news outlets last year, you’d think all problems with accessibility for disabled people is over.

Counter those rosy reports to this incident, which also took place last year.

In truth, as people more and more claim their property rights, the laws are more and more eroded, and protections are lost. A bystander got in the way of me negotiation with a Lyft driver one day. The Lyft driver wanted to put my dog in the back of her SUV. No way. Not safe for my dog there. No, my dog rode with me. A bystander said, “It’s her car.”

No, it isn’t, not once she lets the public in.

And it’s not your property once you let the public in. If it’s your private home, but you open it to the public, for any stranger to walk through, disabled people and their guides are allowed.

When you have a theater, a beauty shop, a nail salon, a retail store of any kind, you are required to allow persons with guide dogs into your hallowed halls.

Rentals are a little different. The laws are precise and more complex depending on number of units, etc. Of course, I bought a house and live with the pains of home ownership to avoid the worse pains of dealing with landlords.

You’d think everyone would know that guide dogs are allowed in public spaces. Uber and Lyft have been sued and lost. Thousands of restaurants have been sued…and lost.

Yet in 2020, a man was not only denied access to a store in a mall in North Carolina, but the store personnel called the cops on him, and the cops threatened to arrest him if he didn’t leave.

Am I shocked? Not really. It’s happened to me. When I lived in Texas, I just quit going to malls because security guards followed me around, asking me where I was going, how long I intended to shop, etc., and generally making me uncomfortable and unwelcome. They were breaking the law. They were harassing me because I am blind and was using a guide dog. They tried grabbing my arm, taking hold of my packages, forcing me out the door.

I didn’t want to embarrass my husband or his high profile boss, so kept my mouth shut. I’m not sure I would nowadays. And I’m still reluctant to go to malls.

You know the black men who got followed around Eddie Bauer a few years ago? Yep, it’s just like that when I go into most retail spaces. In Brownsville, I had a beauty salon tell me I couldn’t bring my dog, Why? Did they think my dog would get hair on the floor?

If you ever see someone with a service dog being harassed, if you do nothing else, get the encounter on video and post it on social media so the world can become aware of how badly people with disabilities are treated in our society.

By the way, in the two times I’ve been to Europe with a guide dog, though I was in countries without protective laws for guide dog accessibility, the only place I was told not to have my dog in a place was because it was too small. She still accommodated me, putting me at a window table. The window was open and the sill low and wide. My dog was welcome to lie on that sill, still at my side.

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