Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Access DENIED!

We got denied access last week...for the first time in a LONG time. It was surprising and unpleasant. Where was this backwards location that didn't know that Service Dogs were the same as Guide Dogs?

Our local Social Security Administration office. A government building. Seriously.

Here's the whole story...

Mom and John needed to get new Social Security cards...so they cleared their schedules for Friday. We all got in the van, and drove up to Westminster to our county's SS office. It was me and John, and Mom and Denver (service dog in training). We all got out of the van when we got to the office building. Mom and Denver stayed outside to close the van. John and I went inside. There was a security guard in the small lobby.

She asked "What kind of dog is that?"
John said, "He's an Australian shepherd."
She then said, "No, what does he do?"
John responded, "He's a Service Dog."
She asked, "So he's not a Guide Dog?"
John said, "No, he's a Service Dog."

She got up and left her post and told us to take a number and wait in the lobby. Mom and Denver came in while she was getting up from her desk. She asked if Denver was a Service Dog also. The guard then went through a doorway leading to the back offices.

The guard came back with another woman who proceeded to tell us that dogs were not allowed in the building. John tells her that in fact, yes, we are allowed...as I am a Service Dog, and Denver is a Service Dog in Training. Usually at this point, people back down...even if they grumble a little bit. This woman just said..."They both help you? What do they do to SERVE you? You don't need both of them in here." Mom and John explained further about what I do for John, and what Denver will do in the future. She just kept getting more and more angry and getting closer and closer to to me and John. She said that the supervisor's policy was that only Guide Dogs were allowed in the office. We asked to speak to him...but he was "out".

This woman proceeded to keep getting closer and closer to John and me...and was very angry. I jumped up onto my hind legs because I was upset. (I did not touch her, btw) She jumped back and said angrily..."See! This is why we don't allow dogs in here!" Mom was very annoyed by this especically, and muttered "OH SHUT UP!" (Mom says hopefully only Denver and I heard that.)

At this point, Mom handed her a card that they often carry, the "I am a Service Dog" cards from sitstay.com, and recommended that she call the number on the back. These cards have a 1-800 number for the DOJ's ADA hotline. You can call and ask questions about the law, and ask specifically about how it pertains to Assistance Dogs. The woman takes the card and walks into the back offices. We hear her ranting back there too...though it wasn't clear what exactly she was saying. She was gone for a while, and we sat in the lobby waiting. Of course John and Mom were mad, so they were saying things like "Oh, so if I close my eyes and pretend I'm blind, it'll be okay?" We were all really annoyed...I didn't want to lie down and relax...I knew something was wrong with this situation. The only one that kept calm was Denver, he was asleep under the chair.

The woman comes out a while later and says that she talked to the folks on the ADA line, and that they couldn't help her. Turns out that because the SSA is a federal administration, they're not covered by the ADA. (HUH???) So she tells us that we have to leave. John is annoyed GREATLY by this and tells her that no, that's not going to happen...as we need the cards done today, because this is our free day to come to the SSA. She tells us that while we might have all day to stand here and argue, she doesn't...so she'll compromise. (good thing, because we DID have all day to stand there!

Her compromise is that Mom and Denver leave the building and she'll help John first. Then John will go outside and watch Denver while Mom goes in the building alone. Since John and Mom weren't sure about the rules regarding federal agencies and dogs in training, they agree to this. Mom goes outside with Denver...John and I go up to the counter. Then we went out, and watched Denver (who was asleep again)...and Mom went in by herself. Mom also found some Fidos For Freedom cards and gave them a stack. (the mean lady took one and gave the rest back) Honestly, the time it took to get the cards was much less than the time it took for her to argue with us and call the DOJ.

John said he's truly amazed at this attitude...he has personally been on demos with Fidos to the Social Security Administration main office in Maryland many times. Now he's been working on finding out what law or act covers federal offices and Service Dogs if the ADA does not. More on this in the next post! John's got a project...and he's not giving up!

~SDS
(Who knows HE has no rights in this matter...but is still upset!)

11 comments:

Denise Portis said...

Oh! I'm fuming on your behalf! I hope John finds out where the breakdown occured. Heck, if he can do a DEMO at the main office, but the satellite offices are clueless? I'm sorry that happened Sawyer! My mom is always talking to me and muttering when things like this happen... "I'm sticking to my guns because it might help the next person with a service dog". I'm not sure why she preaches at me, but I do listen. After all, I'm a hearing dog!

Chloe
Hearing Assistance Dog

Speak(er) said...

I too, am miffed. Of all the places that you would think would have a clue you'd think it would be the SSA. How many folks do they see every week that are applying for disability benefits? It's my sincere hope this is the last time this ever happens to you.

Duncan said...

You're not the only one, Sawyer! Let John know someone else has had this problem, too.
http://neurotalk.psychcentral.com/archive/index.php/t-77364.html

And it looks like the Office of Managing Risk and Public Safety rules for federal buildings (found at http://206.131.241.18/app_DM/act_getfiles.cfm?relnum=3270) says Service Dogs are okay in federal buildings.

"G. Dogs and Other Animals. Dogs and other animals, except seeing eye dogs, hearing dogs, service dogs, and animals used to guide or assist disabled persons, should not be brought upon the property for other than official purposes."

You might have John check into whether the security is federal, or whether it's a local firm. If it's a local rent a cop, John may have a case for access denial. At the very least, he can call the "boss" and make sure his people are properly versed in ADA laws and disabled people with service dogs' access rights.

And don't forget, John's allowed to call the ADA hotline too! He can ask them questions, and make sure he's got all his information together and present this rude woman in a uniform's boss with all the information he can so that no one else has to deal with the idiocy that guide dogs are fine, but other service dogs are banned.

-- Duncan, a mobility service mutt

StellaStar said...

Grrrr! How infuriating! I hope that lady can get set straight soon so other people don't have to go through what you guys did.

Service Dog Sawyer said...

Don't worry...we've called the DOJ, the SSA and other groups...more on this story later today!

The next step might be the ACLU, as the apology is not forthcoming from the local SSA office.

You guys are gonna be amazed at what John heard yesterday from them!

~SDS

Service Dog Sawyer said...

And thanks Duncan for the link!

Noel said...

That SSA Office must have clueless people working in it because I've been into the SSA Office here in CT many many times with Birdie and have had no issue what so ever.

Actually, I think they liked her because as soon as she came in, the little kids stopped screaming and started watching her.

I'm glad you guys didn't back down, it just makes it difficult for the next person who comes in with a service dog.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Look into the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
40 USCS 3103
In subsectio (a), the words "Seeingeye dogs or other" are omitted aas necesswary. The words " or other swervice animals" are added, and the words individuals with disabilities" are substituted for "blind masters." becaus of section 504 of the Rehabilitiation ACt of 1973
(29) U.S.C. 794) and Part 39 of title 28 of Code of Federal Regulations, which expanded the coverage of the source provision of all service animal and to all individuals with disabilites
Live well be cool
T. Pirnie

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Case Solution said...
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