End Disability Discrimination
The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act complements the Rehab Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act enabling qualifying disabled individuals civil rights protections to their use of their prescribed medical assistance animals to mitigate their disability.
Sadly, many individuals and businesses have never had proper disability civil rights training and are breaking these laws by denying reasonable accommodations, public access or trying to charge pet fees and restrictions to the qualified disabled. This is disability discrimination and must end.
In 1990, the United States Congress found that physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical or mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination; others who have a record of a disability or are regarded as having a disability also have been subjected to discrimination. Historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.
Discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services. Unlike individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability have often had no legal recourse to redress such discrimination.
Individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities.census data, national polls, and other studies have documented that people with disabilities, as a group, occupy an inferior status in our society, and are severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally.
The Nation’s proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals. The continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity.
ADR believes education is the key to understanding
Education plays a vital role in fostering understanding, empathy, and acceptance in various aspects of life. When it comes to promoting inclusivity and addressing issues such as discrimination, prejudice, or stereotypes, education can be a powerful tool for positive change.
Don't judge a disability by its visibility
It’s important to remember that disabilities can come in many different forms, and not all of them are visible or immediately apparent. Disabilities can include physical, sensory, cognitive, and psychological conditions that may or may not be evident to others. It’s crucial to approach each individual with empathy, understanding, and without making assumptions about their abilities or limitations based solely on what we can see.
By not judging a disability solely by its visibility, we can foster inclusivity and create a more accepting society. It’s essential to recognize that everyone has unique challenges and strengths, and by focusing on abilities rather than disabilities, we can create an environment that values diversity and promotes equal opportunities for all.
Making Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities refer to modifications or adjustments made in various aspects of life to ensure equal opportunities and accessibility. These accommodations can help people with disabilities overcome barriers and participate fully in education, employment, public services, and other areas of life. Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations:
- Workplace accommodations: Providing accessible workstations, modified work schedules, assistive technology, ergonomic furniture, or accessible parking spaces.
- Communication accommodations: Offering sign language interpreters, captioning services, written materials in accessible formats (e.g., braille, large print), or assistive communication devices.
- Physical accessibility: Installing ramps, elevators, or wheelchair-accessible facilities, widening doorways, or ensuring accessible pathways within buildings.
- Educational accommodations: Providing extended time for exams, note-taking assistance, accessible course materials, accessible transportation to and from school, or specialized educational equipment.
- Transportation accommodations: Offering accessible public transportation, paratransit services, accessible parking, or reserved seating for individuals with mobility challenges.
- Service animal accommodations: Allowing service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in public places, including workplaces and educational institutions, as required by law.
- Policy and procedural modifications: Adjusting policies, rules, or procedures to accommodate the specific needs of individuals with disabilities, such as flexible leave policies or modified attendance requirements.
It’s important to note that reasonable accommodations should be determined on an individual basis, taking into account the specific needs and limitations of the person with a disability. The goal is to provide equal opportunities and facilitate full participation in all aspects of life, while respecting the dignity and autonomy of individuals with disabilities.
Granting public access
Public access rights for service dogs are an important aspect of ensuring equal participation and accessibility for individuals with disabilities who rely on these specially trained animals for assistance. Here are some key points regarding public access rights for service dogs:
- Definition of a service dog: A service dog is a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks or work for a person with a disability. The tasks performed by the service dog must be directly related to mitigating the person’s disability.
- Legal protection: In many countries, including the United States and Canada, service dogs are legally protected under disability rights laws. These laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S. or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in Ontario, Canada, grant public access rights to individuals with disabilities accompanied by their service dogs.
- Access to public places: Service dogs are typically allowed to accompany their handlers in various public places, including restaurants, stores, hotels, public transportation, and other establishments open to the public. Service dogs must be allowed to enter these places regardless of any “no pets” policies.
- Responsibilities of the handler: Handlers of service dogs have responsibilities as well. They are expected to have control over their service dogs, ensuring that they are well-behaved, leashed or harnessed, and under their direct supervision at all times. Handlers are also responsible for the care and well-being of their service dogs, including meeting their basic needs and cleaning up after them.
- Identification and documentation: While service dogs are not required to wear specific identification or vests, some handlers choose to use them to indicate that their dog is a service animal. However, businesses or individuals cannot demand proof of a service dog’s training or require documentation for access.
- Service dogs versus emotional support animals: It’s important to distinguish between service dogs and emotional support animals (ESAs). Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to assist individuals with disabilities, while ESAs provide comfort and emotional support but are not trained to perform tasks. Public access rights for ESAs may vary, and they are not granted the same legal protections as service dogs.
It’s crucial to respect the rights of individuals with disabilities who rely on service dogs and provide them with equal access to public spaces. However, it’s also essential to understand the distinction between service dogs and other types of animals to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation of the laws regarding public access rights.
Traveling with an assistance animal
Traveling with medical assistance animals, such as emotional support animals (ESAs) or psychiatric service animals, involves specific considerations and requirements. It’s important to note that the regulations and guidelines for traveling with medical assistance animals can vary depending on the country and mode of transportation. Here are some general points to keep in mind:
- Documentation and verification: Airlines and other transportation providers may require documentation to verify the need for a medical assistance animal. This typically includes a letter from a licensed healthcare professional stating the need for the animal’s presence and the specific tasks or support it provides.
- Advance notice and approval: It’s usually necessary to inform the transportation provider in advance about traveling with a medical assistance animal. They may have specific procedures for approval, documentation submission, and verification.
- Specific airline policies: Airlines often have their own policies and guidelines for traveling with medical assistance animals. These policies may include requirements for animal behavior, size and weight limitations, carrier or containment specifications, and additional documentation.
- Animal behavior and training: Medical assistance animals should be well-behaved and under control at all times. They should not exhibit aggressive or disruptive behavior. Training and socialization are important to ensure the comfort and safety of both the animal and other passengers.
- International travel considerations: If traveling internationally, it’s crucial to research and comply with the specific regulations and requirements of the destination country. Some countries may have additional documentation, health, and quarantine requirements for animals entering the country.
- Accommodation at the destination: It’s essential to ensure that the accommodation at the destination allows medical assistance animals. Inform hotels or accommodations in advance to confirm their policies and any necessary arrangements.
Remember, while medical assistance animals can provide important support and comfort, the regulations and guidelines for traveling with them are designed to balance the needs of individuals with disabilities and the safety and comfort of other passengers. It’s recommended to contact the specific transportation provider or seek advice from relevant authorities for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding travel with medical assistance animals.
Report Disability Discrimination
If you have experienced disability discrimination and wish to report it, here are some general steps you can take:
- Document the incident: Write down the details of the incident, including the date, time, location, people involved, and a description of what happened. Include any witnesses who can support your account.
- Understand relevant laws and regulations: Familiarize yourself with the disability discrimination laws and regulations in your country or region. In the United States, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act protect individuals against disability discrimination in various settings, including employment, public accommodations, and government services.
- Contact the appropriate organization or agency: Identify the relevant organization or agency responsible for handling disability discrimination complaints. This may vary depending on the context of the discrimination. For instance, you may need to contact your employer’s human resources department, a local civil rights organization, a disability rights advocacy group, or a government agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States.
- File a complaint: Follow the designated procedure to file a complaint. This may involve submitting a written complaint, completing an official form, or contacting a specific office or department. Provide all relevant details and any supporting documentation or evidence.
- Seek legal advice if necessary: If you encounter challenges or complexities during the complaint process, you may want to consult with an attorney who specializes in disability rights or discrimination law. They can provide guidance and support throughout the process.
- Cooperate with the investigation: If your complaint is accepted for investigation, cooperate fully with the process. Provide any requested additional information or participate in interviews, if required.
Remember that the specific steps and procedures may differ depending on your location and the nature of the discrimination. It’s advisable to consult with a legal professional or a local advocacy organization specializing in disability rights to ensure you understand and follow the appropriate procedures in your jurisdiction.