-- In His Strength: Excuses Excuses! (UPDATED) www.superfluousbanter.org

In His Strength

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength --- Philippians 4:13

Friday, December 15, 2006

Excuses Excuses! (UPDATED)

...and the saga continues.

So I was supposed to have my JOBS appointement a few days ago and somehow screwed it up. I had a seperate JOBS appointment than the one I had today with both JOBS and VR. Life is becoming wa-a-y too complicated these days.

After I hung up the phone with JOBS inquiring why I wasnt at the original appointment, I received an e-mail from Katie Mize, CCI Graduate Program Coordinator for the Northwest region. I had asked if there was a possibility of her contacting a few prostpective employers as well as JOBS to educate them on servicedogs in the workplace. Here was her response

I'll be happy to contact the 3 places you've listed and find out what their
concerns are and will try to educate them. I will contact them first thing next
week. Have you had a chance to contact the IAADP? They would be a great resource
for you as well.

And so I did. I sent off an e-mail to the IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners) explaining my situation. I don't know what kind of response I expected from them, but surely I didnt expect a five page response! Here is most of it.

Dear Tryna:

I thought I recalled your name from a CCI Newsletter....then when I visited your blog and read about the call to CCI regarding this employment issue, I knew my memory was still working pretty good...

I think it is great that you went to school and got a degree and you now want to work in a field you are qualified for.

I sure don't want Life to be any harder for you than it already is, but I don't have good news.
Or to put it another way.....I don't have a definite law that you can cite and win automatic acceptance of your service dog in the workplace, unless you live in one of the few states that legislated access in the workplace. In most states, the business lobby has resisted the passage of such an amendment to the old access laws if they catch wind of it.

It just is not cut and dried when it comes to employment.
The courts have decided that EACH case asking for a service dog as a reasonable accommodation of a disability in the workplace under the ADA has to be decided on its own merits. It is sometimes a struggle for a disabled person to win on this score.
It took the paraplegic doctor on our board three years and $250,000 in attorney fees to get a decision that she could bring her dog to work at a VA hospital in federal court. It was a good decision, but the outcome she hoped for, that it would clear the way for all others.....it did not happen. The judge reaffirmed it has to be a balancing act of the rights of business and rights of an employee. The good news for Chris Branson is the jury sympathized with her and the judge was on her side and looked for ways to legally justify her decision [ I read the judge's decision several times before writing the articles on our website to ensure I was giving out accurate information, then ran it past Chris's lawyer before publishing them at her request ]

There are a few states where the state law, as I mentioned above, does grant access in places in employment to someone with a guide, hearing or service dog that meets the state statutes ......one may require certification, for example, but that is no problem in your case. You are a wheelchair user with a CCI certified service dog, so you will have a much easier time than someone with a psychiatric disability or diabetes or epilepsy.

One option [ perhaps a drastic one] might be to interview for jobs in one of those states, as then you would definitely have the law on your side, state as well as federal. It would mean relocation.

(The last thing I want to do, I love where i live, my house, the people in it!)

It is fairly easy for a school teacher with a guide dog to get the Department of Justice to go to bat for them. I have printed at least two articles about victories in cases where a person was turned down for a job as she had a guide dog and obtained monetary compensation after the DOJ settled the case on her behalf. It has not been so easy or cut and dried for those of us with other kinds of disabilities.

I know MacDonalds settled with a boy who had CP and a service dog, for an undisclosed amount in 1994, as we discussed the case at that conference. His parents and he sued when they refused to let him bring his service dog from a program to work with him behind the counter. It did not let him keep the job, though.

Another option, instead of moving to a state like Nevada, is to file an ADA complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

You might also approach the Human Rights Commission in your state, filing a complaint. They nearly always decide in favor of the disabled person with a service animal.

IAADP has heard from two teachers who are fighting service dog discrimination in the schoolplace in California.....as principals refuse to let them bring their service dog to work. One is a school teacher who has an owner trained dog for psychiatric support and a mobility issue, if memory serves me correctly. She is only citing the mobility issue, as she was worried the psychiatric part might cost her the job. At first the school agreed the dog could come part time. Then it evolved into a long series of incidents, like sending administrators to observe her teaching with the dog in the classroom and writing up reports that she believes amounted to harassment, so the case partly concerns that, which clouds the service dog accommodation issue a bit. Our President, Ed Eames, plans to testify for her if it goes to trial. The case has been dragged out for two years or more. These things take a long time when it goes to the lawsuit stage.
(Hello? I want to work before I am elligble to retire!)

Other schools around the USA have no problem with it, as long as it is a trained, certified service dog. They believe the law compels them to grant access.

I know of one in Flint where the Paws With A Cause service dog has free run of the school, was almost the school mascot..... which was a challenge for a student of mine, age fourteen, who wanted to bring a service dog she trained and certified through the program I volunteer my training skills to, to that school. I worked with the pair for a year and Danielle achieved an awesome level of control over Angel. It worked out fine in the end, as the teacher did start supervising the dog better and Danielle's dog, Angel, after graduation, was thankfully willing and able to totally ignore the other dog while "on duty." They are quite a team.
Fortunately in Michigan, access to public schools and universities is guaranteed under the state access law. The school education supervisor for disabled students for some reason tried to bar my student from bringing her service dog to school and got the school bus company to join her, on the first day of school, but when our program wrote a letter and I sent a copy of the state law to the school principal, he caved in and he carried enough authority to overrule the school bus administrator. Danielle is now in her first year of high school and doing great.
I imagine teachers could use that same law. I don't know if it covers nursery schools or daycare centers for children, as it is an old law. But I wonder about your state law? You might want to read the part carefully that cites places where service dog teams have access rights. If it does not specify daycare or childcare centers, it does not mean that they are not included.....it just makes it much more black and white if it is specifically mentioned.

I received a newspaper article about a gym which runs a nursery for the children of mothers who took an exercise class there, just like bowling alleys do for ladies leagues. The gym denied the mother's demand to have the service dog in the nursery unsupervised with a little boy is autistic. The DOJ was consulted and told the gym that they had to allow the service dog in the nursery. ( I think that was an asinine decision, as an autistic toddler can't handle a big service dog by himself. The mother wanted the dog there to "keep the child calm." She demanded "his rights.")
If the DOJ will go to bat for a child being allowed to bring his service dog into a nursery school which he can't handle and untrained staff can't handle.......what about a teacher like yourself who has a much more highly trained dog whom you can handle? I would use that article if I were you.....in getting their attention if you submit an ADA complaint.
I would hope they would take an interest in your plight, but can't guarantee it.

I think you should also consult the Job Accommodations Network, which has federal funding. It is supposed to help employers understand ADA. They have been on the side of persons with a service animal .....if you make it clear that your dog is not a pet needed for comfort but a working service dog.

One thing you need to do is come up with a List of Tasks the dog can perform for you in the workplace.....instead of saying you don't need her and she just stays under a table all day long, if you want to convince a potential employer, the DOJ or anyone else that your service dog is a NEEDED accommodation of your disability to which you are entitled by LAW.
You need to think up some much better reasons why you need that dog with you in the workplace......than the fact she will go on a food binge at home due to separation anxiety. This is something my first service dog would do if I left him home alone. He once went into an old purse and ate a roll of lifesavers.

There is piece of testimony that the judges found significant in the federal court of appeals in the Ninth District that eventually paved the way for assistance dogs to be able to travel to Hawaii without going through the quarantine. Since then, was used in a court case where a hospital tried to bar access for a service dog to the patient's room. I also read it in a newspaper article regarding why guide dogs need access to the plane cabin in the U.K.. It seems to be an effective way to discuss the separation problem. The position that those who have assistance dogs take is that " an assistance dog regards separation from his partner as a punishment."

One can go on to say ( and it has been said) that if a team is separated on a plane flight by putting the dog in cargo, the dog will be so distressed by the experience, he is likely to be unable to work when reunited with the partner. While it is true the dog's tasks may not be needed on the plane, his ability to work is certainly of crucial importance to a guide dog user or wheelchair user once the disabled person gets off the plane, as the disabled person relies on that dog for mobility once the team disembarks. So this is another argument you can use....the negative psychological impact of the separation on your service dog's ability to function as a service dog, and thus your ability to be able to live independently as possible, when you come home from work.

You need to think creatively about it, if you want to convince an employer that having your service dog would be a reasonable accommodation of your disability. Come up with a few well chosen examples.

If you say the dog can retrieve dropped items, the employer will say they can assign someone to pick up things for you. That is what the disability ed supervisor said about my student's desire to have her service dog assist her in school.
Does your dog sometimes assist you in the restroom to manage more independently? ( retrieving, balance support for a transfer, shutting the rest room door by tugging on a strap which you find very difficult or impossible to reach from your wheelchair once inside, for example?)
My paraplegic student would sometimes drop supplies and she was mortified and did not want to have call out for help and draw the attention of other girls in the bathroom to this personal hygiene need, ....so having her service dog there to retrieve the item took care of the problem, preserving her privacy and dignity. ( that is how I put it in the letter to the school principal ).

I have to get to other work now......I will be glad to look over a list if you make one up and send it. I will give it some thought and perhaps be able to help with some ideas or suggested wording.

Please don't give up, ....I think you can make a good case for having your service dog there.
When they talk about allergies, one thing to consider is countering with information about how therapeutic it could be for the children to have the dog there.....that she will have a calming effect on the children, or help them learn better self control and so forth.
You might discuss how public libraries are eager to have therapy dogs come in for a reading program, where the children read aloud to the dogs, [ which has caught on like wildfire ].....as it has been proven to boost the child's reading ability. It raises their confidence as the dog is an uncritical audience. It makes reading aloud fun, instead of boring practice where teachers or parents criticize the child's pronunciation of words.....so the child is more apt to try it instead of resist it out of shyness or fear of failure.
I have a friend who gives classes on why you shouldn't take drugs or alcohol etc. to schoolchildren; also classes in anger management to teenagers and to abused kids etc. She has worked up a presentation around, "If A Dog Were Your Teacher"......some really clever ways to incorporate the dog into her lectures. Perhaps you might do the same....work the dog into a five minute lesson on Manners or "No Fighting" or "Sharing" or whatever it is people in your profession teach little ones.
I suggest you also look into what therapy dogs do for children in different settings, why they are used, what benefits arise from it, .....make a list, as some of the same benefits could be pointed out to your prospective employer.
Does CCI have a list as to why their skilled companions are valuable....e.g. the therapeutic benefits of such a placement? They have certainly researched it.....you might be able to use some of their wording in educating a prospective employer on the advantages of having a service dog in their center.
Perhaps the dog will even become a selling point for hiring you.
Keep going to interviews....you are BOUND to find a dog lover out there who will be delighted to meet your service dog.

Can you offer the interviewer with any reassurance that the parents will be in favor of having a service dog in the nursery school, once someone explains the advantages to them?....( when you did your internship, how did the parents react to having a service dog at the child care center? Do you have someone who could write a letter for you, about how the parents LOVED having your dog there, how well the children responded to her presence? And how well trained and unobtrusive the dog was, in the classroom setting. This could be a valuable asset)

During an interview, you could emphasize the dog has received special training to work in a nursery school environment [ well, she did have to learn to hold a Down Stay for hours at a time, right ? And to tolerate little ones wanting to pet her.....and to ignore them as she works, retrieving something you drop,.....to ignore them while they eat a snack instead of trying to steal the food out of their hands.....etcetera, while you went through your internship or volunteer work at one, for you have described to me how she handles such an environment....and I'm sure I could go on with additional examples, if need be.

Hope this is helpful

best wishes,
It sounds like I have my work cut out for me.



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