Shame On You

It's hard to believe that in the year 2008, after service dogs/guide dogs have been in existence for over 38 years that blind, visually and hearing impaired people are still being subjected to humiliating discrimination due to the ignorance of others.

As Laura has, herself,  the problem usually boils down to people who don't understand that guide/service dogs are specially trained not to poop, pee or bite, and serve as the eyes and ears  and limbs of  those who can't see, hear or walk as well as well as the rest of us.

So we present, below, our listing of public venues and people who should know better and who are obviously in need of enlightenment.

Anne Frank Houses Refuses Access To Laura And Wagner




There are not many people who are not aware of the tragic, yet, heroic story of Anne Frank and her Diary.
A Jewish family caught up in the Nazi hysteria bent on the extermination of an entire race. In the end, they are betrayed to the Nazis from their hiding place in Amsterdam, and a young girl's secret Diary chronicles a time of unspeakable horrors before her death from typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

At the Anne Frank House Museum set in the building where her father Otto had his offices, with hidden rooms in the back, there is the following quote contained in a description of one of the exhibitions:

'In addition to the historic rooms, where the history of Anne Frank is central, there are other exhibitions in the museum. An exhibition with a current theme is the interactive exhibition 'Free2choose'.

History teaches us that freedom and democracy are inseparable. Citizens of every democratic society are guaranteed a number of fundamental rights under the law.'

Ironically, Laura was one of one million visitors who visited the Anne Frank House Museum in 2007, and was probably one of the few denied the basic human right of access with her guide dog Wagner.



Always an inquisitive student with a thirst for knowledge, Laura had been very interested in learning more about the Jewish culture, especially on The Day of the Museums in the Netherlands. It appeared to be the whim of the day manager on duty that Laura could not enter with Wagner. The explanation given was that there was 'steel in the house that made some police dogs go crazy'.

Laura was accompanied at the time by one of her trainers from The Seeing Eye who explained  to the manager that he had recently been training clients and their guide dogs in London and had never been denied access to a public museum there. The compromise reached was that Wagner had to stay outside with Laura's family while she and her trainer toured the inside, only to find no 'steel' or obstacles of any kind that Wagner could not have made his way around.

Anne Frank would not have been proud.

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How Different Is A Yellow Star From A Red Jacket?



One of the most humiliating and degrading symbols from the Nazi era was the yellow Star of David that Jewish persons under Nazi occupation or detention were forced to wear.

Not long after her humiliating experience at the Anne Frank House Museum, Laura was approached by store personnel at an IKEA store in Amsterdam to put on a red jacket. She was accompanied by Wagner, her guide dog, her family at the time, and had about as much assistance as she required to navigate around the store.

When one of the staff members came back with a manager, Laura told him, 'you're not going to bring up that yellow star business again, are you?'.   'Nuff said. While the gesture might have been well-intentioned, it wasn't well-considered from the perspective of the person they were trying to impose their presumption of need upon.

Laura thought afterward, 'what are they going to do next, make people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome wear brown pants, or at worst, a diaper over their clothing?'

Better, in these cases, to solicit the opinions of the people you are trying to 'help' before you impose policies that are basically degrading and humiliating.

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Disabled Iraq War Veteran Ejected from Dillard's Department Store in Texas

 

Dillard’s in Hurst, Texas ejected disabled Army Staff Sergeant J. Alex Gonzalez and his service dog Mason for violating the store’s no animals policy. The store manager did not believe that Gonzalez is disabled because he is neither blind nor deaf. Gonzalez uses Mason—who wore a vest reading: “SERVICE DOG - DO NOT PET”—to help keep his balance.

Dillard's District Manager called Gonzalez the next day to profusely apologize for his store's insensitive disregard for the Americans With Disabilities Act. Gonzalez was unmoved, and claims that he will never shop at Dillard's again: "I felt embarrassed, low. I'm over here accepting my disability in public, and you are going to mock and harass me?"

It's a situation Laura has encountered many times in Curaçao and the Netherlands. Usually it's someone who is not a senior management executive wrongly presuming the policy of the business they are employed by . . . but it remains incumbent on senior managment to educate their staff about company policies, including those related to equal access for blind and visually impaired customers with service animals.

You can read a commentary on the story at the following link:  The Consumerist - December 18, 2007
and find  the original story here.

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Blind Scottish Shopper Humiliated After Guide Dog Evicted From Supermarket

 

A blind woman hit out today after being told she would have to leave a city supermarket unless she tied her guide dog up outside.

Georgina Liddle, 44, was stunned when a security guard ordered the dog out of the Londis store on Niddrie Mains Road, Craigmillar. She said he refused to back down or let her speak to the manager even when she explained that it was a guide dog.The store has a sign on its front door saying no dogs are allowed except guide dogs.

As Laura has encountered many times, this is another case of a security guard provided by an outside company not being aware or briefed of the company's official policy on guide/service dogs, and the responsibility is incumbent upon the company to make sure ALL employees are informed of the official policies.

You can read the full story at the link below.

The Scotsman - October 31, 2007

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