top of page

28. Guide Dogs & Access Issues: A Survival Guide

Show Notes:

“No dogs allowed!” “Can you show me your service animal ID?” “Just take an UberPet.” In restaurants, airports, convenience stores, and Ubers across the United States, many service animal teams experience access issues and denials. A survival guide for both new and experienced service animal handlers, the twenty-eighth episode of Legally Blonde & Blind outlines the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal laws relating to assistance animals. I explore when, where, and why access issues most frequently occur. Based on surveys, personal experience, and testimonies from other handlers, I then offer advice on how to respectfully yet assertively handle access issues.

“But here’s the silver lining. For every person who is ignorant, who speeds away when they see your guide dog, there are hundreds who know the law and are willing to stand up for your rights. Whether it be through family, friends, fellow handlers, volunteers, or the disability community at large, you will find support. You are not alone”

Key Points:

0:00 - Intro!

1:45 - The Landlord from Hell

4:00 - Legal Background

4:30 - What is a service animal?

6:09 - Public Access

6:55 - Allergies and Religious Objections

7:45 - Air Travel

8:45 - What can people ask about your service animal>

10:05 - Where can service animals be excluded?

11:45 - Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

14:30 - Service Animals in Training (SDITs)

15:00 - Fake Service Animals

17:30 - How often do access issues occur?

19:50 - Where do access issues most frequently occur?

25:30 - How should you respond to access issues?

26:00 - Factors that can Influence Your Response

26:30 - Should you carry a service animal ID?

27:30 - How assertive should you be?

30:08 - Should bystanders intervene?

32:30 - Ridesharing Tips

33:00 - Confidence Building



On the day of my final exam, there was a lot of construction going on around my apartment. So to avoid having to navigate that before an exam, I ordered an Uber before that ride. I was so stressed about getting to my exam on time that I stuffed $20 in my pocket. What was I going to do with that money? Bribe an Uber driver into taking me if they gave me an issue about my guide dog. This isn't some far fetched idea. People get denied access because of service animals in restaurants, Ubers, airports, supermarkets, everywhere you can think of, and it's important that we learn how to address that. So stay tuned.

*Intro Music*

Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Legally Blonde & Blind. I want to start off by apologizing for sounding a bit congested. Allergy season has gotten to me and I currently feel so much pressure in my ears. It's so bizarre. It's basically that feeling when you're on an airplane or you experience pressure changes and you feel like your ears need to pop, but they can't. I basically feel like that all the time and you know, I just thought that this is the first time in Legally Blonde & Blind history that we have talked about my ears. Normally we focus on the eyeballs in the show.

Anyways, as many of you know, I took the last month off because there was so much going on in my life. I had group projects, final papers, my TED Talk with Smalls, which will be on YouTube in a few weeks, and I moved into my first apartment. I started apartment hunting in April, and I found this unit that I thought was perfect. It was five minutes away from the metro stop and my university's shuttle bus was only about a mile away from campus itself, so I could very easily walk there. I ended up applying for this apartment and I got accepted. The landlord sent us the lease agreement and all the other documents we had to sign. And it was only then I informed them I had an assistance animal that was covered under the Fair Housing Act. Things then took a turn for the worse. The listing agent said that the landlord didn't allow pets on the property and that they felt like they should have been informed about this upfront because it would've influenced their decision to accept my application, which is, you know, housing discrimination. My real estate agent then sat on the phone with them for over 40 minutes explaining the law, and then they basically ghosted us saying that they needed a few more days to think over their quote unquote decision. Thankfully, I ended up finding another unit in the same building owned by a different landlord who had a much better understanding of reasonable accommodations.

But this whole situation threw me for a loop. Of course, I've heard stories on social media and the news about people being discriminated against for their service animals. But I had assumed it wouldn't happen to me so early in my journey with Smalls and so frequently. This is one of four access issues I've dealt with in the past month. When you have a disability, and especially when you decide to become a service animal handler, you have to be an advocate. You have to know the laws in and out because the general public simply does not, and even if someone does, they may try to take advantage of you and feign ignorance, hoping that you'll leave instead of sticking up for your rights. And it is incredibly exhausting to first learn all of these state and federal laws and then have to repeat them over and over again to people who oftentimes aren't willing to listen. My goal in making the Survival Guide is to take some of that emotional burden off of current and future service animal handlers.

Let's start with a legal background. To clarify, I am by no means an expert. This is what I've learned through Guide Dog training and through consulting several government websites. I've listed all of my sources below, and in fact, I highly recommend that every service animal handler bookmarks the page because it's super easy to read and does a great job outlining your rights regarding public access. It's something that you could hand to a business owner and they could read in a few seconds.

A service animal is any dog that has been trained to perform a task relating to someone's disability. I obviously talk the most about guide dogs because I have one. But there are several other kinds of tasks a service animal can perform. There are medical alert dogs that let people know if they're about to have a seizure or if they have low blood sugar. There's mobility dogs that help their handlers stay balanced. There's hearing dogs, PTSD dogs that can wake people during nightmares or get them out of crowds, alleviate panic attacks. It's really incredible all the things dogs can be trained to do. I always say that Smalls is smarter than me, but I really think that goes for any service animal.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals can be any size, any breed, and they don't have to wear any vest or other symbol identifying them as a service animal. All that matters is that they are performing a task. That makes them different from emotional support animals, which–we'll get to later–just provide general comfort by being a dog. A fun fact I learned while researching for this episode is that dogs, for the most part, are the only animals you can train to do these types of tasks. But there are some organizations experimenting with miniature horses as guides. It's really cool. According to the Justice Department, businesses also have to make reasonable accommodations for miniature horse service animals. Though it's a bit more challenging to determine what's reasonable, because they are so much larger than a dog.

Service animals must be granted access to all government facilities as well as any business that provides a service to the public. This includes things like restaurants, hotels, stores, movie theaters, museums, and public transportation. Even if a business is privately owned, like let's say a small convenience store, if they're offering services to the public, they must comply with the ADA. Service animal teams cannot be isolated, treated less favorably or charged additional fees. So for example, if Smalls and I were to book a hotel room, we could not be charged additional pet cleaning fees or be told that we can only book a pet room in the facility.

Something that's really important to understand is that allergies, a fear of dogs, and religious objections are not valid reasons to deny service. In theory, if someone's allergies were so bad that they were disabling, and I don't mean, “oh, I get the sniffles,” I mean, “I need an EpiPen. I will go into anaphylactic shock if I'm in the same room as a dog,” which I've never heard of being a thing, but maybe there's someone out there. If it's that bad, then the business would have to accommodate both of us. That would probably mean I would be served by another cashier or waitress, or the person would move to the different side of the restaurant.

In terms of housing, the ADA covers emergency shelters, universities that receive federal funding, and public housing programs. Private properties, on the other hand, fall under the Fair Housing Act, which requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for people who have assistance animals, even if they have a no-pets policy.

In terms of air travel, the Air Carrier Access Act requires all airlines to allow service animals on any flight within to or from the United States. Now, they can ask you for two documents. One is a Department of Transportation form that attests to the dog's behavior, training, and health. This doesn't mean it has to be professionally trained, but you do have to certify it has been trained to perform a task and that it is generally well behaved. The other form is a relief attestation form, which can be required on flights longer than eight hours that states your dog can either go that long without using the bathroom or can go to the bathroom in a sanitary way. In theory, a traveler should be able to walk in the airport and fill out these forms the day of, but it's generally recommended that people file with their airline online at least 48 hours in advance.

So now in general, if a business owner or individual has a question about your service animal, what can they legally ask you? There's only two questions. First, is the service animal required because of a disability? And two, what work or tasks has this dog been trained to perform? They cannot ask any questions about your disability. They can't require any documentation certifying that your dog is licensed or registered as a service animal, and they can't ask you to demonstrate the tasks. This is something that's quite shocking to a lot of people. I had someone in my gym, for example, come up to me while I was on the elliptical and my heart rate was probably at least 170 beats per minute. So I was out of breath and they were like, “do you have paperwork for this dog?” And I had to say *out of breath* “That's not legally required.” I think they were under the impression that having a service animal was like an accommodation, and that our school's academic resource center had some kind of documentation certifying that I needed her. But the truth is she is medical equipment, much like a white cane, a wheelchair, a walker, an oxygen tank. Could you imagine going up to somebody in a wheelchair and asking them if their device was certified?

Now, after hearing this lengthy explanation, you may be thinking that Smalls pretty much can go anywhere, but there are a few places where she can be excluded.

First, if her presence fundamentally alters the nature of a good or service being provided at a business, she can be asked to leave. Now that bar is very high. One example is, let's say smalls and I are visiting a zoo and I want to go into an area where there are predator animals that view smalls as a piece of meat and try to run up after her. They could ask me to stay out of that area so as to not distress the other animals. But the reptile section, the gift shop, every other part of the zoo, Smalls would have to be allowed. She could also be asked to leave if there were health or safety concerns, so she could go into a restaurant with me, but she couldn't go in the back of a kitchen. She couldn't go to a sterile operating room. But she can be with me in other parts of the hospital, and she's not allowed in public swimming pools, though she can go on the deck.

Finally, one thing that a lot of businesses and people in general don't realize is that they can ask a “service animal”--and we'll get to why I'm using those quotes later–they can ask them to leave if they're being aggressive or out of control. If they're lunging, growling, barking at other patrons, you can ask them to leave. Service animals are highly trained. Smalls has been in public settings her entire life, and thus knows how to behave. She can settle under a restaurant table and not make a peep. In fact, many people don't even realize she's there until we leave because she's that well behaved. Businesses do not have to allow a demonic chihuahua on their property just because it has a service animal vest. And this exception was something that made me rather anxious at first because I knew going into it that service animals are not robots, and you do have to issue corrections when they misbehave. I was worried that if Smalls did anything out of the ordinary, people would automatically assume that she was a fake service animal and asked me to leave. But for those of you who have a genuinely trained service animal, do not worry because our bar is so much higher than it is for a general pet. Our definition of misbehaving is the dog sniffing a piece of food on the ground. It's something that most people wouldn't even notice.

On that note, let's talk a bit more about emotional support animals, service animals in training, and *sarcastically* everyone's favorite, fake surface animals. So let's start with ESAs. Emotional Support Animals are usually dogs, but can also be cats or as one Philadelphian claims, alligators, that provide general comfort just with their presence. So the big difference here is that they do not perform any tasks relating to one's disability, but they can help with anxiety or depression just by being a pet. Now ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act. So if a doctor writes them a note, they can receive reasonable accommodations if they're renting from a No Pets property, but they do not have public access.

ESAs are becoming immensely popular. I found one article that stated that ESA certificates iIncreased by 1000% between 2002 and 2015, then an additional 200% between 2015 and 2019. I think we've all seen stories on the news about people with emotional support peacocks or hedgehogs or alligators. Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of responsible ESA owners out there who understand how their pet is different from a service animal, but unfortunately, many try to abuse the system People can buy doctor's notes for ESAs online, and there are several companies that brag about getting approval within 24 to 48 hours. Some of their materials will even say things like, “Do you wanna legally take your pet almost anywhere? Don't leave them behind.” So, very clearly encouraging ESA owners to take their dog out in public and hope people don't understand the difference between them and service animals.

Now, service animals in training are usually puppies from about 2 to 16 months old that are in public learning how to properly behave. They are not covered under the ADA, but several state laws do give them the same rights as fully trained service animals. These dogs are usually raised and trained by volunteers, and because they don't necessarily need the dog because of a disability, many organizations will encourage puppy raisers to be non-confrontational and leave if an access issue presents.

And finally, fake service animals. This kind of overlaps with the ESA issue, but there are people who will explicitly buy service animal passports, certificates, or vests to get their pet in public. While researching for this episode, I found several “service animal” registries that bragged about same day approval and the ability to take your pet almost anywhere. The fake service animal surge has devastating consequences on not only the disability community, but the general public at large. For example, in 2018, Delta Airlines reported an 84% increase in animal related incidents including urination, defecation, biting, barking, largely due to fake service animals on their planes. Being in public is incredibly stressful for dogs. Think of all the sights, sounds, and smells. It's a completely new environment for them. And if they aren't trained from a young age to adapt in these situations, they can very easily become out of control. Even if in your house they're very well behaved. There have even been stories of some of these dogs attacking real service animals, and for context, at least for a guide dog, it costs upwards of $50,000 to train one dog. You could permanently put a service animal out of work just because you wanna take your pet to ShopRite.

I also think that all of these stories about fake service animals and ESAs abusing the system like llamas or peacocks trying to get on planes lead to the public having a general sense of disdain towards all service animal teams. It leaves people with the impression that these animals are optional, that they don't really do anything important, and that we just wanna take our dog out to the restaurant. They lower people's expectations for behavior. People may assume because of experiences with fake service animals that all dogs are going to bark or lunge at them, that they're gonna have an accident in their car, that they're going to sit on their nice leather seats when that is not the case. Business owners may believe that all service animal teams need to have a passport or an ID because all the fakes they've come across have magically produced some form of paperwork. I don't think anyone listening to this podcast would ever attempt to make their dog a fake service animal. But I think it's still important to take some time to talk about their impact and how they lead to an increase in access issues for people who do genuinely need a service animal.

Now, when I first got Smalls, I was worried about how often these access issues would occur. Is it something that would only happen once in a blue moon or is this something I should expect to deal with on a monthly, even weekly basis? If you know anything about me, I like numbers, so I found a few surveys and even conducted one of my own.

The first is from Assistance Dog International. They found that 48.3% of service animal users surveyed were denied access or asked to leave a business where pets weren't allowed. They also found that four out of five encountered a questionable or fake service animal that lunged and or barked at their dog. In a service animal accessibility survey from the Highland Training Center, 73.8% of respondents said that they have been asked an illegal question about their service animal, 22.5 have been charged a pet fee illegally in an Airbnb or hotel, 12.1% have been denied a rental agreement, and 12.6% were forced to pay an extra fee illegally on their rental agreement because of their service animal.

And finally, I made my own survey that I posted on all of Legally Blonde & Blind’s socials. Obviously, since it's mostly my friends and listeners responding, it's not representative of all service animal users, but I was still curious to see what people close to me had to say. One of the questions I asked was, “how often do you experience access issues?” And approximately 40% said that it was once a month and another 40% said it happened a few times a year. I had two people say once a week. One person said more than once a week, and four lucky souls said they have yet to experience any access issues. My takeaway from this is that if you are looking into getting a guide dog or any other type of service animal, you should expect access issues to occur at some point in your journey together. How frequently that is depends on where you live and how often you travel. But it is something you should be prepared for. The first step in that is understanding where access issues most frequently occur and why.

Based on my personal experience and testimony from other handlers, it seems like access issues are most likely to occur. First off, in Uber's, taxis, and any other ride share service, but also stores, restaurants, and any other independently owned businesses, especially by immigrants or people who speak English as a second language that may not have the same understanding of disability rights and culture. As I alluded to, one of the main reasons that access issues occur is because of cultural and language barriers. Some Muslims, for example, believe that dog fur is impure and that they should not be allowed in the house. Also for people who grew up outside of the US, especially in developing countries, they were exposed to dogs not as pets, but as dangerous stray animals that oftentimes were aggressive and carried disease. They may also have grown up in countries without extensive disability laws and protections.

If you follow my social media accounts, you know that I posted a confrontation I had with an Uber driver a few weeks ago. And I had a few commenters, one in particular who was a Georgetown student, imply that I was entitled for wanting to get into the Uber, that I wasn't understanding of this man's allergies, fear, or religious objections towards my dog. I had one person say that if I really needed a ride, I should have just called another Uber or ordered Uber pet, even though it costs more money and takes longer. And here's the thing, even if you explain that it's illegal to deny access for those reasons, they will still believe on a personal and moral level that people should have the right to refuse you service.

This is a challenging issue for me because I want to be cognizant of the fact that not everyone grew up in the United States around a bunch of dogs, and that not everyone speaks English as a first language, but the bottom line here is that discrimination is discrimination regardless of cultural or language barriers. I highly doubt that people would make these same kind of justifications or excuses for discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, any other protected class, or even any type of disability issue not related to a dog. What's frustrating to me is that so many people think my right to travel safely and confidently as a blind person is optional. That there are people out there who think that their dislike of dog fur should outweigh my right to exist in public. I've explained to people before that Smalls is my eyes. I need her to travel safely. I could get hurt without her, but even then, they think that if someone has a fear or religious objection towards dogs, that their preference should outweigh my safety.

Now, the other major cause of access issues is the independent contractor structure of Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services. Uber drivers are not employees, but contractors that set their own hours and use their personal vehicle as a result. At the corporate level, there is very little accountability regarding driver conduct and discrimination. There have been dozens of news stories about people being denied service, Uber drivers just speeding away because of their service animal. A lot of wheelchair users have also had issues. Firstly, because there are not many wheelchair accessible vehicles in the Uber system, and also because there are several drivers that will refuse to take in portable wheelchairs because they don't want it to get their car dirty. Both Bur and Lyft have argued in court that they should not have to be ADA compliant because they are not a transportation company, but rather a technology company that connects riders and drivers. That strategy did not work out so well for them. So now both in Uber and Lyfts contracts, drivers must comply with federal law and take service animals.

But the enforcement is not great. The investigation process is completely internal. Basically all you do is you give a phone interview. Then the customer service representative contacts the driver, gets their side of the story, then they make a decision. It's frustrating that you have to take time out of your day to answer the same questions about your service animal. Mainly, was it wearing something identifying it as a service animal? And you don't even get to learn the results of the investigation. For all I know, all of the drivers that have refused me service are still active. They could very well lie and say that I was being belligerent or that my dog didn't have any kind of identification on it, that the dog was out of control, and they could just be like, “okay.” Another problem is that Uber recently introduced a service called Uber Pet for people who want to travel with their untrained dogs, and it's caused a lot of confusion. Drivers think by opting out of Uber Pet, they don't have to take any animal in their vehicle. And then there's people who think that because you have a service animal, you should automatically have to take Uber Pet, even if it takes longer, it's more inconvenient and costs more.

How did you address access issues when they occur? I'm really grateful to a lot of the more experienced service animal handlers who answered my survey because they gave me a lot of tips and recommendations that inform this section. I've only had Smalls for a few months, and I've only encountered about a handful of access related problems. There are plenty of factors that influence how people respond to access issues such as time of day, energy level, the openness or hostility of the person they're interacting with, whether they are alone or with friends, whether it's their service animal or they are training a puppy for an organization. All of these have an impact on how people address access issues. And I don't want to imply that people have to directly confront someone. Ultimately, your safety is the most important thing. You shouldn't put yourself in danger just to make a statement.

Many foundations will give their graduates little ID cards that certify the dog trained with them and graduated through their program. They also tend to contain some information about the ADA and public access. Some said they carried a service animal ID because it often diffuses the situation and answers any questions people potentially may have about your service animal. I know the Guide Dog Foundation, for example, gave us these little business cards that we could give to people talking a bit about the ADA, so that could be a way to spread information, especially for people like puppy raisers and volunteers, right? But then other people, myself included, choose not to carry service animal IDs because we don't wanna give businesses the impression that all service animals have to have an ID or have to be trained by an organization. I don't wanna get mixed up with fake service animal passports, but it is a personal decision and carrying an ID cannot hurt.

Another question a lot of people struggle with, especially women, is how assertive should you be when addressing access issues? You don't wanna be seen as aggressive, but you also don't want to be a pushover. And finding that balance is very, very difficult. Many guide dog organizations recommend that handlers, especially volunteers and puppy raisers, remain calm, polite, and do their best to deescalate the situation. They often recommend simply leaving if one encounters an access issue. And I have some thoughts on this advice. I never think anyone should be violent or yell or swear or threaten someone. I do think there is nothing wrong with being more direct and confrontational about these issues. I think it's easy for people who aren't blind and don't use a service animal every day to say, “oh, you should be patient and kind and understanding,” but I shouldn't have to ask nicely for my legally protected rights. I think when discrimination occurs, people should express their frustrations and how it impacts them. I posted that video of my confrontation with the Uber driver. I did have some commenters say that I was bullying them, that I was being too aggressive, and it's really frustrating to me when discrimination occurs and the focus is on how nice I was rather than the fact that I was denied service. I stand by everything I said in that video, but I completely respect and understand that some people may not want to be as confrontational. If it were at night, for example, or if that woman wasn't with me, I probably would've left sooner. Like I said, how people choose to respond to these situations is incredibly personal, and as long as you aren't hitting, swearing or threatening someone, I think whatever way people choose to respond is completely valid.

My survey reflected the variety of ways in which people like to respond to these types of situations. I had some people who said they try to be as calm and polite as possible, whereas one person, I don't know who it was, but I love them, wrote, “if you want to be an asshole, be an asshole. It is your right.” One response I also really liked was from another puppy raiser, and they were talking about how they try to use their privilege. So as someone who is volunteering and doesn't need a service animal to their advantage, so if they have the mental and emotional energy, they try to educate the public as much as they can.

Another question I got from some listeners, particularly those who are puppy raisers, was, should bystanders intervene? If you haven't seen the video on my Instagram, there was a woman, a neighbor of mine actually, who stepped in and explained to the driver how important a guide dog is for me and why she's given public access. I had several friends reach out to me afterwards and ask, should they intervene if they see a blind person or any other service animal handler struggling with access in a restaurant or a supermarket. I asked this question in my survey and most people said yes so long as you are respectful and understand the law. I think some handlers may not be as receptive to other people getting involved because they don't wanna cause a scene or escalate the situation. So I think a good way to get around that is you can always ask the handler, “Hey, is everything okay? Do you need any help?” I think it's really important to amplify the voice of the disabled handler. So corroborate what they're saying, emphasize their points. Don't try to speak over them or act as if they can't speak for themselves. I like it when non-disabled people or those who don't have service animals use their privilege for good. So that woman in the video, for example, offered some really detailed, excellent explanations about how important my guide dog is and why she is different from a pet. She had the emotional capacity and energy to argue with this man far more than I did, and she used that for good. She educated him. And finally, even if you aren't confrontational and don't want to get into the interaction, you can always offer support afterwards. The best thing that woman in the Uber video did for me that morning was hug me after the guy drove away. That is what I needed most in the moment, and I sobbed. It's so reassuring to hear in the moment that people are on our side. So even if you don't feel like telling off a manager, just saying, “Hey, I support you. What you're saying is right, you should be here.” It is so helpful.

I also got some amazing practical advice. One person recommended, as I mentioned earlier, that everyone bookmark the webpage on their iPhone. That way they can quickly show it to any employees or managers that may not understand the law. For Ubers and Lyfts, make sure to screenshot the driver's information and any communication you have with them. The first time I was denied access for a ride, the driver just sped away once they saw my dog and I couldn't report them because I couldn't find their information after they canceled the ride. So make sure to screenshot their license plate number and name.

One of my favorite pieces of advice I got was rehearse your rights in a mirror, practice saying them over and over again until you stop feeling silly, practice saying no in a firm voice. This is super, super important because as disabled people, we often feel like a burden when these access issues pop up. Even if we know our rights in and out, there are people out there who will make you feel like nothing more than a nuisance. What I like to remind myself is that when someone lets me into their business or their car, wherever it may be, they are not doing me a huge favor. They are complying with the law. I am not asking for any special requests here. Sometimes when these situations happen, I will literally repeat to myself in my head, “I am not the problem. I am not the problem. I am not the problem.”

Someone also mentioned that it's important to keep in mind that you as a guide dog handler are a representative for all service animal users, and I think it's very complicated because chances are with a random Uber driver or restaurant owner, you are probably one of the few, if not only service animal teams, that they have ever interacted with. So you don't wanna create a situation where they dread every single time they see a harness because it's gonna lead to an argument. But you also don't want to give them the impression that they can just ask any service animal to leave and they'll be out of their hair. It's tough. Personally, every time I have one of these access issues, I think about how I can make this easier for future service animal teams, but at the same time, walking around thinking that you are a representative for all of the blind or disabled community is a lot of pressure and it's not fair. So I think you should do what feels best for you first and foremost.

One final comment I will share is “some days it's not worth fighting and other days it is. Stay calm and don't let this deter you from continuing this lifestyle.” We do not talk enough about how emotionally exhausting it is to advocate for oneself and to encounter people who think that your rights are up for debate. There are people out there who know you are blind and that you need a guide dog to get around, but still will refuse you access because they don't want dog fur in the restaurant or in their car. It puts me on edge sometimes when I enter public spaces, especially new restaurants, or when an Uber pulls up. Even when access issues are resolved, it still feels incredibly awkward and uncomfortable to occupy spaces where you know you aren't welcome. You are simply tolerated. Take for example, the gym story. A few days later, I heard from one of my friends who was also in the gym at the time working out that she overheard the manager and one of her assistants talking badly about me saying things like, I can't believe she brings her dog in here. I have not been to my university's gym since because I know the attitudes that the staff there have towards me and it doesn't feel comfortable to work out in a place where you're being judged. The truth is no matter how much money you receive, no one can ever take back the time, anxiety and emotional energy that comes when people refuse service.

It is by far the hardest thing about having a guide dog. And it's sad because I know there are people out there who are interested in working with a guide dog, but who don't want to deal with access issues and confrontation. Don’t get me wrong, service animals are not for everyone, but I'd hate to see someone miss out on this incredible relationship you can develop simply because of other people's ignorance and prejudice.

But here’s the silver lining: For every person who is ignorant, who speeds away when you approach their car, there are hundreds who know the law and are willing to stand up for your rights. Whether it be through family, friends, other service animal handlers, volunteer puppy raisers, or the disability community at large, you will find support. You are not alone. And as a new guide dog handler, I can tell you that the good outweighs the bad. That these experiences, while irritating and frustrating, will not be the defining feature of your relationship with a guide dog.

Well everyone, I hope you enjoyed today's episode. I know it was a bit of a long one, but I wanted to do this topic justice. Access issues and laws are incredibly complex, and I wanted to create a comprehensive survival guide that both new and experienced service animal handlers can use. As per usual, all of my resources will be linked in the episode's description. The first source is the page. I highly recommend people bookmark on their phones. 88That way it's easy for you to find. Thank you all for listening, and I hope to see you soon.


bottom of page