Month: January 2015
These labels can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the jargon of disability world. They are not only quite different but are not treated equal under the law. The definition of service animal was changed July 23, 2010 defining only dogs and miniature horses as a category for service animals. People are always surprised to see that miniature horses were approved as a service animal. While not common, they have earned a reputation as an alternative to traditional service dogs. They can be house broken, a requirement for service animals under the ADA and their life span of 30 years is a much longer working life span than dogs. Typically, people using dogs as service animals must find a new dog every 10 years as their service dog ages. For many reasons this can become an emotional trying experience. The miniature horse must be a docile, intelligent temperament even in the hectic urban environments just like the dogs are expected to be.
To be considered a service dog they are required to perform a “task” to qualify such as fetching a cell phone, opening or closing doors, taking garbage out, pull a wheel chair up an incline, etc. The task performed is based on the individual needs but they must perform one to qualify as a service dog.
Emotional support dogs assist people with mental impairments. They are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Needing glasses would be an impairment not able to see it all is the disability. This distinction is why a person using an emotional service dog is not protected under the ADA since the most important criteria is that the person has to have a disability according to the ADA definitions. However, there are provisions under the Fair Housing Act that allows them in HUD housing if proper paperwork is filed.
Psychiatric service dogs on the other hand can be taught to do tasks similar to mobility service dogs. Examples would be retrieving things dropped because on certain medication bending over would cause dizziness to the person, reminding or redirecting people with OCD to stop behaviors, alerting to smoke alarms, door bells, tornado warnings. They are a huge help for social phobias and much more so you can see how psychiatric service dogs would qualify because of the “task” they perform and the person’s status of disabled.
To clarify there is NO certification required by law. There are many organizations that are very good at training service dogs to accomplish tasks but it is not required. However keep in mind a service dog must act like a service dog. They should be socially trained to not only perform tasks but know their place in all situations so that’s the great benefit of the organization that knows their stuff and can instill that training in the service dog. An average training process for these dogs is typically 18 to 24 months, a huge investment of time and money.
If a service dog is not socially trained and barks and bites or growls or disturbs other people the business you are visiting can ask you to leave and not bring your dog in again and it would b their complete right to do so. These service animals’ open doors of freedom for people with disabilities that were once closed. They fill many roles such as companion, helper and unconditional love but they are also a tool when working and must follow regulations in order to have access to all the places a person wants to go. For more information visit the website http://www.swcil.org a nonprofit Center for Independent living and request an advocate to assist you with the current laws and compliance in your state. .
To start off the beginning of this year I wanted to share my favorite poem from Carl Sandberg. Poetry is a personal contact with its author. When you read poetry you are taking the same breath, the same rhythm as the creator that wrote it. In this particular piece it is not only inspirational but if understood deeply, also ethereal. May this new year bring many soft and velvet days of introspection.
And it won’t help any, it won’t get us anywhere
it won’t wipe away what has been
nor hold off what is to be
if you hear me saying
love is a little white bird
and the flight of it so fast
you can’t see it
and you know it’s there
only by the faint whirr of its wings
and a hush song coming so low to your ears
you fear it might be silence
and you listen keen and you listen long
and you know it’s more than silence
for you get the hush song so lovely
it hurts and it cuts into your heart
and what you want is to give more than you get
and you’d like to write it but it can’t be written
and you’d like to sing it but you don’t dare try
because the little white bird sings it better than you can
so you listen and while you listen you pray
and one day it’s as though a great slow wind
had washed you clean and strong inside and out
and the little white bird’s hush song
is telling you nothing can harm you,
the days to come can weave in and weave out
and spin their fabrics and designs for you
and nothing can harm you–
unless you change yourself into a thing of harm
nothing can harm you.
I give you the little white bird–
and my thanks for you hearing me–
and my prayers for you, my deep silent prayers.
“little word, little white bird”
As recent as 20 years ago it was difficult if not impossible for people with disabilities or seniors with mobility issues to fully enjoy their state and national parks because of very limited access. I remember when I first incurred my disability and realized I could not access the places that used to give me so much contentment and joy. I was frustrated and disappointed.
Before my physical disability I paid little attention to what might not be accessible. My first camping trip after my mobility limits was very eye-opening. The bathroom doors were very heavy and too narrow to get my walker in without turning it sideways then hoping someone would be around to hold the door open. The stalls were also too narrow for the walker. The grounds were uneven and treacherous and nearly impossible to find a level area to fish from. In order to take a shower I took my folding outdoor chair to sit on inside the stall. There were steps to every building. The campsites closest to the restrooms were reserved for large motorhomes. Interestingly, I was not the only one trying to navigate through the park as there were several young mothers with strollers having the same logistical problems. Access was sorely needed for all ages.
But things are very different now after the “Americans with Disabilities Act” and the commitment of the national and state parks to make all of their areas accessible to every citizen. All those issues and so much more has changed now. Bathrooms have wider stalls, buildings have zero entry, and there are paved trails and accessible fishing docks. The campsites closest to restrooms are reserved for people with mobility issues with concrete pads and paved sidewalks to the restrooms. Some parks even have roll-in showers to accommodate wheelchairs. In addition there is now a whole market that has sprung up around outdoor accessibility aids such as adaptable fishing poles, easy on waders and Velcro closures on trout vests. There are a few tricks that I have learned to make camping a little easier. I have included a list below
- electric skillets, electric two burners and electric coffee pots are easy and safe
- there are blowup mattresses that are quite high that makes it easier to lift up from the mattress
- taping a flashlight on your walker or wheelchair and bicycle reflective strips makes it safer for night walks
- solar and battery lanterns that are safer than the old-fashioned kerosene type
Every state now has accessible parks. You can check out yours by going to your Conservation Department website. A few of the more well-known ones are Yellowstone National Park, Everglades National Park, the Denali National Park, Grand Canyon and Smoky Mountains. There is a complete list at www.nps.gov . There is also a very resourceful website from Southwest Center for Independent Living at http://www. swcil.org. Take a look at “Day at the Range” and “Day at the Lake” events. There are even accessible canoes, kayaks and fishing boats. The whole outdoors has opened up for everyone to enjoy.