Dear GDUI Members and Friends,
Again this month, many of the updates that have dominated the news of the world and the country have been unsettling and upsetting. Thank heavens for our guide dogs who can provide welcomed distractions from time to time with their occasional silliness and their constant loyalty and affection!
DAPP Info and News! GDUI’s Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program is here for any guide dog user who needs financial assistance to care for their working guide dog during recovery from a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, afire emergency or other disaster. If you need help, call our toll-free phone number, 866.799.8436, and Sarah will help you apply for assistance from our DAPP Committee. If you can’t call yourself, a friend or family member or emergency worker can call on your behalf. For more information about the DAPP, visit this link: http://guidedogusersinc.org/resources/disaster-assistance-preparedness-program-dapp/
At our board meeting last Saturday, GDUI’s board voted unanimously to expand DAPP assistance to include anyone who uses a guide dog and needs help while coping with the aftermath of a disaster. When DAPP guidelines were first developed several years ago, financial assistance was restricted to GDUI members only. But, it only makes sense to expand the number of people who are eligible to apply for assistance because disaster can befall any one of us, regardless of organizational membership status or political affiliation, and our administration has never restricted any kind of GDUI assistance exclusively to GDUI members. Any guide dog user can contact our empathizers during any phase of their guide dog partnerships – beginning when they wonder whether or not the guide dog lifestyle is compatible with theirs, and continuing through those first months of adjustment and bonding, progressing through behaviors and health issues that can be concerning, and continuing on through the dreaded days when possible retirement or end-of-life decisions are on our minds. Our guide dog schools surveys are open to anyone who wants to become informed about the similarities and differences between U. S. guide dog training programs. Our web site provides all kinds of information to anyone who wants to visit, and our informational brochures are available for anyone to download. Our GDUI-Chat and GDUI-Announce lists are open to friends as well as members, and any guide dog user can attend our convention, listen to the GDUI Juno Report, call into a board meeting, or purchase a product. Why, then would we restrict funding for any guide dog users who have experienced just the kinds of disasters and emergencies we created the fund to address in the first place? Our board is proud to have made this important change in our disaster assistance policy.
Are you wondering what else happened at the September 23 GDUI board meeting?
Here are several ways to access the board meeting recording from Saturday, September 23:
Send Space: https://www.sendspace.com/file/trwsdm
Play back phone number and access code:
Access code: 919245.
Thanks to Sarah Calhoun, our Secretary and Office Manager, for making the recording available so quickly.
Roundabouts: Learn why they’re proliferating all over the country and what you need to know about safety for you and your guide dog when your routes of travel include roundabouts!
Set aside some time on your calendar for this coming Saturday, September 30. That’s when the ACB Transportation Committee and the ACB Environmental Access Committee will be presenting a special tele-seminar on Roundabouts! Roundabouts present a special challenge to every blind person, whether traveling with guide dog or white mobility cane, and their prevalence is growing in every part of the country.
The seminar panel of orientation and mobility, accessibility and traffic engineering experts will cover the following topics:
What roundabouts are, how they function and why they are becoming so popular among traffic engineers and urban planners.
Why roundabouts may pose navigational and safety challenges for people who are blind or visually impaired.
How roundabouts can be designed to be as accessible as possible.
Join us for the call and stick around to get your questions answered and your concerns addressed.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Participant Phone Numbers:
605-475-4120; code 818-9279
TMobile customers call 605-475-2880; code 818-9279
Introducing the Panel:
Janet M Barlow
Accessible Design For The Blind
Bastian Schroeder, PE, Ph.D.
Kittelson and Associates Inc.
Transportation Engineering/ Planning
Proposed Legislation threatening our civil rights under the ADA:
This has been a tough week. First of all, and unbelievably this wasn’t the first time this happened, we witnessed hundreds of people with disabilities being dragged by Capitol Police from the Capitol Building where they were protesting the potential loss of health care – upon which most depend for their very lives. Those members of #ADAPT who take to the streets and the halls of government in wheelchairs, walkers, using support and mobility canes, and dog guides, to stand up for themselves, their civil rights, and all of us are truly among the bravest people I know!
Then, thankfully, we were able to sigh with relief and maybe briefly indulge in a tiny dance of joy when the Senate’s third attempt to take health insurance and Medicaid from millions of Americans was defeated! But, put away your dancin’ shoes and take another deep breath: Now some of your legislators are aiming for your civil rights as a person with a disability who depends on a guide dog for safe and independent travel.
Just after celebrating the 27th anniversary of the date when the Americans with Disabilities Act became the law of the land, H.R. 620) The ADA > Education and Reform Act of 2017 was introduced. The law would significantly weaken our civil rights protections under the ADA.
First, the law would compel the U. S. Department of Justice to formulate a program to educate business owners and state and local officials on “strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability.” I guess there’s not much wrong with that – except that one would think after nearly three decades, state and local officials and business owners might have not only actually already become aware of our civil rights as they are guaranteed under the ADA, but also figured out how to provide all of the reasonable accommodations we have been advocating for day after day, over the last 27 years!(Has anyone ever heard of the ACCESS Board? Or ADAAG?)
But, okay, if the DOJ wants to provide even more guidance, I guess that’s okay. However, other provisions in this “reform” act would prohibit civil suits arising out of a failure to provide reasonable accommodations unless the person with a disability provides written notice specifying the deficiency to the offending business establishment or agency or organization or public venue. Then, the property owner would have sixty days to respond with a written plan for improvement, and an additional 120 days to correct the deficiency, or demonstrate some degree of progress toward achieving that goal!
(180 days is a long, long time to stand at the curb waiting for your Uber driver to decide to allow you and your dog to climb into the car! Or the owners of the local shopping mall to train their security staff that, yes actually, a person who is blind and uses a guide dog has every right to come inside and even find a table and order a bite to eat!)
The list of realty and hotel and lodging and retail associations and other organizations who are endorsing this bill is long, and includes the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. Fortunately, there are some heavy hitters – and long-time friends to people with disabilities who oppose it. That list of our friends includes the #ACLU and Human Rights Watch.
But, we can’t leave this issue only in the hands of friends and advocates. We need to be calling our legislators, raising our voices, and advocating for ourselves and the protections upon which we depend every single day for independence and safety and access and a decent quality of life! Call the Capitol Switchboard, contact your representative and your senators, and let your voice be heard!
Twenty-seven years after the bill became a law, it is ludicrous to imply that business owners are still so uninformed about their civil rights obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act that they need a written notice about violations and 60 days before they even have to think about how to provide the entirely reasonable accommodations that the law requires!
Here is the number for the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Our civil rights were hard won. Don’t allow them to be diminished or watered down. We need to resist!
Hurricane Maria Devastation in Puerto Rico and American Virgin Islands
This year’s hurricane season continues to spread misery and destruction across the Caribbean and throughout our southern-most states, and the season still has at least another six or so weeks to go. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands remains particularly difficult for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are contending with unavailable electricity, severely limited communications capabilities, food and water and fuel and drug shortages and all kinds of safety concerns and utter misery. If you would like to help, please consider making a donation to the Hurricane Maria Community Recover Fund .
Until our next announcement, let’s all take good care of one another just as our guide dogs take such good care of us. As always, thank you for your friendship and support.
Penny Reeder, President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
Deanna Noriega, First Vice President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
GDUI website: http://www.guidedogusersinc.org/
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