GDUI Announcement, September 7, 2017

Dear GDUI Members and Friends,

Stormy Weather: With Hurricane Irma’s 180-MPH winds and torrents of rain heading straight for Florida and then possibly for Savanah, and after that, traveling in directions as yet unknown, and terrible fires clogging the skies with smoke, spreading destruction and ash all across the northwestern states, and thousands still experiencing the devastation of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey many of them just beginning the exhausting tasks associated with recovery and rebuilding, disasters are on all of our minds, and anxiety continues to be our constant companion – if not for ourselves and our own guide dogs, then for family members and friends and teachers and mentors, and so many more whom we care about. We are writing, again, to share our concerns and offer help where we can.

Perhaps that smart Phone can help during the emergency: If you are anxiously searching for bottled water and working batteries, boarding up a residence, planning an evacuation strategy, heading for shelter, or checking on friends and family members, we offer advice recently posted on several of our GDUI e-mail discussion lists and published first in “USA Today:

The article includes information about the apps that can be most helpful (for example, several Emergency apps from the American Red Cross that update alerts and can help you locate emergency shelters; or the Zello app that works like a walkie-talkie even when you don’t have phone service). The writer tells us the kinds of things we should purchase or set up on our phone in advance, and   suggests keeping a ziplock bag handy for protecting electronics, even a smart phone that’s not waterproof.

Up-to-Date Information for People with Disabilities Surviving after Harvey: Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) has compiled a resource list for Texans surviving after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. Please share widely. We would prefer for people to get this list multiple times rather than not at all. Find the resource list here:

Important Social Security Information for People Affected by Hurricane Harvey: Many Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments were scheduled for Friday, September 1.  The following information covers the various delivery methods for these payments in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Payments by Paper Check Delivered by the US Postal Service

Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the Gulf Coast resulted in the temporary suspension of mail delivery service, as well as the closure of some postal facilities in the Houston area.  The U.S. Postal Service is providing additional information on how customers displaced by Hurricane Harvey can retrieve checks they receive via the mail, here:

Payments by Direct Deposit: Nearly all payments issued by direct deposit should have arrive as scheduled.  If a person’s payment is delayed, they should contact their financial institution.  If the financial institution is not operating, please see the “emergency payment” information below.

Payments by Direct Express Debit Card (a Treasury Department program): For recipients in the affected areas who receive their payment through a Direct Express card, fees will be waived, even if they have evacuated out of the area. Payments were posted to Direct Express cards on September 1. People may contact Direct Express at 1-888-741-1115.

To find the nearest open Social Security office outside of the affected areas, call


(TTY: 1-800-325-0778) or go to

Your civil rights include the right to shelter with your guide dog! We have seen at least one news item which indicated that a person with a disability who uses a service animal was turned away from an emergency shelter during evacuations that occurred during Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. This is, not only unacceptable treatment, but it is also illegal!

Here, from the U. S. Department of Justice, the federal agency charged with writing regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act – and enforcing those regulations – is an official explanation of your civil rights as a person with disabilities who depends upon a guide dog to accommodate your needs:

“The Department of Justice continues to receive many questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) apply to service animals. The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a “no pets” policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities. … Similarly, service animals may not be prohibited from communal food preparation areas, such as are commonly found in shelters or dormitories.”



And, should emergency shelter administrators need to know more about their obligations to provide shelter for you and your guide dog, please refer them to this information and this link for the official word from the U. S. Department of Justice:

“Access for All in Emergencies and Disasters

 One of government’s primary responsibilities is to protect residents and visitors. Providing emergency shelter during disasters and emergencies is a basic way of carrying out this duty. Shelters are sometimes operated by government entities themselves. More commonly, though, shelters are operated for the state or local government by a third party – often the American Red Cross. Regardless of who operates a shelter, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally requires shelters to provide equal access to the many benefits that shelters provide, including safety, food, services, comfort, information, a place to sleep until it is safe to return home, and the support and assistance of family, friends, and neighbors.

  1. In general, the ADA does not require any action that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or that would impose undue financial and administrative burdens.
  2. This Addendum discusses some of the key issues that emergency managers and shelter operators need to address in order to comply with the ADA when they plan for and provide shelter during emergencies and disasters. Although this Addendum focuses primarily on issues affecting shelter residents with disabilities, these issues are also generally applicable to volunteers and employees with disabilities.”


DAPP Info and News! GDUI’s Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program is here for any member with a working guide dog who needs financial assistance to care for their guide dog  during recovery from a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, afire emergency or other so-called natural 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:    

During the past week, we received two generous donations from people who want to help us build the funds earmarked for our DAPP program. We would like to publicly thank our member, Rhea Collett, for her generous donation to the DAPP program, and a Boston-based organization called PAWS Global, Inc. for their generous donation which they hope we can use to assist any guide dog users who need assistance as a result of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. Thank you!

If you would like to make a donation to GDUI, it’s easy and secure to do so online here: Or to discuss your donation in more specific terms, call our toll-free number, 866.799.8436, and Sarah will be pleased to assist.

Do you want to help the DAPP Committee? Will is hoping that you do! Here’s a personal invitation from the Chair of our DAPP Committee:

As chair of the Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program (DAPP), I would like to invite new members to join the committee. As we’ve seen recently with Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and Hurricane Sandy, guide dog teams are facing the potential of experiencing stronger, longer-lasting and non-traditional weather disasters.  It is my hope that with the nature of the issues we find ourselves facing, a group of GDUI members will be able to come together to take a hard look at our DAPP program and determine how well it is meeting the needs of our guide dog teams.  We would also like to take a look at various ways to raise funds for the DAPP and develop a better media strategy for letting folks know about the program.

If you are a current GDUI member and have an interest in formulating ways to make our program work in better ways, please send an email to and place I Want to Join DAPP in the subject line.

DAPP is an advisory committee so our work can inform the board of directors to make any needed changes.  I look forward to hearing from you. 


Will Burley, Chair

GDUI Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program

In Other News: Quickly, we want to remind all members that, as of September 1, GDUI’s annual and life-member dues have increased. The board made the decision to increase dues last spring with the important goal of improving our financial situation, and recognizing that GDUI’s dues had not increased since the turn of the 21st Century. As of September 1, annual GDUI membership dues are $25 per year. Members, who register on September 1, 2017 and thereafter, will retain a valid membership in GDUI until December 31, 2018. Lifetime memberships are now $400.

If you are in the mood to distract yourself for a while from the daily anxiety of breaking news, remember that the latest issue of PawTracks may still be hanging out in your e-mail In box! PawTracks was delivered by e-mail to all GDUI members who have specified an e-mail preference for their PawTracks subscriptions on August 22. If you didn’t find your copy, don’t hesitate to call our toll-free number, 866.799.8436, or contact our Membership Committee Chairperson, Dixie Sanderson at to our new PawTracks editor, Will Burley, for putting together such an excellent issue.

The next GDUI Board Meeting is scheduled for September 23, 2017, at 1:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (12:00 Noon Central, 11:00 a.m. Mountain, and 10:00 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time) Remember to call712.432.0075. The Pass-code is: 919245 followed by the Pound Sign. All GDUI members and friends are welcomed to attend and to participate near the end of the call by sharing information, suggestions, and concerns.

Set aside some time on your calendar for 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.

Given the increasing prevalence of roundabouts and the challenges they pose, the ACB Transportation Committee and the ACB Environmental Access Committee are cosponsoring a panel discussion about roundabouts. Our [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.

The Details:

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

Lucas Frank

The Seeing Eye

Bastian Schroeder, PE, Ph.D.

Principle Engineer

Kittelson and Associates Inc.

Transportation Engineering/ Planning

Mike Goehring

Guiding Eyes

Field Representative. 

Finally, remember just a few weeks ago when the only meteorological event on our minds was the coming solar eclipse, and the most pressing concern for many was simply how to gain access to the experience of Totality? That seems like a long time ago now, doesn’t it? If you would like to recapture the nearly stress-free experience of the Solar Eclipse of August 2017, Joel Snyder announces that the audio-described event is still available for your listening pleasure. Here’s what he says,

“We’ve received so many gracious comments and requests for copies of our ACB Radio Solar Eclipse program.  The show is now available at: .


We want all of you to know that GDUI is here for you. No matter what’s happening in your lives, with you and your dogs, we hope you will share your triumphs and your concerns with others who, like you, depend on amazing guide dogs for independence and safety! We are enjoying the stories you have been sharing with us, on our GDUI-Chat list, and via our new Facebook group and Facebook page about your training experiences with newly matched guides, as well as amusing adventures with dogs who are sometimes more clever than anyone ever expected! Our empathizers are available to listen, to offer advice when asked, and to share their own guide dog experiences. Our DAPP is here for you as well. This is the number to call: 866.799.8436. Or, contact our Empathizers via e-mail here: Please be safe, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are your guide dog community.


Penny Reeder, President

Guide Dog Users, Inc.

Deanna Noriega, First Vice President

Guide Dog Users, Inc.

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