Victory!

Today there was a great Victory. Not just for me but for others with animals that are their helpmates. Service animals have always been controversial with in the doctor’s office. I have had to change doctors a few times given the responses, some places just refuse to accommodate your needs and when asked they would rather be reported for an ADA violation than bothering with reasonable accommodation. Today after my appointment I was told I couldn’t bring my service cat back in. I asked to speak to the person who made the decision and pulled out my well worn copy of the law. I realized this copy is the one I used last time a doctor’s office discriminated immediately, there was highlighting on the portions about medical offices.

I asked the why, and I was told something new. This office does allergy shots and the risk of exposure for other patients is a concern. I asked if we could compromise which startled the office manager. It actually made her freeze her eyes wide with shock. Compromise? She asked what I would suggest so using the ADA as an outline I pointed out that I sometimes cannot even get out the door without her, but I do not want others sick. Sprite will wear her most covering outfit when we go in and I will call in advance so I can go straight into the office where I will see my doctor. This was our compromise. This allows me to have my needs met but does not infringe on the rights of others.

I expected a huge battle, but instead I was given victory. I left a copy of the law with the office, and explained what each part meant to the office manager as well. She hadn’t really ever bothered learning the ADA laws and therefore was unaware she had been about to violate my rights. I did remind her ignorance is never a viable reason in the court room, but is instead the fool’s gambit. I said it as nicely as I could of course. Victory, glorious victory. I feel more secure going to the office now, I feel respected, I feel human, and I feel alive.

In other news, I started with my newest caregiver today. The previous person was so great but that partnership is at an end. She has moved on to another client who speaks her language fluently, so her needs are being met. The new caregiver and William are already attached, and she is going to see if she can take him home. William may have a home. She understands his needs, and is willing to make the commitment. All feels right in the world, though it is a bit rainy today. Oh well, it couldn’t be a perfect day… that might be asking just a bit too much!

Oh, and if you want some great audio entertainment… check out Pendant Audio. They do radio shows! I know that not everyone is into this sort of thing… yet their work is really high quality. I am currently catching up on my Earth-P radio listening. The shows are short and make great waiting room time killers for those days when you just can’t read.

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3 Comments

  1. Congrats on this success!

    I’m also glad to see you (and the doctor’s office) striving for compromise. I don’t have allergies to animals myself, but I have enough other allergies that I can relate to people who do. And I think that both people who need assistance animals and people who have allergies ought to have equal rights to do the things they need or wish to do on an equal basis with others (going to doctor’s offices, restaurants, etc.) while still having their needs met (having assistance animal with, versus staying away from all animals).

    I have met at least one assistance animal advocate who came across to me as very unsympathetic to the needs of people with allergies — I got the sense that he felt his right to go where he needed to go with his assistance animal outweighed the needs of people with allergies to also go where they needed to go without worrying about their health. I wish I could see more dialogue of how to balance the two needs so that both can be met. For example, perhaps restaurants above a certain size could have a certain zone in them where assistance animals are freely allowed and another zone that is animal free, so people with assistance animals can go to the animal-friendly zone and people with allergies could go to the animal free zone. The tricky thing is how to balance issues of fairness if there happen to be other differences between the two areas that might make one of them otherwise equally attractive to both groups (say if one area in the restaurant has a nicer view outside the window, then people with assistance animals and people with allergies should both have a right to be seated near that view if they wish)

    Do you know how often that kind of dialogue happens at a macro level? Meaning, not just individual cases like with your doctor’s office where you were able to arrange a specific compromise but between groups of assistance animal advocates and groups of advocates for people with allergies on how broader policies can balance the needs of both groups?

  2. I have noted a lot of people are hostile when it comes to people having allergies to their assistance animals. The issue with a set plan for both allergy sufferers and service animal users is sometimes you are both. In my case I am seriously allergic to dogs, however since I only react if I touch the animals that takes care of some of my issue.

    There cannot be a set problem solving instance for any given place, which adds to the issues. I do think it is an intersectionality issue, and we both know those issues are the most often overlooked by advocates. I know personally at times I cannot advocate for myself because my feelings get in the way and I cannot always compartmentalize.

    When I am talking to someone about having a service animal for the first time I address the allergy issue because this is important. A part of why my cat wears clothing in addition to her harness is to cut down on the amount of shedding that others are exposed to. This gives people with allergies a chance at the very least. I recommend for dogs a custom mesh outfit, so that the dogs do not over heat in summer and it catches the fur nicely.

    I haven’t seen the discussion on the macro level, usually at least locally the discussion is usually about just MY right to access. I have not succeeded on getting this topic addressed partly because of my current situation, and the recovery issue that I have not completed is inhibiting even self advocacy but this is one of my personal goals.

    The good news is that the ADA now has a segment on allergies. The bad news is I haven’t read it yet. I have found the ADA has a lot of conflicting areas, out of sheer necessity and it will take advocates working together to make things work for everyone. I believe it is possible.

  3. Thanks for addressing this–it is something I had wondered about.

    I wonder if some advocates, already accustomed to encountering silly excuses for denying them the access they deserve (such as, “your wheelchair is a fire hazard” or whatever), people who don’t experience allergies themselves assume that the issue of allergies is just another “silly” excuse” because they don’t know enough about allergies to understand that, for some people, the most severe allergies are literally life threatening (if tied to asthma, for example). And even if not life threatening, for some people they can still be debilitating or at least very uncomfortable.

    I think a great many of us find it easier to advocate for others than for ourselves. When advocating on the behalf of others, or at a “macro’ level (for broader policy change, not just “my” individual access), it’s easier to keep an emotional distance that leaves room to think rationally about strategy, or to regulate how you express yourself (for example so you remain polite even when not feeling very polite), and so forth. Whereas, when it comes to advocating for ourselves, everything is just too close to home. It’s hard to plan an advocacy strategy, or to retain a calm, reasonable civil tone when feeling very threatened or violated or otherwise upset. Or at least, I know that is my own struggle.

    I can also see where PTSD or other issues would also get in the way of advocacy work. Unfortunately, serious advocacy work does tend to require all sorts of emotional resources that are precisely the resources taken away when we’re dealing with other things at an emotional level. Or a physical level, for that matter.


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