Monday, February 26, 2007

Actions Speak Louder Than Woofs

Diane Petillo has the honor of posting our 100th post:

And now for an update on a previous post in the case ofCave v. East Meadow Union Free School District, et al. John Cave, Jr. testified in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of NY (Central Islip) on February 22nd before EDNY Judge Arthur Spatt, at which time he detailed how the school’s refusal to allow him to bring Simba, his service dog, to school has impacted his relationship with Simba, as well as his training.

John testified that, as a result of the time he has been forced to spend away from him, Simba’s skills are waning. John went on to testify that: "He's breaking his commands at home when he's not supposed to. He's barking at sounds. He's not allowed to do that," Cave said. "He's not doing as well because he's not going to school."

During his testimony, Cave said Simba has been trained to alert him to cars, smoke alarms and bell rings by nudging him. Without the dog, Cave said, he couldn't respond immediately when a fire alarm sounded at school recently. It was only after John saw the other students getting up that he asked someone, who then informed him that the fire alarm had rung.

If Simba had been with him, one nudge from him would have alerted John immediately that there was a problem. Imagine that instead of being in a classroom with other students, John was in a bathroom stall by himself. Would someone have gone looking for him, or would he eventually figure out that something had happened when he saw no one else in the building?

Imagine, for a moment, the world around you has quieted. If you would indulge me this simple exercise, please turn on your television (or hit play on a YouTube broadcast if you are not near a television screen), mute the sound, and turn off the caption for a few minutes. How much of the conversation were you able to comprehend? It is obvious to me that you will realize how much of our world is auditory, and how much we fail to grasp when deprived of the gift of hearing. This is the world of John Cave, Jr., and so many people like him.

I have been criticized in a recent blog response regarding my analogy of Simba to John with eyeglasses to those who are visually impaired. I thank Kathy Podger for her support in this analogy. Service animals, trained specifically to help individuals overcome the limitations of their disabilities are no different than eyeglasses, hearing aids, canes, wheelchairs or other equipment.

Animals that meet the definition as set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act are considered ‘service animals’ regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government or any other public or private entity. If you scroll down the last link, you will see that fear of allergy or dogs does not entitle the public entity to deny the animal access.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons who rely upon service animals have the right to have their animals accompany them wherever they go. This includes public buildings, railroads, and the subway.

The American with Disabilities Act is quite clear on this point. It is not about the device; it is about the individual’s needs. It is about what John is entitled to under the law.

P.S.: During the entire 90-minute testimony, Simba was quiet and still. Apparently, Simba is his own best argument that he will not be a disruption in class. After all, actions speak louder than woofs.


Kathy Podgers said...

ougfdsWow! Thanks for the boost! Oh, and BTW, another nice post.

"We" are awaiting in hushed silence to see what kind of ruling will come from this petition. There is absolute fear in the disabilityt community that uses service dogs, especially those who are blind, that their use of their dog, and therefor their independence will be limited.

Erik said...

I disagree.

I, myself, am deaf all of my life. I have gone to high school without dog. I was doing fine without dog. If there is a fire, there is strobe fire alarm - something that high school can provide instead of hearing dog. It is interesting that you did not mention sign language interpreter that he always have with him in his classes. If there is fire alarm, his interpreter will alert the deaf student. So why nee the hearing dog?!? Basically, the agurement is that he needs to have dog with him the whole time for 'training purpose' for his dog. I don't buy it! Six hours away from dog won't affect his training because he can be trained anytime outside his high school hours. Many deaf people have trained dog without bringing them to work, school, etc. His parents must be going after MONEY!

That Lawyer Dude said...

Erik, I think the more important question to ask is not if Cave needs Simba but rather, if he is entitled to have Simba, then why shouldn't he have her.
That you and millions of others through history did not have a Service dog is not as important as the fact that Congress, in its wisdom said that people with handicaps will not be put at any disadvantage. Thereafter, the Justice Department has Ruled that the type of issues presented in this case (allergy's and behavior issues,) do not give rise to sufficient reason not to allow the dog into the school.
Judge Spatt's ruling seem to fly in the face of that opinion.

Erik said...

Hey lawyer dude,

I think you need to study ADA carefully. The key is 'reasonable accommodation', which his high school already provided for the boy.

Beside, go check with Galludet University, a college with deaf majority of students. Do you see anyone of them bringing their dog to their classes? Why not, because Galludet did provide exactly what high school have for the boy. And that is good enough.

After getting cochlear implant, sign language interpreter in every classes, notetaker, extra time in testing (I think he is deaf, not mental impaired, by the way!), knows his way around high school, and heck, a strobe fire alarms in every class, even in restroom, I do NOT see the point of him bring a dog to school. Hello? ADA will work on deaf boy's side "IF" his high school does NOT provide any of these resources above. Then perhaps he is entitle to bring Simba. But this is NOT the case. Despite all the resources that his high school provided, something that many many high schools all over the country did for their deaf students, his parents are attempting to use this situation (spells media attention) to win 150 million lawsuit.

ADA really works. They will have to explain how the resources high school provides are insufficient for the boy and how will the dog make any difference. He is deaf, not blind or comatose.

I can bet that all future courts will come in high school's favor, especially after first judge order that school already provided all the resources for the boy. Reasonable accommodation!

Beside, go ahead and check with world's largest deaf college and an ADA champion, Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. Can you name a deaf student bringing their hearing dog to his/her classes? Why not? Isn't it because that university already provided all the resources they need - something that high school already did!

It is not matter of entitlement when reasonable accommodation is the issue.


That Lawyer Dude said...

Look Erik, I have no (pardon the pun) dog in this fight. I have however read both the act and the justice department memo. In pertainent part the memo says:
"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos."
They use the word MUST not me.

They go on to say:
" Allergies and fear of animals are generally not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals."
I have read the act and I am familar with the concept of accomedation I also know Judge Spatt to not be wrong often. With that said however, I think the public policy and the need to work with the animal overrides the other things the district has done.
As for the suit, and the publicity, the school district should have better things to do with its money than fight this suit. It is a waste especially given the equities in the situation.
If they had just followed the justice department's memo, there would have been no law suit or publicity.
No I am not saying the Justice department is always right, I am just no sure that this is the fight I would advise my client to pick. For the district it is a no-win situation. Hence lick the wounds and let the dog go to school. In the long run it would have been cheaper and they would have received better press as well.

Anonymous said...

There are in fact students at Gallaudet University who are accompanied by hearing dogs.

Anonymous said...

As for Gallaudet University:

The school's own website addresses their stance on services dogs in it's Q&A:

"Can I bring my pet?"
"No, health and safety regulations do not permit pets in the residence halls. Service animals (hearing ear or seeing eye dogs) may be permitted on campus provided proper certification is presented. If you plan to bring your assistance dog, please contact the University Facilities and Leases for policy and registration information."

Clearly, the school makes a distinction between a pet and a service dog.

I feel Erik's argument is further weakened by the fact that a university such as Gallaudet University, whose mission is to provide educational opportunities for deaf persons, would be MORE likely to have designed other accomodations on campus in the planning phase, such as strobing alarms in the restrooms in the event of a fire.

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric, Go read the ADA again! Lawyer Dude is right, not you,dearie. If anyone told me I had to be stuck to another person to get through my day at school, I would sue them for TWICE as much as the Cave family is. Good for you, you don't have a service dog, but do me a favor, stop talking for the rest of the deaf community, we don't need you ignorant opinion. I have a friend in a wheelchair who also uses a service dog, will she die without it, nope. Does it giver her more freedom with it, absolutely! And that is her right!! Just as it is a blind person's legal right to choose a dog over a cane (much safer, too!). And just because you don't "buy" the fact that Simba is becoming less effective by not being around his handler does not make it any less true. What exactly do you know about service dogs and what it entails to keep their skills sharp? Mr. Cave will not be in school much longer and he won't have an interpreter after that. The idea that he can't have his dog because of someones allergies, or that the dog poses any kind of danger is a load of garbage!! The idea that a dog in the hallway will interrupt the flow of traffic in said hallway is also ridiculous. Eric, your judgmental attitude is an embarrassment to my deaf community and it is nothing short of disgusting. SHAME ON YOU!!! By the way, both myself and my roommate have our dogs with us at collge, Galludet University Class of 2008, get your facts straight before you type!!! Go read the website and you would know that service dogs are welcome!