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Officers' Eyes Opened to Equality Laws

By Hanna Aronovich in Miscellaneous on Aug 8, 2006 7:24PM

Seems if anyone should know the law, it would be those enforcing it. Not always so, unfortunately. Some Chicago police officers are disturbingly unaware of the Illinois Guide Dog Access Act and White Cane Law.

Under the law, any person or corporation who denies a totally or partially blind, or disabled person admittance to public facilities is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Well, last month Karen Robinson and her guide dog Hampton were asked to leave a Hyde Park Dunkin Donuts, the Sun-Times reported. Robinson tried to explain she was visually impaired and Hampton was a guide dog, and legally allowed in the restaurant. However, the store owner called the police, according to the Sun-Times. The officers told Robinson the business could refuse service to any patron, and Robinson eventually left. caninecompanions.jpg

Obviously not an isolated incident, the Tribune reported 71-year-old Gil Lutz was denied entry to a Chinatown restaurant in February because he was accompanied by his guide dog Lexy, a yellow Labrador.

To address the issue, the Chicago Police Department produced a five-minute video to educate officers of the laws and how to handle such situations. The Tribune said plans for the video began in December, but production didn’t start until March and officer training did not begin until Monday.

Now, Chicagoist doesn’t know much about video production, but does it really take eight months to create a five-minute video? And, if such a video impacts the day-to-day lives of disabled Chicagoans, wouldn’t it make sense to speed up production some? Or, maybe type up a memo or something? You know, along the lines of: “Hey officers, there’s a law here about discrimination.”

And, for the record, guide dogs cannot be denied by cabs, hotels, restaurants, stores, parks, sports arenas or any other public business or area. Maybe business owners should get some disability awareness training, too. And, maybe the employee training manuals could have a little blurb or two on such laws. Just a thought.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has made some great moves. More and more public buildings and public transportation services are accessible. However, it seems more work needs to be done, especially here in the city. Officer training is available, and it shouldn’t take nearly a year.

White Cane Safety Day is October 15, but consideration and equality for Americans with disabilities should be a priority 365 days a year. Service dogs are truly heroes and their owners deserve year-round respect.

Image via Canine Companions for Independence.