|Barked: Sun Apr 14, '13 6:32pm PST |
|This is a follow up of my thread "Which law applies to County jails?"
Well even though I called again yesterday to confirm everything was in place to bring Link with me to the county jail with my friends to visit our friend (and was told that it was fine), I was denied access today. The officers I talked to refused to listen when I told them I called the DOJ's ADA number and was assured they covered visiting at a county jail under Title II. They even had a sign in their window that said they adhered to the ADA, and then right next to it a sign that said only guide dogs were allowed. I'm including the notes I took immediately after the denial as I sat in the car unable to see my friend. I will be calling the DOJ and the county human resources tomorrow, and other advice or information is very much appreciated. For those that do not know, in addition to other MIs, I have severe PTSD specifically involving police officers, lawyers and court situations.
Whitman County Jail Access Denial
I was standing with my friends in the waiting room to go visit our friend. An officer entered the room, and after they had talked to another person, they approached me and informed me that my trained service dog would not be allowed in the visiting area. I informed him this is my service dog required because of a disability and I could not be separated from him. I asked if he was familiar with ADA Title II, which all local and state governments are subject to. He replied he was not, so I asked to speak to a higher up and also gave him two informational service dog brochures, one of which had specific ADA Title II information.
As i was talking to the first officer, symptoms of my disability were triggered. I began to shake, sweat, stutter, my vision blurred, and I experienced shortness of breath. My service dog recognized and responded to the symptoms of my disability my nudging and rubbing my leg with his nose. After the first officer left I had to sit down because my entire body was shaking, I was light headed and I felt like my legs were going to give out. As I waited for the second officer my service dog performed several tasks in addition to his work. He performed deep pressure therapy, tactile stimulation, and continued to nudge me if my symptoms took a severe turn. My service dog was successful in alleviating and lessening most symptomology. He was calm and did not cause a disturbance in any way.
When the second officer entered the room I approached him with printed sections of the ADA and read him subtitle a and g of Title II of the ADA. He responded that the visiting rooms are not a place of public accommodation. I responded that under Title II public entities are generally required to modify their policies and procedures to allow a disabled individual with a service dog access ((g) Access to areas of a public entity. Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a public entity's facilities where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.) he responded again that they (the county jail) are not a public accommodation and the visiting services are a privilege, not a service. I asked if they are then refusing me access on the basis that I use a service dog. He replied they are not denying me access, but are denying my service dog. I replied that service dogs do not have access rights, their disabled handlers do, but he didn't seem to comprehend this. I stated that he was then denying me access on the basis that I use a service dog, and informed him that what he was doing is discrimination based on my disability. He denied this. I asked him to sign a letter that acknowledged that he was denying me access with my service dog based on Whitman County Jail's policy regarding service animals, and that he has read or been trained to understand the relevant chapters of the ADA regarding service animals. He refused. My boyfriend, who had been recording the conversation asked the officer his name, the officer asked if my boyfriend had informed him he was recording, he had not. The officer then left.
During the conversation with the second officer my disability continued to be more and more severely aggravated until I was very noticeably shaking and very ill. I dropped my folder and noticeably stuttered many times while talking to the second officer. My service dog recognized and continued to respond to the symptoms during the conversation.
After the conversation my boyfriend walked me to the front counter where I waited to give the jail more information about service dogs. My entire body was shaking, my vision was blurred, and I felt like my legs couldn't support me. I had hold onto the counter for support. When an officer came over (I believe it was the first officer I talked earlier) I gave him the information and informed him I would be contacting the Department of Justice. I then left to sit in the car with my service dog so he could assist me to mitigate the symptoms of my disability, which he did. My friends were allowed to visit our friend, but I was not because I can not be separated from my service dog especially in such a triggering environment.
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