Saturday, July 9, 2016

A small step forward

Until now I had read of no actual cases in which someone was arrested and charged under a criminal complaint with violating federal law by refusing access to a service dog team.

Most such unhappy encounters are handled quietly by the U.S. Justice Department and state civil rights offices, and are usually settled with the offending party agreeing to be educated on the law as well as to sin no more.

Now a criminal penny has at last dropped.

According to the Associated Press, a Uber driver in Orlando, Florida, was arrested and charged the other day for two misdemeanor infractions. He allegedly refused service to a blind man and his guide dog, and in driving away jostled the blind man with his car. (No injuries reported.)

The two charges: Violating Florida civil rights laws about service animals—and battery.

I doubt that the cops would have charged the driver with refusing service (both a federal and state offense) if he hadn't bumped the blind person. Usually they inform offending parties of ADA responsibilities and if they agree to change their ways, the matter is dropped and nobody's nose is out of joint.

Whether this case will actually go to court remains to be seen. If that happens, I'll wager the magistrate will drop the service-dog case if the Uberman shows contrition. I don't know about the battery charge. If the driver persuades the judge that he didn't intend to strike the blind man, he may get off with probation and a small fine.

That won't be a bad thing at all. The best outcome of these newsmaking cases, in my opinion, is widespread publicity that educates businesses and everyone else about ADA protections for people with disabilities. Including stories like this one out of Orlando.

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