Twenty-two years ago today, the President signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, making it a law that people with disabilities receive equal access and protection. We certainly think this is something to celebrate!
When the ADA was signed in 1990, it was a groundbreaking piece of legislation. It was the first comprehensive disability rights legislation in the United States. Watch the ADA National Network’s video on the Americans with Disabilities Act and all of the doors it has opened.
For people with service dogs, the ADA guarantees their right to public access. A service dog can go anywhere that the public is normally allowed to go. This means that they can go into restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. Service dogs are trained to assist their partners to become more independent, and public access is the key to truly doing their job.
Under the ADA, service dogs are dogs that have been trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. For example, a dog may alert and protect a person having a seizure, alert to sounds in the environment, pick up dropped items, remind their partner to take medication, etc.
The ADA also protects people’s rights and privacy. For people using service dogs, the ADA states that people can only ask if the dog is a service dog that is required because of a disability and what work or task the dog has been trained to do. People cannot ask additional questions about a person’s disability, nor can they require any sort of documentation. They also cannot ask the dog to prove it can perform those tasks.
Although it has been 22 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed, the country still has a long way to go until people with disabilities are truly treated equally. Many businesses and people don’t know about or understand the ADA. If you enter a business with your service dog and an employee asks you to leave, use it as an opportunity to educate someone about the ADA. Stay calm, smile, and explain your rights. By helping to educate people, you will continue to open doors for yourself and others.
We’re looking forward to seeing the strides that are made in the next 22 years.