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Philly Trains Run a Quarter Century Late

By Jshortell @servicepoodle
We've started our trip to Alternatives 2012 in Portland OR. We had our first gig in Philadelphia at the wonderful Chestnut Place Clubhouse (details in next post). We stayed out in the suburbs and Maeve got her first train ride the morning of our gig. She wasn't sure she liked the train. She got on, but was hesitant to get under my seat.Luckily there was a family she'd made friends with at the station and we moved to their seats. She settled right in and behaved perfectly for the whole trip. I wish I could say the same for the SEPTA conductors. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been law for almost a quarter century, but SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) hasn't yet updated their policies about dogs to comply with the ADA.  Whether one's civil rights are violated seems to be at the discretion of the conductor.There is no evidence of any ADA education or policy.
Here's what the DOJ (which enforces the ADA) says they can and can't do:
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Conductor #1: wanted to see papers, a pass, or something for the dog. When I wouldn't comply with that request, he came up with something outrageous. He insisted he needed to see my Medicare card. I told him it was illegal for him to ask any person to show him their Medicare card (not to mention that most disabled people don't have one). He said since I had volunteered the information that I had a disability that he had the right to see my Medicare card.
 Conductor #2: [quietly] "Is that your dog Ma'am?" "Yes. I have a disability and she's trained to help me with it." "Okay. Thanks!"  GOLD STAR! In talking to him afterward, I got the impression that this was his common sense and personal knowledge showing rather than evidence of any policy or education from SEPTA.
Conductor #3: "IS THAT A SEEING EYE DOG?" (yelled from a distance and at a volume that everyone in two cars could hear over the train noise).  Another woman with a service dog, which may have been a guide dog for the blind, became aroused at this and said loudly (but not nearly so loud as the conductor), "Is that guy giving you a hard time about your dog?" The good news was that this alerted everyone in our car to the fact that two service dogs had been riding with them for nearly an hour and few of them had noticed. Lots of smiles and good comments from passengers. Two points to the service dogs and demerits to SEPTA.
The last straw? I was sitting on both inbound and return trips right next to a sign that stated SEPTA's nondiscrimination policies for race, religion, etc, which did not include nondiscrimination against people with disabilities.
Joanne Shortell, Maeve's Service Human
[email protected]
call us using "call Maeve and Joanne" at http://www.servicepoodle.com/contact-us
Joanne Shortell, Maeve's Service Human We would LOVE to speak to your group free of charge
Joanne and Maeve (her psychiatric service poodle) help people with psychiatric disabilities discover their rights to emotional support animals in no-pets housing without pet deposits or pet fees and their rights to service dogs

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