Tuesday, September 30

Another guide dog denied access

Greetings. The following story comes from a guide dog related email list. Though the incident happened in a business, verses in a cab or at a restaurant, it illustrates that discrimination and denial of access continue happening to guide dog handlers. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

Teacher quits after wife, guide dog denied access

Woman wasn't allowed to enter reception area

Brantford Expositor
Ontario, Canada
September 27, 2008

A city woman says she was discriminated against because her guide dog was
not allowed in the reception area of a local business.

Lynn Raloff, who is visually impaired, said she was asked to leave the
reception area of the Sylvan Learning Centre on North Park Street Wednesday
night when she arrived to wait for her husband Jeff, a teacher there.

Raloff said the owner, Margaret Mercer, asked her to sit in an outer waiting
area instead.

Raloff explained that her dog was "a working dog" rather than a pet but she
was told it made no difference.

"I was just so surprised and then so upset," Raloff said.

"She refused to listen to me and wanted me to be as far away from the
teaching area as possible."

When Jeff Raloff found out about the situation, he protested and told his
employer that it was illegal to deny access to his wife and her dog.

"When I saw her sitting out where she was, I wasn't too happy."

After arguing with Mercer for some minutes, Raloff, who was in his second
week of employment, became increasingly angry and quit -- with one hour left
in the class.

Contacted Friday, Mercer said she does not allow dogs in the school for
safety reasons.

"It would be a liability issue," she said.

"We are not insured around having dogs."

Mercer said she also is worried that some of her students, who are as young
as three, might be afraid of the dog or have allergies.

"Our kids come first," she said.

"This is not a public place, it's a school."

Mercer said Lynn Raloff was not asked to leave the building but just to move
to an area that was farther away from the teaching space.

"It's not a human rights issue," she said.

"It's a dog issue."

But Afroze Edwards, communications officer for the Ontario Human Rights
Commission, said that's not the case.

"There is a human rights protection in terms of access to services and

The issue of access also is covered in provincial law under the Blind
Persons Rights Act, which says that guide dogs are permitted in places to
which the public is permitted.

Edwards said that applies to all schools, public or private.

"The services are still services to the public," she said.

"People with disabilities who require a guide dog can't be discriminated
against. We're not talking about a pet."

However, Edwards said Mercer did make an effort to accommodate Raloff by
allowing her to sit in another area.

"In a sense, she was accommodated."

Lynn Raloff said she was made to feel like a second-class citizen.

"It's not appropriate to discriminate against a disabled person," she said.

"She has a public service. She can't refuse people with a dog."

Raloff said she worries that parents or students with guide dogs may run
into similar difficulties at Sylvan.

"I don't want them to go through what I went through."

Mercer said she does have one visually impaired student but he doesn't have
a dog.

She said she's not sure what she'd do if a student or parent had a guide
dog, since her landlord does not allow dogs on the premises.

Lance Calbeck, who owns the building, said that's not true.

"I have no idea where she heard that," he said Friday. "It certainly didn't
come from me."

Calbeck said he was surprised to hear that Mercer was reluctant to allow a
guide dog in the school.

"I thought it was required under provincial law."

Mercer said guide dogs aren't used at W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind

John Howe, vice-principal of the secondary division, said that's no longer
the case.

Guide dogs have been allowed in the school for the last five years, although
only for senior students.

"We realized that for some of our students who were going to get dogs after
they left us it would be good to get used to the responsibility of working
with the dog."

This year, the school has two students and one instructor who have guide

Mercer maintains that she didn't do anything wrong by asking Raloff and her
dog to sit in the outer foyer, away from classrooms where students were

"It's a tempest in a teapot," she said. Mercer said the request had nothing to do with Raloff's visual impairment. "She would not have been (asked) if
she didn't have a dog."

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