Saturday, April 4, 2009

The power of the Internet

From a stranger responding to my previous post regarding the incident with "Ranger Rick" I find strength and understanding. I hope by talking about access issues- and sharing Peter's response to me -others will learn.
Peter's 10 year old son, Cameron, has autism. Cameron's Service dog is Werin:

I know that feeling as well and your story reminds me of so many experiences. It can be really hard to remain calm, yet direct in those situations. I didn't grow up being a "fighter", but when I'm confronted with Cameron, the hotness starts welling up inside of me making me want to fight, then afterwards, I feel like I never want to go through that again, so "wouldn't it be best to avoid that place" - which isn't the right response.

I've learned from those on the board that there is more at stake than just my feelings, so a great response is to report or complain, which it sounds like you are doing. On our recent trip to Washington D.C., I held my ground a number of times and then complained to the companies, which gave great satisfaction. I'm also learning about complaining to the DOJ, which has some real consequences.The closest experience we had to "Ranger Rick" was Cameron, Susan and I were staying at the Embassy Suites in New York City, which is next to where the WTC was. Early in the morning, about 7:30am we were walking down to the Statue of Liberty ferry through a park by the water. Werin had already taken care of business before entering the park. A City park attendant drove up in a golf cart style vehicle and we smiled and said Good Morning. She immediately started yelling at us to get out of the park because there were no dogs allowed.
I remained calm and said, "Thank you, but this is not a pet, but a service animal" She insisted multiple times that were were no dogs allowed in the park getting more and more intense. I then explained we were just walking through the park to get somewhere else and we would be on our way and she left us yelling, "Never come back" We continued on. I didn't raise my voice, but was firm that we were allowed, which is my general response. Afterwards though, my thoughts generally turn to, "how are we going to get back in the afternoon" "Do we have to walk around the park to avoid a confrontation or just go right through again?" and trying to figure out how to avoid another incident.I know it is not really comparable, but sometimes I imagine what some of those brave individuals in the Civil Rights movement went through. Of course, virtually all of our public interactions are pleasant, enjoyable and have no issues, so comparisons are so small, since they had to confront similar issues all the time, not just sometimes. But when we go somewhere new, or have a new situation, sometimes I think, I wonder whom will confront us this time - who will try to take access away. Whom will be yelling at me in front of my 10 year old. Will there be a scene in "this restaurant"? Will this security guard stop us to tell us no dogs are allowed? Do you ever notice that when you walk in a room with the service dog, everyone in the room stops and looks. For a guy whom normally likes to blend in an be part of the crowd, it can be unnerving.

I lived for a year in Sri Lanka before getting married to Susan or having Cameron and the same thing happened there. A 6'4" man walks into a room in Sri Lanka at the height of their civil war where there weren't any tourists and everyone stops for a second to take you in. I find the same thing happens with Cameron and Werin. We are always being "taken in", just for a moment - before everyone proceeds with what they were doing. It has given me a greater appreciation for what celebrities go through where they don't really have a private life.

After living in L.A., I used to see it all the time. Someone from the movies would be out, you would see them and constantly people are coming up and talking to them while they are trying to eat or shop. It's not bad, but just different and I can understand why some celebrities don't like it or feel it can be a burden to be in public.I joke with others that it takes twice as long to do anything like shopping or getting around because so many people come up, stop and stare, or point with their kids at us going by. It comes with the beauty of the service our dogs do for us. A trade off which is worth it for the gifts they give us.

So Darcie, I understand what you went through this week at the beach. The feelings of anger, hurt, fight, and whatever else that came. Many times people's ignorance is not intentional, so I'm glad you are taking care of the situation and using it to educate and help the park service recognize the laws that are in place, so that it can be better for all those that come after.


1 comment:

  1. What a great deed this man did in writing you. Bless him and his family.