[blindkid] Discrimination in Oakland

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Tue Feb 9 05:39:29 UTC 2010

It is important to ascertain whether or not the individuals *want* assistance. Like it or not, there are organizational politics here as Chris Gray is not a member of NFB and, as far as I know, is perfectly happy to have it that way. NFB will help him if asked but I suspect he has organizational resources aplenty behind him already.

Mike Freeman, President
NFB of Washington

----- Original Message -----
From: "Heather" <craney07 at rochester.rr.com>
To: "NFBnet Blind Kid Mailing List, \(for parents of blind chn\(was <blindkid at nfbnet.org>
Date: Monday, Feb 8, 2010 20:11:03
Subject: Re: [blkid] Discrimination in Oakland

> While, I agree that this is a bad situation all around, and that something 
> must be done.  I do not disagree with a driver afraid of dogs asking her to 
> move to the back of the bus.  These are not big long city buses, ala Rosa 
> Parks, and there is no danger of her missing her stop or under-going extreme 
> strain because of sitting a few seats back.  Although the driver freaked and 
> was rude, she may also have been panicked.  I think the bus company is at 
> fault certainly, but I do have some limited empathy for the driver.  I 
> routinely offer to sit in the back of our para transit buses, because the 
> driver is afraid of large dogs, and honestly, on our buses at least, there 
> is more room and therefore comfort for the dog in the back.  Now, obviously, 
> this bus driver needs a career change, and some sensativity training.  And, 
> I think this should be taken to the next level with action taken, but the 
> back of the bus thing seems to be being played up an awful lot, and that is 
> not the issue here.  The issue is the initial refusal, as well as the way in 
> which the driver refered to the blind individual and dog as "them" and then 
> left them on a locked bus.  Also, although this was inapropriate, they were 
> not truly locked on the bus.  Those doors can be forced open, even when 
> locked, for safety reasons.  Is this dog really a "Seeing Eye dog" or a 
> guide dog?  Seeing Eye dogs only come from the Seeing Eye in New Jersey. 
> They have the same rights as guide dogs from other schools such as Guide Dog 
> Foundation, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, etc, 
> but, it is important that a widely distributed article like this be 
> accurate.  Additionally, has she contacted Seeing Eye, or, whatever school 
> her dog is from?  Something this extreme, they might be willing and able to 
> help with.  I hope this is resolved soon, with some serious changes in 
> people's thinking resultant.  I will pass this on to a guide dog group I am 
> a part of, and show it to the trainer from GDF that I am currently training 
> with this week.  Take care all.
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Anne Ward" <inland2wards at att.net>
> To: <Undisclosed-Recipient: ;@smtp127.sbc.mail.sp1.yahoo.com>
> Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 3:29 PM
> Subject: [blkid] Discrimination in Oakland
> > This was sent to me this morning by Judith Lesner, who asked me to 
> > distribute it widely.
> >
> > Anne Ward
> >
> >
> >
> > Discrimination in Oakland?
> >
> >
> >
> > Last night my very good friend Marvelena Quesada was told that she had to 
> > "sit in the back of the bus".  In this case, an East Bay ParaTransit bus. 
> > The person givithng the order was the bus's dispatcher.  Marvelena's 
> > status that led up to the banishment to the back of the bus was her 
> > traveling with Darla.  Marvelena is blind and Darla is her seeing eye dog.
> >
> >
> >
> > To start at the beginning, Marvelena and her husband Chris Gray came to my 
> > house for dinner.  They are both blind and Chris is the past president of 
> > the American Council of the Blind which is a national consumer group. 
> > They had arranged to be picked up by East Bay ParaTransit for a ride home. 
> > At about 9:15 they got a call that their ride was outside.  I walked out 
> > with them to bus number 352.  The driver asked if the dog was going along 
> > too.  Marvelena replied that it was.  The driver then decided that her bus 
> > was not positioned correctly and drove about a half block down the street. 
> > By the time we got to her she was on her cell phone and refused entry to 
> > Chris and Marvelena, yelling at them through the partially opened door 
> > that no one had said anything about a dog and that she had "issues" with 
> > dogs.  She said they had to wait for another paratransit  bus to come and 
> > take them.  Chris said that they had a legal right to get on the bus with 
> > the dog and forced his way through the partially opened door and got on 
> > the bus.  The driver slammed the door and wouldn't let Marvelena and Darla 
> > on the bus.
> >
> >
> >
> > Meanwhile the driver was speaking to her dispatcher on a speaker phone. 
> > That was when the dispatcher made her Solomon like decision to end the 
> > impasse, "Go take the dog and sit in the back of the bus".  I informed the 
> > driver and dispatcher that it was no longer the 50's where they could get 
> > away with that.  Chris and Marvelena said that she would not move to the 
> > back.  While this was going on, Marvelena and Darla managed to get on the 
> > bus.  Marvelena was calling paratransit and she and I and another friend 
> > were conferring through the open door.  At that point the passenger on the 
> > bus said that she had had it with waiting so long and would walk the rest 
> > of the way home.  She got off the bus and left.  The driver reported that 
> > the passenger had left the bus because of the dog which was a baldfaced 
> > lie.  The driver then said that the company was sending another bus to 
> > take them home.
> >
> >
> >
> > This all went on for some time when the driver closed the doors so that we 
> > could no longer talk to Chris and Marvelena, turned out the lights and 
> > left the bus.  Marvelena and Chris were left alone in a locked bus while 
> > the driver walked half a block away and spoke on her cell phone.  Chris 
> > then called 911 and two Oakland policemen arrived shortly there after.
> >
> >
> >
> > One of the police asked my friend and I what was happening.  I explained 
> > the situation.  The policeman said something to the effect that it 
> > depended on the bus company's policy.  I said that was nonsense.  That it 
> > had nothing to do with the bus company, it was a federal law called the 
> > ADA.  Marvelena and her dog had the same right of access to public places 
> > as Marvelena did on her own.  He seemed unaware of the law.
> >
> >
> >
> > Finally, after the police arrived, another bus arrived to take them home. 
> > The altercation took about an hour and involved the waste of two bus 
> > drivers' time as well as that of two Oakland police personnel.
> >
> >
> >
> > Questions that arise:
> >
> >  1.. Why when so many people with disabilities are using service animals 
> > does a company whose sole clientele are people with disabilities hire a 
> > driver who will not drive a bus with a dog on it?
> >  2.. If the company feels compelled to hire folks who are afraid of dogs, 
> > why do they not routinely ask passengers if they are traveling with 
> > service animals so that they can send a not-afraid driver?
> >  3.. Why were the driver and the dispatcher not trained by the company to 
> > know the laws about access and seeing eye dogs?
> >  4.. Why was the driver not trained in basic courtesy?  She routinely 
> > yelled at us, slammed doors and at one point told me to "move him."  She 
> > was referring to Chris.  I explained that he was a person and he moved 
> > himself, I did not move him.
> >  5.. Why are the Oakland Police not trained in the fundamentals of ADA 
> > access laws?
> >
> >
> > Issues to note:
> >
> >  1.. Darla was wearing a regulation Seeing Eye harness, did not make any 
> > noise, did not show any aggression despite the shouting of the driver and 
> > lay on the floor of the bus near Marvelena's feet the entire time.
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