[Nfbc-info] Jury finds IA Dept. for Blind's guide dog policy does not discriminate
JWilson at nfb.org
Thu Feb 19 22:24:43 UTC 2009
From: Brammer, Robert [AG] [mailto:rbrammer at ag.state.ia.us]
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 1:53 PM
To: Brammer, Robert [AG]
Subject: Atty. Gen. release: Jury finds IA Dept.
for Blind's guide dog policy does not discriminate
To News Editors. From Bob Brammer (Iowa
Attorney Generals Office 515-281-6699.)
Please find a release pasted below. This will be
posted soon at
. A jury entered a verdict Wednesday in this
case in Polk County District Court.
Best regards, Bram
For immediate release Thursday, February 19, 2009.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699
Jury finds Iowa Department for the Blinds
Guide Dog Policy Does Not Discriminate
Des Moines. A Polk County jury has
rejected a Des Moines womans claim that the
State of Iowa Department for the Blind
discriminated against her by refusing her request
to use a guide dog while she attended the
Departments orientation and adjustment training program.
The Department for the Blind
orientation and training program is a
comprehensive program that utilizes a totally
non-visual approach to teaching blindness
skills. Students with partial vision are
required to wear eyeshades to prevent reliance
upon any visual cues during training. Department
policies prohibit the use of any visual aids
within the orientation and training program,
including guide dogs. The Department has no
objection to guide dogs in other situations.
Stephanie Dohmen, who is legally
blind, attended the program for several months
beginning in September 2000 and sought to
re-enter the program in June 2002 accompanied by her guide dog.
Dohmen claimed in her lawsuit that
the Departments policy violated her rights under
the Iowa Civil Rights Act and under federal laws
that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.
After a six-day trial, the
eight-person jury rejected Dohmens claims in a verdict entered Wednesday.
The Department for the Blind, which
was represented in the trial by the Iowa Attorney
Generals Office, argued that a totally
non-visual approach and training without
assistance of a guide-dog or other visual aids
is the most effective approach for
visually-impaired persons who are learning skills
and techniques for dealing with blindness.
The Department places no limitations
upon the use of guide dogs in other settings,
including in the Department for the Blind
building in downtown Des Moines. For example,
Karen Keninger, the Director of the Department,
uses a guide dog, and the dog accompanied
Keninger during her testimony at the trial.
The orientation program typically
includes about six months of full-time training
in various problem-solving skills, such as
cane-travel on public streets, using Braille,
using computers, and dealing with many other situations.
The Department for the Blinds
orientation and adjustment program was
established in 1959 and is considered by many to
be one of the most effective in the country.
During the trial, the State
Department for the Blind presented testimony from
Joanne Wilson and Frederic K. Schroeder, each a
former Commissioner of the U.S. Rehabilitation
Services Administration, which oversees programs
for the blind around the country.
Iowas orientation program
profoundly changes lives, said Wilson, who also
is Executive Director of the National Federation
of the Blind. It works. Its a cutting-edge
program and a model for other states. Wilson is
a Webster City native and ISU graduate who went
through the Iowa Department for the Blinds orientation program herself.
Schroeder said: To me the central
point is that individuals have a choice in the
type of training they take. While programs must
and should make reasonable accommodations, they
cannot be required to alter the fundamentals of the program.
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