Disabled L.I. Lawyer Says Court Frowned on Her Service Dog
1010 WINS Boroughs and ‘Burbs pages: Long Island, Photo by Mona Rivera
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A disabled lawyer has received an apology after being asked to wait outside the courtroom with her service dog, 1010 WINS has learned. …
Waters was given an apology from the department and was promised it would never happen again, 1010 WINS reported.
2nd update: Lawyer’s service dog can return to court
BY EDEN LAIKIN, Newsday
April 20, 2007, 5:58 PM EDT
Elli will have her day in court. The 9-year-old golden retriever, who was barred from a county courtroom this week with her owner — a quadriplegic attorney — will be allowed access in the future. And so will other disabled residents who require the help of trained service or guide dogs.
In a telephone call Friday, Pat Reilly, the executive director of the Nassau County Traffic Violations Agency, apologized to Jeanie Waters after staffers denied access to Elli, and assured her that the episode would not be repeated.
“Customer service is my highest priority and if someone is not treated fairly, I make every attempt to investigate and get back to them and apologize for the agency if they feel like they had a bad experience,” Reilly said.
“That’s all I wanted,” Waters of Rockville Centre responded. “I couldn’t imagine this happening to somebody else … This was the first time in my life I could not convince someone to let me in.”
Reilly said she notified staffers, including the agency’s private security guards who stopped Elli from entering the courtroom on Tuesday, about protections under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act as well as agency protocols on service and guide-dogs.
Later, Waters got another interesting call — from state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Skelos has been working with the state Division of Human Rights on legislation that would clarify existing laws regarding guide, hearing and service dogs.
The bill would define service dog as one “trained to work or perform specific tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability by a recognized hearing dog training center.”
Currently, it illegal to discriminate against a disabled person on the basis of his or her use of such a dog. “It’s to make sure that schools and courts won’t have the ability to hang their hat on some technicality,” said Tracy Lloyd, Skelos’ chief of staff. “We want to clean this up and make sure it doesn’t happen down the road.”