[Nfbnet-members-list] Southeastern Guide Dogs Modifies Automatic Disqualification Policy

Marion Gwizdala, President president at nagdu.org
Sun Jul 5 05:10:13 UTC 2020

Please circulate the following message as widely as appropriate.

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

                 Sometimes making small changes 
in the treatment of the blind seems to take 
years; at other times, the changes we promote are 
so blatantly discriminatory, the public pressure 
so strong, and the behavior so egregious, the 
change literally occurs overnight.

                 Through the strong advocacy of 
the National Federation of the Blind and the 
National Association of Guide dog Users, 
Southeastern guide Dogs has modified its 
application form automatically disqualifying 
individuals with certain mental health conditions 
from applying for a guide dog. Southeastern guide 
dogs application page now states, “* If applicant 
is currently being treated by a mental health 
professional, we may require additional contact 
information for that doctor.” [sic] This revised 
statement seems to indicate Southeastern no 
longer automatically disqualifies an applicant 
based upon a previous diagnosis of a Mental 
Health condition but will now conduct an 
individualized Assessment as required by law. 
Questions still remain about how this obviously 
hastily prepared policy will be implemented. Will 
Southeastern reach out to those they previously 
automatically disqualified to admit their mistake 
and offer them an opportunity to apply? How will 
southeastern ask about mental health histories? 
What and how much personal information will 
Southeastern collect about applicants? How will 
Southeastern’s previous automatic 
disqualification policy and the bias it exposes 
affect the integrity of the application process 
for those disclosing a mental health condition?

                 There are questions to be 
answered and the organized blind will stay 
vigilant because the stakes are too high! A 
majority of guide dog training centers have some 
very paternalistic policies. Some of these 
policies actually compromise the mission of the 
program. Guide dog training programs would be 
well-served by consulting with the National 
Association of guide Dog Users. Within our ranks 
we have the talent and expertise to help 
implement policies that respect the dignity of 
the blind individual while protecting the interests of the program.

                 During our meeting on June 22, 
Susan Wilburn, Southeastern’s Director of 
Graduate Admission and Consumer Services, asked 
how Southeastern could repair the bridge between 
us. The bridge connecting any relationship is 
built upon mutual trust, respect, openness, 
transparency, and fairness. We have that sort of 
relationship with (in alphabetical order) Freedom 
guide dogs, Guide Dog foundation, and the Seeing 
Eye. Their policies and practices illustrate why. 
We also appreciate Guide Dogs of America and 
guide Dogs of Texas for reaching out to us. 
Extending a welcome hand across the divide is 
what starts the bridge-building process.

In 2011, the National Association of Guide dog 
Users created the Guide Dog consumers’ Bill of 
Rights. This document was enthusiastically and 
unanimously endorsed by our membership at our 
2011 annual meeting. This document sets forth how 
blind people believe we should be treated by 
guide dog training programs. We asked training 
programs to join us by endorsing this Bill of 
Rights and no program has chosen to do so. Some 
programs stated they agreed philosophically with 
the Bill of rights but would not endorse it. 
Fidelco guide Dogs was the most shocking in their 
rejection when Julie Unwinn claimed guide dog 
users have no input in their policies because we do not pay for their dogs!
I encourage you to read this document and measure 
how the training program from which you received 
your guide dog adds up. I have a lot more to say 
on this topic and Gary Wunder is looking for some 
Braille Monitor articles from us on this. If you 
are concerned, get involved! Your voice will be 
amplified through our united action! Here is the 
link to the Braille Monitor article, “A Guide Dog 
Consumers’ bill of Rights: Shifting paradigms in the guide dog movement”:


If this link gets broken through margin or other 
limitations, you can search under the title at 
<nfb.org>. Come join our forward movement!

National Association of Guide Dog Users’ Annual 
Seminar – July 14; 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.
National Association of guide Dog Users Annual 
Meeting – July 16; 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Fraternally yours,
Marion Gwizdala, President
National Association of Guide Dog Users Inc. (NAGDU)
National Federation of the Blind
(202) 573-8582
President at NAGDU.ORG
<http://nagdu.org/>Visit our website
<http://twitter.com/nagdu>Follow us on Twitter

The National Federation of the Blind knows that 
blindness is not the characteristic that defines 
you or your future. Every day we raise 
expectations because low expectations create 
barriers between blind  people and our dreams. 
You can live the life you want! Blindness is not what holds you back.

This email has been checked for viruses by AVG.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbnet-members-list_nfbnet.org/attachments/20200705/0953a75d/attachment.html>

More information about the NFBNet-Members-List mailing list