[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
Southeasterns 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, Southeasterns 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.
Marion Gwizdala, President
National Association of Guide Dog Users Inc. (NAGDU)
National Federation of the Blind
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.
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