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2019 TASH Conference
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Each year, the TASH Conference brings together our constituents to share resources and success stories, learn about field-driven best practices, and network within a community engaged in shared values. The Conference is attended by passionate leaders, experts, and advocates from every corner of the disability community. Conference attendees are influential in their fields and communities, and play an important role in the provision of services and supports for the millions of individuals and organizations around the world; and include professors and researchers from leading institutions; those involved in local, state, and federal governments and public policy; special and general educators, and school administrators; self-advocates, adult service providers; students, family members, and many others.  This year’s conference theme, Building Diverse and Inclusive Communities, reminds us that equity, opportunity, and inclusion relies on the input of broad perspectives and experiences.

Friday, December 6 • 5:15pm - 6:30pm
No Dogs Allowed | Advocating for Your Service Dog

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The use of a service dog can enhance the quality of life of an individual with a disability by providing support and increasing independence by performing tasks that mitigate the impact of its handler's disability. However, using a service dog can create difficulties for the handler that require advocacy and public education to address. One major problem is access issues. Individuals with disabilities using a service dog may be denied access to public places due to a misunderstanding of service dog law. Individuals may be questioned about the legitimacy of their service dog, especially if they have an invisible disability, and wrongly may be required to prove their dog's status by showing an ID or vest which are not required under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to access issues, individuals with disabilities using service dogs often are confronted with other difficulties while in public including unwanted attention, requests to pet their dogs, and inquiries about the nature of their disabilities. According to Mills (2017) approximately two thirds of service dog handlers with invisible disabilities surveyed reported experiencing discrimination on a daily basis, while 77% indicated the legitimacy of their service dog was questioned. The increasing presence of fake service animals confounds the difficulties encounter by service dog handlers. Businesses may be reluctant to provide access due to a negative experience from a fake service animal. Incidents of fake service dogs interfering with the work of legitimate service animals or causing harm to them have been reported. Unwanted attention, access difficulties, and illegitimate service dogs can cause anxiety when handlers are in public. Pierce (2018) reported that handlers can put unreasonable expectations on themselves and their dogs to be flawless in public because a small mistake could make their access and the access of other teams more difficult. Mills (2017) found that nearly half of handlers surveyed sometimes did not used their service dog in public because of unwanted attention. In response to these difficulties, service dog handlers need to develop advocacy skills to address these situations. Major elements of this advocacy include education, attitude, and preparation. Handlers should be familiar with ADA service dog requirements and their state laws and be prepared to share this information when confronted. Many handlers develop statements in advance and practice them prior to going out in public so they can be prepared to advocate when confronted. Handlers should try to remain calm, confident, yet assertive when confronted to avoid escalating the situation. Although not required under ADA, Service Dog Central recommends that the dog wear a vest to help the public identify it as a service animal but advises against presenting an ID card because it not required under ADA and may give false credence to fake service dogs. The purpose of this presentation is to provide an overview of advocacy skills for individuals with disabilities using service dogs to assist them in confronting barriers they are likely to encounter when working in public, and to help educate the general population regarding misconceptions about service dog use.

Presenters

Friday December 6, 2019 5:15pm - 6:30pm
Akimel Lawn 5594 West Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85226

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