Saturday, December 13, 2008

News: Working a Service Dog in D.C. Need a cab... Don't hold your breath

In the article, On D.C.'s Streets, Blind Injustice, the Washington Post shines a light on the problem of catching a taxi in D.C. as a disabled person partnered with a service dog. I can relate to Mr. Kelley's frustration as I have had some of worst experiences traveling with a service dog in the D.C. area. Let me share with you a few examples of my time in our nation's capital.

Incident No. 1

I was staying working a huge conference and attending some meetings and I needed a taxi to get where I was going. Now as the article points out I am a double whammy when it comes to getting a cab in D.C.. Not only am I a person partnered with a service dog but I use a manual wheelchair. Therefore, I decided to call ahead for a taxi. I will never forget the more than 20-minute argument I had with the dispatch. It went like this:

Me:Hi, My name is Melissa Mitchell, I would like a taxi in a half an hour to go to ABC address. I would like you to tell the driver I am in a manual wheelchair that folds up and I will have a service dog with me.

Dispatcher: Is it a Guide Dog?

Me: No, it's a service dog.

Dispatcher: Is it a Guide Dog?

Me: No, I use a wheelchair. The dog is trained to provide mobility assistance.

Dispatcher: Is it a Guide Dog?

Me. No, it is a service dog as defined by the ADA. He provides assistance to me with my disability.

Dispatcher: (everyone together now) Is it a Guide Dog.

Me: Look, my dog is a service dog and I am allowed to have him accompany me. You cannot refuse to transport me or him. Now I need a taxi to go to ABC address.

Dispatcher:I'm not sure.

Me: Well, I am. My dog is service dog as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I only called so I would have a cab for sure.

Dispatcher: Your cab number is 1234.

I was already exhausted and my day hadn't even started yet!

Incident NO. 2

The second time happened while I was traveling with my boss to D.C. on business through Dulles International Airport. We managed to get there on time, gather all of our luggage and get in the taxi line. The man in charge of the taxi line is supposed take your name and ensure that both passengers and drivers get passengers in the order they came, preventing issues over who gets what taxi and cherry picking of customers. Well, we got on the list and the taxi man asked us to stand and wait in a specific spot. We did as we were told. We stood there a good 20 minutes watching people who came after us get in cabs and ride away. Finally, we thought there was something strange going on, so we went back up to the taxi guy and asked why people who came after us had gotten cabs before us. He says "I called an access cab." We said, "we did not ask for one, but since you called how long will it be?" He says, "Oh only another hour." We could not wait for and hour and a half and demanded to be put in the first available cab. Well, he was amiable. We told him that he should ask people whether they need and access cab and how long they would be waiting. We then set about getting in to a regular cab. This turned out to be easier said than done. The first cab who pulled up got out and said he could not take the dog because he was Muslim and had a copy of the Koran in the car. Not wanting to be culturally insensitive, we let him take the next person. The next cab cam up and said he did not want to take the dog and since it was okay for the previous guy, should be okay for him too. At this point we have been trying to get a cab for about 40 minutes! We were more than a little annoyed. Then a third taxi driver gets out of his cab and starts arguing with the second that he should take us and stop holding up the the line! We actually ended up going with the third driver because the taxi line guy sent the second driver away with no passengers for breaking protocol.

Tips for Taking Taxis with a Service Dog
  • Teach your service dog to sit/ lie on the floor in both the front and back seat foot space
  • Make sure you keep your dog's head oriented away from the driver
  • Do not allow your dog to eat or sniff in the cab
  • If your dog becomes ill... take care if it. I cannot tell you how many drivers made me swear my service dog would not vomit or eliminate in the cab before taking us, stating that dogs had done these thing in the past and the owners had left the driver to clean it up!

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