FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marion Gwizdala, President
National Association of Guide dog Users
National Federation of the Blind
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND PROTESTS DISCRIMINATION BY STATE SECURITY CONTRACTOR
Tallahassee, Fla. (October 7, 2014): On Friday, October 10, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., members of the National Federation of the Blind will gather outside the Museum of Florida History to protest an attempt to forcibly remove a blind woman who uses a guide dog from the museum. The incident occurred when Tiffany Baylor, a contract specialist for the Florida Division of Blind Services, visited the museum on the first day of Meet the Blind Month, a nationally recognized campaign of the National Federation of the Blind. Governor Rick Scott has also proclaimed October as Disability Awareness Month. Ms. Baylor was visiting the museum to view a special quilt created by the Lighthouse of the Big Bend to commemorate the month-long awareness campaign. One security officer grabbed the dog’s harness and attempted to pull the dog out of the building. When Ms. Baylor attempted to educate the officers about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Florida law regarding service animals, the officers asserted that those laws did not apply in state buildings.
“We are here to demand that criminal charges be brought against the offending officers as set forth in Florida law,” said Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), the National Federation of the Blind’s special interest group for guide dog users. “We also demand that they be appropriately disciplined by their employer, that clear written policies be created, and that all staff and contract personnel receive training on these policies and the laws concerning service dogs.”
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act states, “No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity” and allows disabled individuals to be accompanied by a service dog in any place the general public is allowed. Florida statute makes it a second degree misdemeanor to interfere with the rights of a disabled individual or to obstruct, intimidate, or otherwise jeopardize the safety of a service animal or its user. The implementing regulations of the ADA and the pertinent sections of Florida statute are available upon request.
About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.
About the National Association of Guide Dog Users
The National Association of Guide dog Users is the nation’s leading organization for blind people who use guide dogs. NAGDU is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports sound policy and effective legislation to protect the rights of guide dog users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users and to support our work, you can visit our website at https://www.nagdu.org or send an email message to Info@NAGDU.ORG.