On Parks, Guide Dogs, & Ableism

I’m wearing a shirt that says “Commit to Inclusion” and smiling down at Mylo, a German Shepherd Seeing Eye dog. Behind us is a grass-covered hillside with forested hills in the distance.

Park rangers stop us every time. “No dogs allowed. You need to leave.” Their surprise upon learning it’s a real, actual Seeing Eye dog puzzles me. The Parks & Recreation Department trains them to identify coyotes and mountain lions, but not Seeing Eye dogs? 

But today was different. The ground shook as their truck drove up the path, slowing as it approached us. The park ranger scrutinized us, and then drove on. Our persistence, our insistence that we can enjoy California’s beautiful parks as nondisabled people do, is teaching park rangers to respect Seeing Eye dogs!!!

Many blind people wonder if having a guide dog is worth the ableist harassment. It’s a personal choice. County officials could help by increasing accessibility and training. We need more people advocating for inclusion.

Speaking at Deloitte

My Seeing Eye dog and I stand in front of a large sign. About four feet tall, the 3D letters spell EQUITY. Lightbulbs on each letter brighten the word. Behind them stand a row of trees, beyond which stretches a lush green field topped by clouds glowing in the setting sun.

I delivered a keynote at Deloitte University, and imagine my delight in discovering this tactile, Deafblind-accessible sign! The design allows people to see or feel equity.