March 18, 2011 -- In the News: Many people with physical and cognitive disabilities depend on service animals to perform daily tasks and take them wherever they go. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public businesses and organizations are required to allow a disabled person with a service dog into their facilities. However, not all public places have complied with this law. Last year, a North Carolina shop owner refused to let a five-year old girl with Cerebral Palsy bring her service dog into his store because "it smelled." And in Oregon in 2010, a third grade boy with severe autism was banned from bringing his service dog to school.
The Scenario: What would you do if you were in a restaurant and heard the manager tell a disabled woman that she was not permitted to dine with her dog by her side? We set up hidden cameras at Alfonso's Trattoria in Somerville, N.J., to see how people would react to a disabled person and her service dog facing discrimination. Our actors play a couple who complain about the dog, a complacent manager, a woman who is in the early stages of multiple sclerosis, and Hercules, a trained service dog. Would anyone come to the rescue of our canine and his companion?
What They Said:
"You can't bring a dog into a restaurant … There's a wrought iron fence you can tie him to…(The dog) is stinky, it's dirty."
- our couple hired to play customers disgusted by a dog inside of a restaurant
"I'm allowed to have the dog in here. I'm allowed to take him into public places. I need the dog for assistance."
- Diana, our actress playing the role of a disabled person
"You should (feel) lucky that you don't have a disability."
- Alfonso's customer reacting to our acting antagonists
"Listen, she is absolutely right, as long as she has a disability she can stay here with this dog, so what you're doing is wrong."
- customer defending our disabled person and service dog