graphic of the black shapes of a girl holding a dog in a guide dog harness in a park

Mission Statement

The mission of Guide Dog Users of Washington State is to promote, protect, defend and ensure the equal access and day-to-day living rights for trained guide dog teams throughout the State of Washington.

Guide Dog Users of Washington State is dedicated to advocacy, peer support, public education and all aspects of training, working and living with dogs specially trained to guide individuals who are blind and visually impaired.

We advocate for fair and equal treatment of guide dog handlers; track legislation relevant to guide dog teams; provide assistance regarding the legal rights of such persons in Washington State; educate the general public with respect to the training and use of a guide dog; and we are available to provide answers to questions concerning living with a guide dog. In addition, GDUWS members often provide peer support to those considering partnering with a guide dog, or in those difficult days before and after the retirement or death of a guide.

As an all-volunteer membership organization, we reach out to those in the community wishing to be helped by GDUWS or wanting to help us achieve our goals. If you are blind and have a guide dog or are thinking about training with one, a family member of someone who is blind, a puppy raiser from a guide dog school, or someone who simply wants to learn more about guide dogs in Washington State, we invite you to check out our site and consider becoming a member.

Guide Dog Users of Washington State (GDUWS) is a chapter of the Washington Council of the Blind (WCB) http://wcbinfo.org/, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) http://acb.org/ and Guide Dog Users Inc., http://guidedogusersinc.org. Our membership is diverse, representing guide dog handlers, friends and family members from around the State.

We are a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax deductible.

Latest News and Current Events

Summer Update

June 2016
By Sheri Richardson, President GDUWS

We held our fundraiser with the Seattle South Sluggers beep baseball team on June 11. Although the weather was more normal for June in Seattle, with a few sprinkles and cool breezes, the game was as hot as ever. The Sluggers played the Seattle police and won, of course. Our own Marlaina was the announcer for the game and did a fantastic job! About 130 people attended the game and had the chance to meet and support GDUWS members.

GDUWS sold snacks and bottled water, and we had a 50/50 raffle which took in 212 dollars. That means GDUWS kept 106 dollars, and the lucky winner also got to keep 106 dollars. In total, GDUWS made around 300 dollars.

About half way through the game, all guide dog users and our guides lined up on the field to introduce ourselves. There were five or six teams, representing three or four different guide dog schools.

Deb Lewis, Marlaina Lieberg and Sheri Richardson on the field introducing themselves and their guide dogs to the spectators at the Summer Beep Baseball Game Fundraiser
Left to right:  • Mekaa White with her dog, Lester • Deb Lewis with Praline • Marlaina Lieberg with Nisha • Nancy Swaney with Dory, and • Sheri Richardson with Impala, on the field, introducing themselves and their guide dogs to the spectators at the 2016 Summer Beep Baseball Game Fundraiser

I want to say a special thanks to Deb Cook Lewis and her sister, Dad and Mom. They all helped at the sales table throughout the entire event. I also want to thank Marlaina for buying all the snacks. I’m so glad she likes to do the shopping since I hate doing it! (smile)

Most of all, I want to thank Kevin Daniel, one of our own members and the coach for the Sluggers. This was our second year collaborating with Kevin to provide such a fun and unique fundraising opportunity for GDUWS. Like last year, this year was a success for all involved. We believe this joint event will become a tradition for both GDUWS and the Sluggers, so please look for next year’s announcement and plan to come and have fun. We could definitely benefit from more guide dog teams being present and participating in our biggest annual fundraiser.

All in all, it was a great day, and we all had lots of fun. Even the dogs seemed to enjoy the cool, fresh air, not to mention the snacks that fell on the ground!

American Council of the Blind Reaches Agreement with DC Taxi Companies to Enhance Accessibility of Street-Hail Service for Blind Individuals with Service Dogs

Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation, Washington Lawyers’ Committee, matthew_handley@washlaw.org (link sends e-mail); 202-319-1000
Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, ebridges@acb.org (link sends e-mail); 202-467-5081
Matthew MacLean, Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, matthew.maclean@pillsburylaw.com (link sends e-mail); 202-663-8183

WASHINGTON, DC (June 21, 2016) – Four DC taxi companies: Yellow Cab Company of DC, Inc., Grand Cab Company, Elite Cab Association, and Pleasant Taxi Club LLC have reached an agreement with the American Council of the Blind (“ACB”), a civil rights advocacy organization for the blind, to carry out an Accessibility Initiative to ensure that blind and visually-impaired individuals accompanied by service animals have full and equal access to taxi services in the District of Columbia, including street-hailed taxicab services. Together, these four companies represent more than one-fifth of the taxicabs in DC.

The Accessibility Initiative, pioneered by these four companies, is available for any DC taxicab company or driver wishing to voluntarily promote equal access for a contribution of only $15 per cab. As part of this Accessibility Initiative, the taxi companies have agreed to collaborate with ACB and contribute to a testing fund overseen and administered by ACB. ACB will monitor learning, education effectiveness, and compliance by associated drivers with their legal obligations to provide street-hail taxicab services in DC. Contributions to the Accessibility Initiative will be used to fund this monitoring and a third-party testing program to ensure that blind and visually-impaired individuals with service animals are successfully able to hail taxis on DC streets. Those contributing to this testing fund and agreeing to the Accessibility Initiative will be notified of any complaints and given feedback on their drivers’ performance. The Accessibility Initiative also protects signatory drivers and taxicab companies with a commitment to resolve complaints against participating taxicabs without formal litigation.

As part of their mutual goal of promoting equal access to taxicab services in DC, all four companies have agreed to develop and implement a model Non-Discrimination Policy that accompanies the Accessibility Initiative. The Accessibility Initiative requires each signatory to incorporate such a policy into its association licensing agreements with its drivers when signing new drivers or renewing agreements, and to distribute the policy to all existing drivers. The Non-Discrimination Policy will make it clear that a driver may not assume that an animal accompanying a passenger is not a service animal. All drivers who do not have a valid medical exemption will be required to always stop to provide service to a passenger accompanied by a dog and hailing a taxi, or inquire whether the dog is a service animal where not obvious. The Non-Discrimination Policy also specifies that the taxicab company will promptly investigate any complaints it receives regarding any discriminatory conduct by its associated drivers, and discipline any associated driver who has proven to have engaged in a violation of the policy. Such discipline will include training of the driver on the Non-Discrimination Policy, suspension, reporting the driver to the DC Taxicab Commission (“DCTC”), and terminating the driver’s association with the company.

Additionally, in a joint letter, Grand Cab, Yellow Cab, Elite Cab, and Pleasant Taxi recommended needed changes to DCTC policies and rules to promote and safely provide street-hail taxi services in DC to the visually-impaired. DCTC will now provide disability sensitivity training to new and renewing licensed taxicab vehicle operators and has implemented a disability sensitivity training module.

Eric Bridges, Executive Director of the ACB, stated: “We are encouraged that these four taxi companies are willing to work with us to promote equal access to taxicab services in the District of Columbia. We hope that other cab companies in the District will join this Accessibility Initiative and contribute to the testing fund in order to become the gold standard for taxi service in DC, including street-hailed taxis.”

Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, said: “Public transportation, including taxi services, should be available and accessible to everyone, including persons with disabilities who use service dogs. We are pleased that we were able to come together to implement this Accessibility Initiative in the District of Columbia. We are also pleased with the jointly recommended changes to the Taxi Commission’s policies and regulations, which will apply to all DC taxicab companies and set the standard for equal access.”

Matthew MacLean, Partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, added: “Launching the Accessibility Initiative through the American Council of the Blind is a great accomplishment. This program has the tools to create meaningful change in the accessibility policies of taxicab providers in DC, and is an opportunity for companies to engage in a constructive program to ensure the rights of taxi passengers relying on service animals are understood and respected.”

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Since 1968, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has represented individuals and groups seeking to vindicate their civil rights, handling thousands of civil rights cases in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other aspects of urban life. The Committee represents people with claims of discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran’s status. The Committee’s litigation efforts have become nationally known for landmark court victories, record judgments, and precedent-setting consent decrees. For more information, contact: Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, 11 Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036; phone (202) 319-1000; fax (202) 319-1010; or see: www.washlaw.org (link is external).

ABOUT AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND: The American Council of the Blind is the largest consumer-based organization of blind and visually impaired Americans advocating for the rights of blind Americans. Comprised of more than 70 affiliates across the United States, the organization is dedicated to making it possible for blind and visually impaired Americans to participate fully in all aspects of American society. For more information, visit www.acb.org; write to American Council of the Blind, 1703 N Beauregard Street, Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22311; phone (202) 467-5081; or fax (703) 465-5085.

ABOUT PILLSBURY: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP is a leading international law firm with offices around the world and a particular focus on the energy & natural resources, financial services, real estate & construction, and technology sectors. Recognized by Financial Times as one of the most innovative law firms, Pillsbury and its lawyers are highly regarded for their forward-thinking approach, their enthusiasm for collaborating across disciplines and their unsurpassed commercial awareness. For more information, visit www.pillsburylaw.com (link is external)

Statement to the Community Regarding Structured Negotiations With Lyft
October 15, 2015

Reprinted with permission from http://rbgg.com/statement-to-the-community-regarding-structured-negotiations-with-lyft/

Advocates for people with disabilities have entered into structured negotiations with Lyft, Inc. to ensure that disabled riders with service animals are ensured access to transportation services offered by Lyft drivers. These collaborative efforts are under way between Lyft, Inc. (Lyft), Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld (RBGG), and TRE Legal – attorneys for several blind persons who have raised concerns regarding access for service animal users.

DRA, RBGG, and TRE Legal contacted Lyft to present these concerns after certain community members reported difficulties obtaining rides from drivers on the Lyft platform. Lyft currently has a policy that drivers on their platform accept riders with service animals, but Lyft agreed to work with these advocates to ensure that disabled individuals are not denied rides or provided a lesser quality of service because they use service animals.

The parties are hopeful that they can agree on specific new initiatives to improve access to transportation available through the Lyft platform for all riders with disabilities who use service animals.

For more information, please contact:
Tim Elder, telder@trelegal.com, TRE Legal Practice, LLC, 4226 Castanos Street, Fremont, CA 94536, 410-415-3493
Michael Nunez, mnunez@rbgg.com, Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, 50 Fremont Street, 19th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105, 415-433-6830
Julia Marks, jmarks@dralegal.org, Disability Rights Advocates, 2001 Center Street, 4th Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704, 510-665-8644