Category Archives: Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA Service Animal Law Workshop

ADA Service Animal Law, Stay out of the Doghouse, Workshop

ADA Service Animal Law Workshop

All businesses must allow Service Dogs. It’s the Law.

Know ADA Service Animal Law.  ADA Service Animals are allowed in businesses.  The only place an ADA Service Dog may be denied access is in certain medical clean room environments.  Every day we hear news stories of business owners believing that they have the right to question and deny access to their facility to people with service dogs as a “property right.”

We created our “ADA Service Animal Law, Stay out of the Doghouse, Workshop”  to dispel the myths.

There are many myths about training certifications, Dog I.D.’s, therapy snakes, and service parrots.

We hear the term PTSD thrown around in the media and many have misconceptions of how this disease, defined by a group of symptoms, impacts the ability for many people to interact in social settings the same way they did before they experienced a  life-changing trauma.

When hospitality and restaurant employees deny people access with their service dog, it not only breaks judicial law and carries a steep fine, but it also negatively impacts the person.

  • How to dispel the myths and focus on the ADA Service Animal facts.
  • We provide customer service tools for successful interactions with Service Dog users and how to turn them into loyal customers.
  • Know the only two questions that a business may legally ask a person with an ADA Service Animal.
  • Know the  legal  difference and rights between ADA Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals.
  • Understanding PTSD: The Role of a PTSD Service Dog and the LAW.
  • Review all of the symptoms of PTSD and how they impact  may impact a person’s daily life.
  • With the right tools, a business can engage consumers with service dogs, increase their bottom line and avoid costly judicial discrimination lawsuits.
  •  A Service Dog is available as a trainer at this workshop..

This is an excellent ADA training workshop for Owners, Key Staff, Facilities Managers, Risk Managers and Operations Managers.

We are now scheduling for our 2017 Architectural Barriers ADA WorkshopsPlease contact us to review your event requirements.  Please review our page Speaker and Workshop Fees for information on the different types of speaking engagements offered and a list of bonus items for meeting planners.  All of our topics may be customized for your individual event. Speaker and Workshop Fees


Disability Customer Service Workshop

Disability Customer Service Workshop, Increase Your Bottom Line By Engaging ALL Ability Consumers.

Disability Customer Service Workshop

Great disability customer service is essential for ALL businesses.  Our Disability Customer Service Workshop is geared to all service provider, with the objective of increasing customer satisfaction and avoiding situations that lead to ADA discrimination litigation.

The most common words I hear from Clients during ADA Compliance inspections is “we never see people with wheelchairs at our business.”  That is because only 5% of the disabled population are wheelchair users. 20% of Americans have a disability.  That number is much higher in Florida between an aging population and tourism.

We never know about a persons physical and mental abilities or disabilities just by looking at them.  Excellent customer service for everyone is key to a successful business.

Disability Customer Service Workshop LEARNING POINTS

  • 69.6 billion people in America,  28.7% of families have at least one member with a disability.
  • People with disabilities constitute our nation’s largest minority group,
  • How great disability customer service engages  and retains consumers who live with different types of disabilities.
  • Discuss communications skills, customer service, disability etiquette and how to avoid unintentional discrimination. 
  • Dispel assumptions about the aging baby Boomer population.
  • Practice different situations and discuss different ethical questions,.
  • Common situations that lead to ADA accessibility discrimination litigation.
  • How the built environment impacts different disabilities.
  • Discuss range of motion and sensory impact o the built environment.
  • Communication skills when engaging a customer we believe has a disability.
  • How  ADA ramps, parking, restrooms, signage, and other architectural tools impact different disabilities.
  • Proper etiquette for Service Dogs.

This is an excellent ADA training workshop for Owners, Key Staff, Facilities Managers, Risk Managers and Operations Managers.

We are now scheduling for our 2017 Architectural Barriers ADA WorkshopsPlease contact us to review your event requirements.  Please review our page Speaker and Workshop Fees for information on the different types of speaking engagements offered and a list of bonus items for meeting planners.  All of our topics may be customized for your individual event.

Disability Customer Service Workshop
Disability Customer Service Workshop


The Buying Power of People with Disabilities

Grow your Business: The Buying Power of Seniors and People with Disabilities

Please join us in Kalamazoo, Michigan for our Keynote address celebrating the 25 Year Anniversary of the ADA with the Disability Network of Southwest Michigan . We talk about the buying power of people with disabilities and what businesses can do to engage this  growing demographic of consumers.  Please contact us if you would like us to deliver this topic at your event.

LOCATION: Radisson Plaza Hotel | 100 West Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo
DATE: August 6, 2015
TIME: 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. – networking, hors d’oeuvres, cash bar and presentation
REGISTRATION: This event is free, however, we ask that your register in advance.

Susan Berry of Disabilities Smart Solutions will present on the economic advantages of businesses and communities being fully accessible. Join us to learn where customer service, accessibility and economic development intersect.

This event is supported by The Jim Gilmore, Jr. Foundation.

This event is funded in part by the ADA Michigan, an affiliate of the Great Lakes ADA Center, through grant H133A110029 from the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research (NIDRR).

PTSD Service Dogs, Life Savers


PTSD Service Dogs can save a person’s life! There are waiting lists of 2 to 3.5 years for disabled veterans who need a trained PTSD Service Dog.  Why?

I have served on the Board of Directors of The Dog Liberator since it’s inception.  The Dog Liberator is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing homeless and abandoned dogs, primarily dogs from high-kill shelters and owners who can no longer care for them. By working with committed volunteers, local veterinarians, trainers, and foster homes, TDL has been able to rescue hundreds of dogs every year.  From June of 2009 to date, TDL has rescued, rehabilitated, spay/neutered, and re-homed over 700 dogs throughout the Southeast.   The adopted dogs have gone on to lives as service dogs, working dogs, and pets.

Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD can prevent suicide. PTSD Service Dogs save lives.
Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD can prevent suicide. PTSD Service Dogs save lives.

Last week a person contacted The Dog Liberator requesting assistance in re-homing a fully trained PTSD and seizure alert German Shepherd, whose owner had passed away.  The dog’s guardian will assist in selecting the new owner who most closely meets the dog’s needs.

The transition will include a foster period and training with a professional service dog trainer.

On Veteran’s Day, the dog was posted  to Facebook.  The post received over 250 shares and over 90,000 views.  By the next day, more than 40 people had contacted The Dog Liberator wanting the dog.  Many of the stories were heartbreaking.

We were surprised by how many people assumed that any “Service Dog” could perform  “ANY” service.

We were surprised by people who did not understand that they would need to work with a professional trainer to see if this Service Dog was a fit for them and to ensure that they were properly engaging with the dog and his abilities.

We were surprised by how many people did not realize that there are many different facets to PTSD and that individual Service Dogs are trained for specific tasks for specific people.

Several inquiries were identified as people who had the intention of selling the dog for a high profit.   The outpouring of attention brought the overwhelming need for trained Alert PTSD Service Dogs to the forefront.  None of us had any idea how difficult it is for disabled veterans and people living  with PTSD and/or brain injuries too quickly and inexpensively acquire a trained Alert PTSD Service Dog.  We witnessed first hand a lot of misinformation


Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD can prevent suicide. PTSD Service Dogs save lives.
Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD can prevent suicide. PTSD Service Dogs save lives.

The most heartbreaking story came from an out of state veteran who works with other veterans with PTSD and brain injuries.

He confirmed that there is a 2 year to 3.5 plus year waiting period for trained PTSD Service Dogs in his state.

He told us that in his county alone, 22 veterans with PTSD and/or brain injuries committed suicide last year and 17 veterans so far in 2014 have committed suicide.  I choke back tears just writing this and thinking of these selfless individuals who served our country and now suffer alone.

We spoke to another disabled veteran in Wisconsin with PTSD.  She told us that her wait was much shorter and her fees much lower.  Her service dog is a seizure alert, heart attack alert and PTSD dog who carries her medications and instructions.   Once she was introduced to her breeder, her interactions with her puppy began at birth.  As soon as the puppy was old enough to  leave his mother,  they participated in a weekly training session at her own home for 10 months.  She didn’t discuss the fees but told me that the total was significantly less than mentioned above.  The key to her training was having the puppy sleep on her heart from the day he was born.  Dogs quickly clue into their person’s body signals.

How do we get more PTSD Service Dogs trained quickly and into these Veterans homes?

Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD can prevent suicide. Please read our latest post at Disability Smart Solutions. PTSD Service Dogs save lives.Our disabled veteran friend in Wisconsin  told me that in her state the prisoners train abandoned dogs from the animal shelters as PTSD and Alert Service Dogs.  They have a work program that is coordinated with the local Veterans organization.  The prisoners enjoy the interaction with their dogs and know that their work will make the difference in a veteran’s life.   By  minimizing training fees, they can  train the services dogs quickly and at a lower cost.  It sounds like a win-win program that should be duplicated across the country.  How does that happen?

Suicide Rates Among Veterans

Per CNN September 2013 article.

  • (CNN) — Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. As shocking as the number is, it may actually be higher.
  • Nearly one in five suicides nationally is a veteran, even though veterans make up about 10% of the U.S. population.
  • “There’s probably a tidal wave of suicides coming,” says Brian Kinsella, an Iraq war veteran who started Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit group that works to raise awareness of suicide. Between October 2006 and June 2013, the Veterans Crisis Line received more than 890,000 calls. That number does not include chats and texts.
  • Per our Wisconsin disabled veteran friend, she believes that many veteran suicides are related to changes in medications, difficulty getting medical services,  cutbacks in pain medications, living with extreme physical pain, feeling abandoned and a feeling of “hopelessness.”

What is PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?   

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating anxiety disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event that involves either a real or perceived threat of injury or death.   In the old days, veterans referred to it as “shell shock.”

PTSD sufferers have a heightened sense of danger and impending doom. Their natural “fight or flight response” is damaged, causing them to feel stressed or fearful even in safe situations.

Many disabled veterans with PTSD experience: 

  • flashbacks, in which it feels as if the event is occurring over and over
  • intrusive, vivid memories of the event
  • frequent nightmares about the event
  • mental or physical discomfort when reminded of the event
  • emotional apathy
  • detachment from or lack of interest in daily activities
  • amnesia (memory loss) about the actual event
  • inability to express feelings
  • avoidance of people or situations that are reminders of the event
  • difficulty concentrating
  • startling easily
  • exaggerated response to startling events
  • constantly feeling on guard (hypervigilance)
  • irritability or bouts of anger
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • may be plagued by guilt, worry, and depression
  • susceptible to panic attacks, which can cause:
  • agitation or excitability
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness or fainting
  • racing or pounding heart
  • headache
  • PAIN and fluctuations in availability of medications

Is there a way to identify and rescue more homeless dogs with the intuitive abilities to be trained as PTSD Alert Service Dogs and connect them with Veterans who need them?

Things we learned about Service Dogs!

  1. There is between a 2 year and 3.5-year waiting list for Disabled Veterans with PTSD who want and need a trained Service Dog.
  2. Many PTSD Service Dog trainers charge the Veteran between $12,000 and $25,000 for a “Certified” dog.  Only a few are donor supported.
  3. There is NO Federal ADA endorsed or supported certification.
  4. Certifications for Service Dogs are through the different societies who train the service dogs for different purposes.
  5. The ADA states that a Service Dog must be trained, but they do not specify who must train the dog.
  6. The ADA does not require a certificate of certification for a Service Dog.
  7. The ADA Federal Law mandates that a place of business, including food service, may not deny service to a person with a Service Dog.
  8. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
  9. There are “do it yourself” training programs for PTSD service dogs available on-line.
  10. Many people confuse Emotional Support Animals with Service Dogs.
  11. Emotional Support Animals are not protected as Service Dogs under the ADA.
  12. It is illegal to pretend that a Pet is a Service Dog.
  13. There are many companies on-line that sell fake Service Dog certificates.
  14. Service Dogs are trained to be good citizens in public.
  15.  A business owner may ask a person with a Service Dog to leave if the person does not maintain proper control of the animal.
  16. Food service businesses may not claim Health Laws to prevent a person with a Service Dog from entering their business.
  17. The Fair Housing Act for housing and The ADA for Public Places of Accommodation follow different rules.

The ADA law only permits a business to ask 2 questions about the Service Dog.

Gisele, the founder of The Dog Liberator. Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD can prevent suicide. PTSD Service Dogs save lives.
Gisele, the founder of The Dog Liberator. Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD can prevent suicide. PTSD Service Dogs save lives.

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

By law, Staff cannot ask a Disabled Person:

  • about a person’s disability
  • to show or require medical documentation
  • to show or require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog
  • ask that the dog demonstrates its ability to perform the work or task

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Barbi, a Deaf Alert Service Dog
Barbi, a Deaf Alert Service Dog

Examples of such work or tasks include:

  • guiding people who are blind
  • alerting people who are deaf
  • pulling a wheelchair
  • alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Dogs and other animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

  • ONLY Dogs and in some cases miniature horses are recognized by the ADA as service animals.

Disability Smart Solutions offers FREE public service talks to community organizations about Service Dogs and other ADA issues. Please contact us if you need a speaker.

We train businesses about Service Dogs and offer an Undercover Mystery Disabled Guest with Service Dog site survey to business owners.

Universal Design or ADA?

The Difference between Universal Design and the ADA

Universal Design,  What is it?

Lumigrids, Universal Design grid light projection defines the surface ahead for safe passage

Universal design makes products, houses, buildings and spaces easier, safer and more user-friendly for the widest range of people.

Disability Smart Solutions consults with manufacturers and inventors of universal design products.  We often recommend universal design solutions in our ADA Accessibility Surveys and Compliance Reports.   Please contact us to  review your product.

Lumigrids are a great example of a product that solves a problem that young able-bodied people often don’t think about.  The small mounted grid light projects a path on the ground ahead showing the location of any uneven surfaces.  This example of a universal design tool shows a man riding a bicycle at night.  The light becomes an accessibility product when mounted to the front of a walker or wheelchair.  The grid can aid people with limited visibility or create a safe path to follow at night.  Inventions and ideas like this that might have initially been invented for military use, are part of Universal design.

SeeSaw bathtub
The Flume ‘See-saw’ Tub for the physically disabled. Designers: Kim Jung Su, Yoon Ji Soo, and Kim Dong Hwan.

Universal Design evolved from accessible design to address needs not covered by the ADA, American Disabilities Act.

Universal Design recognizes a wider spectrum of abilities, to create things that are easier for everyone to use.

Universal Design includes the full spectrum of human motion.


LED faucet
Sweet LED faucet lights for kitchen or bathroom Blue light changes red when water heats up


Universal Design applies to any product that ranging from appliances to cars, to door handles, to hair brushes, to smartphones.

Universal Design applies to any type of architecture, including homes, public and commercial buildings.

key turner
The Key Turner promotes better grip and turning leverage when using a key. Those with arthritis or carpal tunnel will find the key an extremely useful tool. The Key Turner’s handle has two large finger holes for increased maneuverability.

Universal Design for homes helps older adults with Aging In Place products and spaces that are easier and safer to use.

Universal Design for housing, provides accessible design standards that are not included in CODE. Universal Design can apply to the community at large through urban planning, public transit, and New Urbanism.

What is the difference between Universal Design and the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  • The ADA,  Americans with Disabilities Act is legislation.
  • The ADA includes the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which are the minimum requirements for accessible buildings and facilities.
  • Universal Design is not a regulation.
  • The ADA focuses on protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities.
  • UDkitchen2
    Universal design kitchen for a wheelchair user. Elevating sink, dishwasher drawer, microwave drawer, easy reach electrical outlets and lowered surfaces.

    Universal Design suggests best design practices to  meet the needs of a wide range of people.

  • The ADA does not apply to single-family housing.


ELIO Illuma Grip LED Grab Bars
ELIO Illuma Grip LED Grab Bars
  • Universal Design for housing brings accessibility  features to single family homes and commercial buildings.

Please share your Universal Design products with us.

Universal Design consultations and product reviews are available by our accessibility experts.

Disability Smart Solutions is full-service ADA Consulting firm offering ADA Compliance Access Surveys, Project Consultation, Post-Compliance Audits, All-Ability Customer Service Training, Undercover Disabled Guest Mystery Shopping, Universal Design Product Review and Keynote Speaking.  Please contact us to review your accessibility needs.

  1. Inspect your building for ADA violations
  2. Recommend the changes that need to be made
  3. Recommend how to make the changes
  4. Review the completed changes to make sure that they are completed correctly
  5. Enhance the customer experience
  6. Train your key people
  7. Limit your exposure to ADA lawsuits