Piece of Cake PR

Guide Dog Users, Inc. Submits Testimony on the Establishment of Security Service Animal Relief Areas (SARAS) at U.S. Airports


Simi Valley, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 01/21/2014 -- In response to the FAA’s invitation to provide stakeholder input, Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) recommends that all U.S. airports be required to establish service animal relief areas inside the sterile area of each airport concourse - to provide reasonable accommodation for passengers with disabilities.

“This is a vital request as It is not practical or feasible for a disabled person to be forced to exit and re-undergo security screening in order to offer normal relief to his/her service animal during the normal course of making available connecting flights,” says Laurie Mehta from GDUI.

Continuing, “Service dog handlers and their dogs are continually burdened with unreasonable stress associated with the legitimate concern that an embarrassing situation could occur due to the lack of a reasonable relief opportunity for the service dog.”

GDUI urgently requests required implementation of this imperative and reasonable accommodation for air-travelers with disabilities who travel with the assistance of a trained service dog. Therefore, GDUI has made the following requests/recommendations:

- In order to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled travelers, each airport concourse should have a service animal relief area (SARA) within the sterile area, as well as, outside of the terminal's sterile area. Airport and airline personnel should be informed about the exact locations of the service animal relief areas so that they can assist a disabled traveler in locating a SARA.

- A SARA should be large enough to accommodate more than one dog at a time, have clean-up bags and a convenient trash receptacle. An accessible mechanism for indicating the location of the bags and trash receptacle, as well as to provide information on how to activate a self-cleaning system (if one is available) is needed for those who cannot read printed signs.

- Construction of a SARA should be of an easy-to-clean, well-drained surface such as concrete, gravel or grass, or a combination of those surfaces. Artificial turf can become dangerously hot if exposed to direct sunlight. In addition, many dogs perceive artificial turf as carpet and will not relieve on it, making artificial turf a less-desirable option for a SARA.

- The SARA should be located in each concourse to make it of practical use and offer a disabled traveler sufficient time to relieve the service dog and make their airline connection. Labeling maps to indicate the location of service animal relief areas (either on site or on the web) could be helpful, but unless a tactile map is available in an airport terminal, such maps would not be directly helpful for blind individuals. Clear signage indicating the location of such relief areas would also be helpful for disabled travelers seeking assistance from the public in locating a relieving area for their service dog.

GDUI also recommends a process in which an airport official would escort a service dog handler, with their dog, to an area inside of the sterile area that is reasonably proximate to that disabled individual's airline gate, for the purpose of offering relief to the service dog. This escort procedure would provide a practical solution for airports; especially as actual SARAs are being planned and constructed.

Guide Dog Users, Inc. thanks the FAA for its efforts to address the reasonable accommodation needs of service dog handlers.

About Guide Dog Users, Inc.
Guide Dog Users Inc. (GDUI) is the largest consumer-driven organization of guide dog handlers in the United States. GDUI is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB).

The organization strives to promote civil rights and enhance the quality of life for working guide dog teams. Drawing on the experiences and varied knowledge of its members, GDUI provides peer support, advocacy and information to guide dog users everywhere. In addition, GDUI works with public entities, private businesses and individuals to ensure that guide dog users enjoy the same rights to travel, employment, housing, and participation in all aspects of life that people without disabilities enjoy.