Wilmer Oliva is a blind man who lives in Winston-Salem in North Carolina. He has recently filed a lawsuit against the city because two cops forced him and his guide dog, Forte, to leave a store after the manager objected to his dog’s presence. He said that the cops threatened to arrest and charge him with trespassing if he didn’t remove himself from the premises.
Asked to leave twice
The incident happened in the Hanes Mall located in the same city. Wilmer and Forte went inside Jimmy Jazz, a shoe and clothing store. The store manager saw them and asked the two to leave as animals were not allowed in their establishment. Not wanting to argue, the blind man left.
Later on, he got in touch with the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice and told them of the discrimination he faced. The complaint reached the headquarters of Jimmy Jazz, and they called Wilmer. They said to him that they would rectify the situation and that he could go back whenever he wanted. They said that they would even post signs in their store that would acknowledge the entry of service animals.
When he returned to the same store a month later, he was again refused entry, and the cops were called in.
The same manager told Wilmer that his dog wasn’t wearing a service dog vest, so he couldn’t go inside. The blind man argued that North Carolina laws do not specify that a service animal should wear a vest. Forte had a harness on at that time, and it featured a large handle that said “The Seeing Eye.”
The manager called the cops in, and they sided with the clothing store. Despite Wilmer’s insistence on the service dog laws in their state, the officers shrugged him off and told him to leave. The officers said they were not interested in the information he shared, and if he refused to go, they would arrest him for trespassing. They even told him that the same charges would apply if he ever returned.
Wilmer filed a lawsuit against the city soon after. He wants the officials and the police to follow and adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act. Failing to do so violates his rights and other citizens with disabilities. He hopes that people will understand more about what he and other humans with special needs are going through in his case.
Source: The Seeing Eye, Inc. via Facebook