Plenty of people who use guide dogs take the subway safely back and forth to work every day. I am not one of those courageous people.
Whitney and I walk long distances in the Chicago Loop, jump into cabs, ride CTA buses…but we NEVER take the el by ourselves. Here’s why: during the 1990’s, when I was working with my first Seeing Eye dog Dora, a number of blind people using guide dogs died after falling into subway tracks in Boston and new York City. They fell in, but couldn’t see to find the ladder to get out. This 1993 NY Times story explains how one woman perished:
A blind woman led by a guide dog was killed yesterday when she fell from a midtown subway platform and was struck by a train as she frantically tried to climb back over the platform edge, the transit police said.
“We don’t know how or why, but she apparently slipped over the edge, leaving her dog on the platform,” said Albert W. O’Leary, a transit police spokesman… Ms. Schneider was killed at 9:18 A.M. after she fell onto the southbound express tracks along the Broadway line. Witnesses said Ms. Schneider got up and tried to find the edge of the platform with her hands as a southbound No. 3 express train roared into the station with its horn blasting.
A story in yesterday’s news has a happier ending: a guide dog named Orlando saved his blind companion after the man fell from a New York subway platform onto the tracks. The man and dog survived unhurt, but that’s not enough to convince me to ride the el with Whitney. We’re staying above ground, on terra firma.
There’s one thing confusing me about all the national news stories about yesterday’s near-miss: they all say that the man has to put Orlando up for adoption now because his “medical benefits will cover a new guide dog but won’t pay for a non-working dog.”
I have never heard of any health insurance plans that cover the cost of feeding and caring for a guide dog. Maybe the man was talking about veterinary pet insurance? Guide dog users can choose to pay for the same pet insurance that is available to average people with companion dogs, and it doesn’t really matter if the dog is working or not.
None of the news stories I read gave the name of the health insurance plan the blind man used to cover Orlando., If any of you blog readers know of a health insurance plan that covers the ongoing cost of using a guide dog, please leave the name of that insurance plan here in the comment section. I want to sign up!