Wilmer Oliva is legally blind and is allowed to take his service dog, Forte, with him wherever he goes – and that includes inside of all public, business establishments. What happened when Oliva and Forte entered Hanes Mall – specifically the Jimmy Jazz store in North Carolina, was very disturbing.
On Wednesday, Oliva filed a lawsuit against the city accusing them of violating federal anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals with disabilities.
“No one with a disability should be treated in such a brutal way. We have a right to be in this world, just like anybody else. Sometimes we just need assistance, like I do with Forte.”Wilmer Oliva statement news release
According to WralNews, on Oliva’s first visit to the store with his service dog, he was advised to leave, however the company later apologized and clarified their guidelines on service dogs. The clothing and shoe store assured Oliva that service dogs were indeed welcome. And then it happened again. A few months later, Oliva and his dog returned to the store, and then the supervisor advised the blind man to leave because his dog was not wearing a service vest, although the law does not specify vests are required for someone to enter a store.
This time, the store manager called the safety guards at the mall who assured him, Oliva and Forte were permitted in the store, however when Winston-Salem police officers arrived, they had different opinions and told the two to leave telling Oliva he could be arrested for trespassing if he ever returned.
This time Oliva filed a lawsuit against Winston-Salem for violating the Individuals With Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act which give service canines access to all public areas.
“Underneath these federal legal guidelines , town is prohibited from limiting or interfering with the rights of service animals and is required to alter its insurance polices, practices and procedures to permit using service animals in public locations.”Filed lawsuit
The city has not responded.
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