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“Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
– Section 15, The Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms

An Edmonton Store has taken ignorance of both disability rights and the meaning of “bad press” to a new level, by denying an autistic girl and her service dog entry into their store not once, but twice. The first time, they offered a half-hearted apology in the form of a cutesy “Gee, we’re sorry” card and a $25 gift certificate. Here’s the kicker though: When they came back to use the gift certificate, they were kicked out of the store again.

Let me make a few things clear: Service dogs are not pets. Autism Service dogs are not some novelty. They are legitimate working animals meant to help autistic people, children and adults alike, cope with the strong sensory overload, anxiety, and discomfort of dealing with the outside world. Service dogs are used by many autistic people as an alternative to pills, isolation, or constant pain and suffering. To deny a person with a service dog entry into your store is to say that disabled people are not welcome or wanted by your establishment.

There’s still a lot of ignorance surrounding the role service dogs have in the lives of disabled people, but to screw up twice in this manner is unacceptable. This is the ultimate proof that incompetence and bigotry can often be a deadly cocktail of stupid. Edmonton readers, if I have any, may I suggest avoiding this particular store until they learn the true meaning of “I’m really sorry”?

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