Finding a Way 15 Access for Those with Disabilities Correcting even the most obvious injustice often requires legal assistance. Frank’s story is a case in point. A few years ago, Frank was living in a small California apartment and surviving with assistance from local charities. A head injury in 1994 had left him with disabilities, including recurring seizures and psychiatric complications. But with the help of a service dog, he was getting around in relative safety. Then, one day, a transit officer barred Frank and his dog from boarding a trolley. That day Frank made his way home on foot carrying groceries and parcels. It wasn’t the kind of progress that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had been enacted to ensure nearly 20 years earlier. Under the ADA, any service dog is entitled to access public transportation. There is no litmus test for size or appearance. Although Frank’s dog is small and unremarkable, he qualifies. But even after Frank pointed out the animal’s service license, the transit officer cited Frank for failure to obey a lawful order and creating a disturbance. When Frank called 911, the responding police sergeant verified the dog’s service status. But the transit officer was unmoved. Later Frank tried on his own to file a discrimination case against the transit company. Lacking legal training, he was unsuccessful. But the judge recognized that Frank might have a valid claim and called for legal volunteers. Mintz Levin attorneys Mitchell Lathrop and Bridget Moorhead were happy to respond. “It was evident that there was a great need. Frank was wronged and simply needed legal help to prove it,” Mitch says. On Frank’s behalf, he and Bridget filed an amended complaint identifying specific violations of the ADA and California’s civil rights and disability acts. When Mitch represented Frank at a settlement conference with the transit company, Frank received $8,000 and a three-month trolley pass, and finally had the satisfaction of seeing justice prevail. Getting on Board To Frank and others with disabilities, laws that provide service animals with access to public places can make a big difference. It took courage for Frank to assert his rights and to persist in the face of setbacks. Mitchell Lathrop Attorney Mintz Levin