Gadlinks for Tuesday, 1.26.2010

Happy Tuesday, Gadling fans! Here are a few more travel tidbits to help you through the week.

More Gadlinks HERE.

Get tips on visiting Disney with a special needs child at Mouse-Aid

Disneyland and Disney World are supposed to be the happiest places on Earth. Every child wants to go to this place of wonder and excitement, and special needs children are no exception. But for parents of these children, the thought of organizing a trip may seem like a far too difficult task. That’s where the Mouse-Aid website comes in.

The website is not affiliated with Disney, but it is designed to help parents of children with special needs negotiate the obstacles to taking their kids on a Disney vacation. There are tips for travel, packing, get around the parks, dining and choosing a room, and what issues parents of special needs kids should consider The special needs covered range from physical and mental disabilities to ADHD and terminal illness.

For many parents, the most helpful part of the site might be the forums. Here parents can discuss the issues important for their children, like which rides might scare kids frightened of the dark. They can also find support in parents dealing with similar issues as themselves. As the aunt of a special needs child, I’ve seen how just knowing that there are other parents who understand your situation can be a big help in and of itself. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, and you are planning a trip to a Disney theme park, it might be worth checking out the Mouse-Aid site.

People with guide dogs have been denied flights and a hamburger

Guide dogs are nothing new. Most commonly known for helping people who are blind navigate the world around them, they are gaining use in helping people with other types of disabilities. Also called service dogs, some are now being used by war veterans with post traumatic stress disorders. The more service dog use increases, the more likely they will be part of the traveler’s scene. Unfortunately, not everyone who works in the service industry knows the laws and rules that protect service dog owners. This has created a few snafus.

There is a current lawsuit against McDonald’s for a situation that started with the refusal of service. When Luis Carlos Montalván, a former U.S. army captain who was wounded in Iraq, came to a McDonald’s in Brooklyn with his service dog, he was told he could not bring the dog inside. Montalván complained to the company CEO which resulted in a sign installed at the restaurant indicating that service dogs are welcome.

The lawsuit came about after this incident because Montalván claims that when he returned to this McDonald’s after the sign was installed, he was denied service by a different manager. When Montalván later came back with a camera to take a picture of the sign that said he should be able to have service, two employees accosted him.

In another recent guide dog incident, a blind couple and their dog were denied boarding on a Jetstar plane in Australia even though the airline does allow people with service dogs to fly. [Jaunted]

In both of these cases, the problem arose because the people who worked for the organization weren’t aware of the rules of an organization or the law. I would bet they hadn’t come across someone with a service dog before either. As much as a service dog looks like a regular dog, it’s not. Guide dogs are not pets.

What are the laws anyway? In the U.S. the Department of Justice outlines them quite clearly. In essence, a person with a service dog cannot be denied service. Period–except from what I can tell from reading the guidelines, if the dog is barking during a movie or if it acts up somewhere. Since service dogs are taught not to bark or act up, such behavior would be unlikely.

If you do see a service dog, don’t pet it when its harness is on. That means it’s “working” with an important job to do.

Stevie Wonder named UN Messenger of Peace

Stevie Wonder is singing a new tune. Okay, not literally, but he has just taken on a new role: UN Messenger of Peace.

Blind since birth, Wonder will support the United Nations’ work, specifically to advocate for people with disabilities, through planned public appearances, interaction with international media, and humanitarian work.

The winner of 25 Grammy awards, Wonder may be best known for his singer-songwriter career. But he has long been an activist — spearheading the campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in the U.S., advocating for ending apartheid in South Africa, as well as writing and performing songs to benefit humanitarian issues.

Wonder is the latest of the celebrity UN Messengers of Peace — there are 11 in total — including George Clooney (peacekeeping), Michael Douglas (disarmament), and Charlize Theron (ending violence against women).

“I recognize that he has consistently used his voice and special relationship with the public to create a better and more inclusive world, to defend civil and human rights and to improve the lives of those less fortunate,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Flight attendant afraid of dogs, wants blind woman to move

Guide dogs that people who are blind use in order to have mobility and independence are not like any other dogs. First, they know how to take up very little space if needed. They also don’t bark. They don’t bite. They don’t run around. They stay close to the person they work for, ever ready to guide and help. Unfortunately one woman found a flight attendant on Delta who didn’t know this. The attendant wanted the blind woman moved out of the bulk head seat because she didn’t want to sit next to the dog. She was afraid of the dog.

According to the report in the Consumerist, the woman with the guide dog has flown thirty times with this particular guide dog and always requests bulkhead in order to have room for the dog to sit at her feet. According to the rules established by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog is like a wheelchair so accommodations need to be made.

Sometimes requesting bulkhead works. Sometimes airlines are not helpful. Snafus happen, and then the snafus are worked out. In this case, the snafu was the flight attendant who also was sitting in a bulkhead seat. Because she is afraid of dogs, she wanted the woman moved to a regular coach seat.

See the problem? Have you ever had a hard time figuring out where you might even place your feet while sitting in a regular coach seat. Now imagine a Labrador, German Shepherd or Standard poodle at your feet. Maybe a foot rest for all three seats in the row if the other passengers AND the guide dog didn’t mind?

In the case of this woman, this guide dog and this flight attendant, a Complaint Resolution Officer was called in to help solve the problem. The resolution was that the flight attendant got a dose of dog therapy. The three shared the bulkhead with the flight attendant complaining all the while anytime it seemed that a hair on the dog was coming closer.

What I don’t understand is why the flight attendant didn’t move? Unless there were only heavy people, drunks and children on board, other pet peeves of travelers.

I have a friend with a guide dog who I have taken shopping. Most of the time I don’t even know that the dog is around and she sits at my friend’s feet in my car in transit. I have a Toyota Corolla.