Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It Passed the House! :D

Well, I've been watching the live feed for the House for 3 days now and Mike is now calling me a political junkie. LOL!

The good news though- House Bill 1603 has passed the house with a 96-0 vote! :D

And here it is:

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

We now wait to hear what committee it's assigned to in the Senate and will try to go and give testimony to that committee.

Please, please start writing the IN senators now if you haven't already! We are getting there!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This morning was here before I knew it! I spent last night going back and forth with my online buddies, tweeking and re-wording and re-wording again my speech that I planned to give to the committee this morning. We got up this morning and of course it was the morning that all three kids didn't want to cooperate. LOL! So in a rush, we made it out the door and met up with my Aunt Nancy & Uncle Mike at Mike's work and headed downtown to the state house!

Once we got there, we went through security without a hitch this time and made our way to the committee hearing room. Gary was already there and we let his dog and Rei meet, which his dog tried to show he was boss and Rei wasn't too fond of that, so we decided to keep some distance between the two of them to make sure there wasn't any disagreements in such an important time. LOL! Gary took his place on one side of the small, but long room and I took a seat on the aisle on the other side of the room. Very soon after, another gentleman with his assistance dog made his way to the room and sat next to Gary and across the center aisle from me. Being that the room was narrow, there were 3 chairs on each side of the aisle and maybe 5-6 rows back, then there was a T shaped table in front of the chairs of which the committee was to sit at. on my side there was a podium for those who wished to speak.

We were the last bill to be heard. And while the meeting was only scheduled to 10:30, it was about 10:15 that they called our bill, thanks to some long winded speakers on the first two bills. I was really worried because the quite a few of the reps seemed to be really showing that they were NOT interested in the other two bills, twiddling thier thumbs, rolling thier eyes, texting on thier phones, twirling thier highlighters, etc.

Then they called our bill, HB1603, and Gary gave his testimony, which was pretty much a letter from the lady who works for the hardware store. I was then called up to speak and I walked up to the podium and quietly said "Sit" and Rei did it PERFECTLY on command. I then said quietly "Down" with a point to the floor and she very daintily laid down and put her head on her paws. The looks on thier faces (the committee) and the gasps of awe was just PRICELESS!

I gave my speech, which I kind of stumbled a little bit in the middle, but came out of it fine. A mother got up and spoke that she just asked that the committee carefully consider the language in terms of the ADA in place already and then one other gentleman got up and spoke too about an amendment that he would like to see to it on some issues with paratransit with the dogs. . Then the representative from ICAAN (an Indiana assistance dog school) spoke saying she wanted to re-iterate what had already been said and that the bill was imperative but did need some tweaking on the language of what a service animal was. Lastly Nancy Griffin spoke on the importance of this bill as well and she knows many of the guys on this committee. So all was really good!

Then the chairman looked to the committee and I understood him to simply say, "Well, I don't know about you guys, but these testimonies leave me with no question of what we need to do. " There were no further questions from the committee and then they had the vote and we got "Yes" from everyone on the committee! :D The chairman then adjourned the meeting and commented that he hadn't heard a peep out of any of the dogs the entire time, even though we had 4 dogs in a very small room!

Then as all of the Representatives exited the room, several came up and shook our hands and met the dogs and commented on how well behaved they were. I sincerely thanked each and every one of them for thier time. My representative, Rep. Greg Stuerwald, came up and introduced himself and loved on Rei, telling me about his English/Canadian stock yellow Lab that he has at home. :) I thanked him again and after most of the representatives left the room, Rep. Leonard and the group of us discussed the language amendments that needed to take place and how to address the issue of problems with paratansit and the dogs.

They are going to amend the wording a bit to also included mental impairments as well as physical impairments as well as change it to service animal instead of just service dog, but over all the bill was completely accepted and we had everyone's attention and support on this through the whole thing.

Soooo, We got it! Up next- the House floor! Please email all of your house reps now and ask them to support this bill on the floor! :)

Lastly, my Aunt Nancy grabbed the gentleman that came in during the hearing portion for this bill and was taking pictures. He turned out to be Rep. Leonard's/the Republican Caucus press person, and he took my name, address, and email and said that he'd send me the pictures he took during the hearing. Rep. Leonard and I then went out in the hallway and he took a picture of us together on each side of Rei. :D

So here we are:

Kacie on the left in a black suit and magenta shirt and with a black Indiana Governor's Council bag over her shoulder. Rei is in the middle, in harness, looking to the left (at the dogs beyond the picture) Representative Leonard, the bill author, is on the right in a suit, white shirt and blue tie. He has glasses and a mustache.

Lastly, while it wound up not being entirely this, this is what I had went in with as my speech to the committee- it was pretty close, but not exactly:

Mr. Chairman and Committee Representatives,

My name is Kacie XXX and I want to talk to you today about House Bill 1603 and why this bill is so important. I want you to know that this bill is very significant to many physically or mentally challenged employees, parents, children, and many other members of our community in their daily lives. These service animals not only give their handlers independence and the ability to do the daily functions that are often taken for granted, but also give a quality of life and level of confidence that is immeasurable.

This bill affects me because I am a deaf blind person with progressively diminishing sight and profound hearing loss resulting from a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa disease called Ushers Syndrome. I live in Brownsburg with my husband Mike, and our three children, ages 8, 5, and 3 1/2. My disability can be a burden on my family, so I went to Long Island, New York in October 2008, and received my second guide dog, Rei, so that I could function again with my family. Before having a guide dog, we were unable to go out as a family and do so safely. My husband simply was unable to keep track of the kids and assist me at the same time. My white cane was never enough and my husband would have to watch out for me as much as our children.

When Rei came into my life, for the first time in several years, I was able to safely and independently travel on my own with confidence. I now am able to walk at night independently despite complete night blindness. We are now able to go places as a family, as my husband only has to be concerned with keeping our kids safe and under his watchful eye. I am a volunteer and conduct speaking engagements to educate the community of issues that affect people with vision and/or hearing loss along with being actively involved in my kids’ school and preschool classes. My dog Rei goes with me everywhere I go and she is an extension of my person. Rei is my eyes. Rei IS my independence. Therefore, it really concerns me that the schools are currently able to deny me the ability to be involved in my kids' schools.

This also concerns me because there is the possibility of my returning to the work force as soon as my children are in school full time, and according to the current language of the statute, employers can deny me access to their facilities because of my dog. Prior to my vision loss, I was able to obtain college degrees and was active in the work force. I can be an asset to any community as a member of the work force, as a volunteer, as an educator of issues that affect people with vision and/or hearing loss, but as this law reads currently, I could do none of these things because I would be denied the opportunity, simply because I use a service animal. This animal has given me back so many freedoms my disease has taken from me. The idea that my state could restrict me again is heartbreaking.

This law matters. I stand here in front of you today to ask that you please support this bill, House Bill 1603. I ask you to support this bill, and bring Indiana up to federal provisions and standards, and allow Indiana to comply with the Americans with Disabilities act.

I ask for myself, for my family, and for all the people of Indiana who need your support and actions in the spirit of the American with Disabilities Act.

Thank you,
Kacie XXX

Upon waking up from my 3 hour nap this afternoon, I found this email from Gary in my inbox. :)

The Bill passed unanimously out of committee this morning and we are told that house passage should not be a problem, Two small changes will be made adding developmental to physical disabilities and changing dog to animal to better agree with the ADA. Rep, Leonard said he will sponsor another bill next year after the 2008 NPRM for the ADA is officially released with the new definition for a service animal. We do not want to stall the momentum at this time with major changes to the amendment, but it is a living document.

Congratulations and thanks to all for your hard work, and keep it up through the senate!


Lastly, I want to also thank the couple of Partners that came and supported us by being there at the hearing! I am also very grateful that Kim Dodson and Nancy Griffin, both lobbyists that we met this past weekend in our Partners in Policymaking session were there as well. They were a huge help for me, doing this the first time! :D

Alright, House floor- HERE WE COME!!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


This is very encouraging!!!!

Chairman Niezgodski has been added as coauthor of this bill! This is HUGE! Meaning that we have both parties supporting this bill and we are in a really good spot for the committee!

THANK YOU ALL for writing in, it's working!!!! Please keep it up, we need to get the support on the house floor as well!


DESCRIPTION: Service animals.
LAST ACTION: Representative Niezgodski added as coauthor

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We've got a Hearing! Please come testify!

FROM Rep. Leonard's office:

February 12th, 8:30am in 156A - Labor and Employment Committee

They will be hearing 1603 at this time and place. If you would like to testify please attend at this time. As I stated earlier, feel free to pass this message along to others that have contacted you regarding service animals legislation. Thank you.

Ted Brandt

Please, please come testify if you can! We can make this happen!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ok I give up, I'm not going to be able to catch up as I've wanted to, so here's a quick run down of the last couple of months

But first here is a picture of my munchkins:

Meaghan on the left with her new mp3 player, tray on her lap, Alex in the middle with a tray on his lap and surprised look on his face, then Katie on the right with the lap desk. All three eating thier lunch the black loveseat.

Kids were home for Christmas break
The week of January 14th- Alex was home SICK the whole week.
We also got LOTS of snow that week
The weekend of January 17th/18th, all FIVE of us were sick with the same thing Alex had all week long. That was a LONG weekend! Nobody went anywhere...
Jan. 21- Rei and I did guide dog presentations at Allisonville Elementary school with Suzi and Clara and thier dogs. :)
Jan. 23- Rei and I did a guide dog presentation to Alex & Meaghan's preschool.
Went to the vet and have determined that Rei has an allergy to Chicken. Do you know how difficult it is to find dog food w/o chicken in it in some form??? You can, but it's usually $50 for a 30lb bag of dog food!
Had girls night in with the kids and Guys poker night out.
Weekend of January 23rd/24th- Mike worked on the girls closet, got them
More snow!
Monday, January 26th- I got my letter of APPROVAL for SSDI!!!! Whoooooo HOOO!
Wed, Jan. 28th, the SNOWSTORM! We got 13 1/2 inches of snow in less than 24 hrs. Thankfully we didn't get all the ice that neighboring states and to the south of us got. Sooo, we had one snow day and 3-4 2 hr delays.

Feb. 2nd- went to the local Social Security office and got approval for SSDI benefits for the kids! Whoo Hoo!
Feb. 4th- went to Katie's school and did a guide dog presentation with Clara and her dog to all of the 3rd grade classes and to Katie's High Ability 2/3rd grade class
Feb. 6/7th- Went to Partners session, where we bussed down to the state house and met and talked/learned about a panel of lobbyists and how to give testimony on the floor of hearings.

This week:
Tuesday night- Great Banquet meeting: commission the teams and hoping to have Men's weekend bags all sewn up by then.

Wednesday- Meeting with Deborah for lunch and to discuss March disabilities awareness project at church. Meaghan goes to Grandma and Grandpa's for the evening

Thursday- HOPEFULLY a trip to the state house to testify for the service dog bill. Mike works at the church with the IT guy until 6pm.

Friday- BUSY DAY!
annual appt with the eye specialist (NOT looking forward to this, I know my vision has really gone down.)
Hoping for Lunch out for Mike's bday and V day at Fogo de Chao
Come home and meet Katie after 1/2 day at school
3:45pm- get our taxes done
Pick up Meaghan and Alex at preschool.

Saturday: Valentines Day- CRAZY Day!
Katie has basketball from 10:45-11:45
Bday party for Mike and Meaghan with Chili lunch at 12:30pm
Leave for the church for Katie's Baptism 3:30
Katie's Baptism at 4:15
Church service 5pm
come home and crash

Sunday: Try to recooperate
Mike goes in to work for a couple of hours in the morning
Afternoon- Girls go with Sue to Sue's Mom's house to have a tea party with thier American Girl dolls. Mike and I clean up the aftermath of the birthday party
Bible study at 6pm

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Need everyone's help please! Please read and take action in the next few days!

Good Afternoon all!

As I return from a VERY informational session and inspiring one at that, of Partners in Policymaking, I come home strongly supporting this bill and am asking for your support as fellow Hoosiers or assistance/guide dog handlers, raisers, or friends/families of those with service dogs, to help us get this bill passed.

This bill is the direct result of several recent occurances, where Nancy Jo Acree and her CCI dog E-ore, were not allowed access to a school board meeting in the Carmel Clay school system. She had come to the school board meeting to protest the removal of two facility dogs that were for attending students. When refused access to the meeting, she displayed her id, the dog was wearing his identification jacket, and even though she and another person was there read and presented copies of the ADA, she was still denied access. After the police were called to the scene, she was finally admitted to the back of the room, after the sign-up sheet had been passed around for those wishing to make public comments. She was unable to hear or understand what was being said or who was speaking at any given time and then unable to give her comments.

A federal lawsuit has been filed for this violation, and would be filed under state legislation, however, since Indiana law currently defines that service animals are to be allowed in places that provide services to the public, the school does not fall into this category, as it only offers services to a limited portion of the public. Thus the current language of the law, under state regulations allow schools to exclude service animals from schools.

A second situation involves a lady in Ft. Wayne, IN, who works for a hardware store headquarters there in Ft. Wayne. She contacted her Human resources dept., notifying them that she would be applying for a guide dog. When she received acceptance to the school, she notified the HR dept again, and they told her congratulations. Then when she requested the vacation time off, a full four weeks, they approved the time off and again showed thier support for her. However, when she returned home and showed up for work on the first day after receiving her dog, the VP of human resources stood in the doorway of the building and refused to allow her access to her employment. They told her that she could not enter the building whatsoever with the dog.

The company has since set her up against her suggestions, set up a full office within her home, installing phone lines, purchasing a new computer, and installing a T link in order to provide "reasonable accomodations". This lady has been "provided" these things to accomodate her, but she is not allowed to step foot on the building premises of her employer with her dog. She has even been notified that she is not allowed to bring the dog to company sponsored picnics and functions that are for the employees.The actual hardware stores themselves are all completely assistance dog friendly. The company however, has used the loophole within the state statute, that because the Headquarters office does not serve the general public, that they are exempt from the state regulation of having to provide their employee access to their facilities. They have under the ADA though, provided "reasonable accomodations".

This situation very much concerns me as a guide dog handler, as this statute currently is not up to the level of the federal law. The way the IN statute reads right now, the schools can deny me access to my children's schools on the basis of my guide dog, should they want to, and unless I have the financial ability and patience to fight this on a federal level, I have no choice but to back down on this. And that REALLY bothers me as a mother of three young kids either in or soon to be in elementary school.

House Bill 1603 is written to change the language of the current statute so that the term includes the following educational facilities:
(1) A nursery school.
(2) An elementary school.
(3) A secondary school.
(4) An undergraduate or postgraduate public or private institution.
(5) Other places of education.

And that a covered entity may not interfere, directly or indirectly, with the use of a dog that has been or is being specially trained as a:
(1) guide dog;
(2) hearing dog; or
(3) service dog.

or that a covered entity may not refuse to permit an employee with a disability to keep a:
(1) guide dog;
(2) hearing dog; or
(3) service dog;
with the employee at all times in the place of employment.

So what you can do...

This piece of Indiana legislation that is being proposed can be read and followed here:

The following committee is the one that will be hearing this bill and I sincerely and strongly urge you to contact especially the Chair of this committee and House speaker Pat Bauer, as well as the rest of this committee, voicing how important this bill is. The more people that are the actual constituants of these committee members, the more it will help. So if you know anyone that is within these districts, please, please have them contact these committee members below at the link I've provided to contact these gentlemen.

Labor and Employment Committee
Rep. David Niezgodski, Chair: South Bend District 7
Rep. Chuck Moseley,Vice Chair:Portage District 10
Rep. Dan Leonard, RMM: District 50
Rep. Doug Gutwein: District 16
Rep. John Bartlett: Indianapolis District 95
Rep. Matt Bell: District 83
Rep. Clyde Kersey: Terre Haute District 43
Rep. Gerald Torr: District 39
Rep. Dennie Oxley: Taswell District 73 Rep. Greg Steuerwald: District 40
Rep. Russ Stilwell: Boonville District 74
Rep. Dennis Tyler: Muncie District 34

How to contact committee members:
Contact your IN Legislator

How to contact the committee chairman:
Rep. David L. Niezgodski: District 7 South Bend Area

By Email:

By Mail...
State Representative David L. Niezgodski
Indiana House of Representatives
200 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2786

By Phone...
Call toll-free (from anywhere within Indiana):
or directly at (317)232-9600

Contacting House speaker-Pat Bauer:
Contact Pat Bauer

By Mail...
Indiana House Speaker Pat Bauer
Indiana House of Representatives
200 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2786

By Phone...
Call toll-free (from anywhere within Indiana):
or directly at (317)232-9600

Currently, the bill is waiting to go to hearing. As of yesterday morning, the bill was not very high on the priority list because of it being a budget year and we were being told that it wasn't going to make it to a hearing and thus die for this session. We just received word last night though, that Rep. Leonard has received word from Chairman Niezgodski that he would hear the bill in the House Committee on Labor and Employment. The bill will mostly get a hearing this coming week however the date for that hearing has not been set. Tentatively the date is February 12th. We will not know the exact date until the day before.

So please, please send in your emails, make the phone calls, forward this information to anyone you know in Indiana and ask them to do this and please help me gather the support we need to get this passed! Thank you all soooo much for your help on this!

Kacie Weldy & Rei
Vice President ~ Indiana Deaf Blind Association