MEDFORD, Ore. – A visually impaired Medford man says he was a victim of discrimination when he walked into Lumpy’s last night to buy a pack of cigarettes. Lumpy’s says they did nothing wrong and were only trying to make sure the guide dog was an actual service dog.
Robert Houze of Medford said he doesn’t think he’s every been discriminated against before and has visited that specific store numerous times with out any trouble. Houze is visually impaired and suffers from a seizure disorder that also affects his speech.
“I was born totally blind. I have what they call congenital cataracts,” Houze said of his condition.
Houze says he’s had his guide dog Abraham for about four years now and ever since, the two have been a team.
“He helps me cross the street, he knows the difference between right and left,” Houze said.
Houze and Abraham were out doing errands Monday evening, when he stopped in to Lumpy’s at the Medford center to pick up a pack of cigarettes for his wife. He said he was discriminated against for the first time in his life.
“This guy out of nowhere off to the side he started to ask me papers for his guide dog,” Houze recalled.
Officials with Lumpy’s say their employee never asked Houze for paperwork, which would be against federal ADA laws. Instead, Lumpy’s officials say the employee asked him if the dog was indeed a service dog which is allowed under ADA laws. Lumpy’s say they don’t discriminate against disabled customers and only have the rule in place after a previous bad experience with a guide dog.
“I knew there was some discrimination around, but I thought it was more of a lower key, and this just proves me wrong,” Houze remarked.
Officials with non-profit organization Disability Rights Oregon encourage those who feel they have been discriminated against to file a complaint with their organization, Bureau of Labor and Industries, or the U.S. Department of Justice.
Houze says that the stress brought on by the incident caused him to have a seizure once he left the store. Houze wants to make it clear, however, that he was not upset with Lumpy’s; instead, he has a problem with the employee and the way he was treated.