No National Service Dog Team Standard! Yea!

I have a happy update to the Canadian service dog team standards story. They have scrapped it!

I guess all the comments, meetings with MP\s, and whatever everyone else did convinced them that a one-size-fits-all standard does not work, as we all knew it wouldn’t.

Of course, there are articles like this one that make the standard’s being scrapped sound like a horrible idea.

The future of the federal government’s bid to pair veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with service dogs was thrown into doubt Wednesday by the unexpected decision of a federal regulating agency to pull out of the project.
The Canadian General Standards Board announced it will not develop a nationwide code of acceptable training and behavioural standards for the animals.

I’m sure if Veterans’ Affairs wanted to, they could learn from the many accredited guide dog associations how to build a good standard. This one was going to cause all kinds of problems for current service dogs, and they wouldn’t have wanted that either.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that some other entity could start trying to draft another blanket standard, but for now, it looks like we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

I Was On The News Talking About Fake Service Dogs

I didn’t realize it when I woke up yesterday, but I was going to be on the news by the end of the day. Don’t worry, it wasn’t for something scary or stupid. I guess an old friend from school ended up talking to a reporter about the problem of disservice dogs and how businesses don’t know what to do. When the reporter asked him for a local person with a service dog, he thought of me, and so it went.

It all came together pretty quickly, from “Would you be ok talking to a reporter about this?” to “Where do you work? I’ll meet you in an hour!” I was a very nervous human being, super afraid I was going to be misquoted, or say something that could be taken out of context.

Here is the resulting report. I babbled and rambled at her a while, so I’m glad she got at least a good line. I apparently looked fit to be on camera too, which is reassuring, since the wind blew my hair all crazy when I first arrived outside.

I feel like they threw this together quickly, and for the time they gave it, they did the best they could. I almost wish they could turn this into a series because this report barely scratched the surface of the issue, but they won’t. I also know this came together quickly because the reporter doesn’t know a heck of a lot about service dogs. The first thing she did was try to greet Tansy. She respected me when I said no, but the fact is she greeted her, which is a short leap from trying to pet her.

I wish I had been more articulate in my rambles because I have so much to say but it won’t come out in a controlled manner. There are so many parts to this. Fake service dogs have the potential to cause damage to legitimate service dogs either indirectly or directly. They can cause harm by making business owners worried about having dogs in their establishments because one of the fakes behaved badly or peed or crapped on the floor. Or, a fake service dog that isn’t well-socialized might attack a real service dog simply because they are sharing the same space. These fakes are being stressed out by being put in this situation, and their owners have no idea what harm they’re causing.

Also, I’m afraid that the pendulum of acceptance of service animals might swing in the opposite direction. After the initial fight to prove that service dogs can be in public spaces, people became very accepting of them, and if they made a mistake or did something mildly inappropriate like sniff someone in a moment of weakness, most people didn’t say much because most often, the dog’s behaviour was excellent. Now, I’m afraid that if my dog commits an infraction at all, we may reach a point where her legitimacy may be questioned. I’m not saying that I let her get away with murder because I can and those days will be gone, but I’m saying that because of the fakes, we will be under a microscope even more than we already are.

I wish they had offered some actual pointers to business owners instead of the message of “there are fakes, what are ya gonna do about it?” I guess they mentioned that actual service dogs don’t bark and run around unleashed and such, but there wasn’t anything beyond that. After I tweeted out the news report, a friend asked what would be a polite question to ask. The ones I thought of resembled the ones recommended by the ADA in the states. Is the dog a service dog? What tasks has the dog been trained to do to help with a disability? To be brief, you could ask the person what the dog does for them. Then the person can talk about the dog’s job instead of having to talk about their disability and medical condition. Hopefully this would also work for people with invisible disabilities so they don’t get the embarrassing comments like “You don’t look disabled, why do you have a service dog?” I think anyone who has a canine walking along beside them should have a response to the question of what their dog does that preserves their dignity at the ready because there are going to be questions. It is inevitable. It is something service dog handlers have to accept as soon as we decide to become service dog handlers. Also, the answer can’t be “He makes me feel good.” I know there are actual tasks that some dogs do to help with anxiety, but the handler should say what the dog actively does to help ease stress, such as watching out for people coming around corners or helping the person find an exit from a crowded room if they get overwhelmed. If business owners learn how to differentiate the good answers from the crap, and only ask when they’re not so sure, I think this might help. Finally, business owners need to know that, whether the service dog is legitimate or not, if it’s behaving badly, dog and handler can be given the boot. I always joke that even if I’m allowed to shop anywhere I choose, as soon as I start punching people and defiling or stealing property, I would be escorted out post haste.

It would also prevent a situation that happened to me at Walmart last summer. I walked into the store, and was immediately told that there was a pit bull in the store and that I should go wait at the courtesy desk or they should get my items for me. I asked if it seemed like the pit bull-like dog was a service dog, who knows if it was actually a pit bull, and they said no. I asked if they allow pets in the store, because if they don’t, pit bull and owner should be asked to leave. Their response was they don’t feel like they can ask anyone to leave. I was ushered to courtesy and asked what I came for, but I had a rather complicated list. I eventually persuaded someone to go with me and keep an eye out for the dog. I knew I was taking a big risk, but I felt I shouldn’t be treated like a second-class citizen while this person, who they couldn’t even locate, was wandering through the store. Who knows how long I would have been standing in the courtesy area? We got through the store just fine, but the point is that staff at Walmart had no idea how to handle the situation, except to put hands over ears and go “La la la la, everything will be fine if we just put our heads in the sand and hope for the best.”

I didn’t like the final line about how people are going to develop a licensing standard and people have to prove they need a service dog. Hmmm. That sounds a lot like this proposed service dog standards garbage that won’t do anybody any favours. It also sounds a lot like a pendulum swinging the other way. Once again, legitimate service dog handlers will be the ones that will have to jump through more hoops than they already do.

I’m glad a story was done on this topic, and I’m glad I was part of it. I have had people I barely know say they saw it on the news, so it grabbed some attention for sure. I wish she had pronounced my name correctly though, especially since she had me say and spell it. Oh well, lots of people get my name wrong. I could think of way worse things to screw up. I hope it starts some kind of dialog with the right people so no group of handlers gets screwed by the outcome, and business owners don’t feel so powerless.

Delta And United Could Be Rolling Out Kind Of Bad Service Animal Policies

I have been meaning to write about this for a while, but I was hoping to disentangle everything and be able to have a very coherent response with a clear way forward. But that isn’t happening, and it still needs to be written about.

Back in mid January, Delta Airlines decided it had had enough of the disservice animal problem, or the problem of people bringing animals onto planes, saying they were for service and support, and then the animals freaking out because they were not trained, having accidents on the plane, injuring flight crews and passengers or being a general nuisance and hazard. They decided to tighten up their policies in the hopes that they would be able to filter out the ones abusing the system. United Airlines has decided to tighten things up as well, but they went about it slightly differently. Both policies are to go into effect March 1. Here’s an article about both airlines. Also, here’s Delta’s policy (.pdf format) and United’s policy.

First of all, I totally understand why they need to try and make sure animals that aren’t trained to be good public citizens don’t make it onto planes. They could hurt people and other service dogs because they are not well-socialized, and a plane is a rather confined space. Once you’re flying, it’s kind of hard to open the door and kick out the bad one. So, I applaud them for wanting to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, at least Delta went about it all wrong. I’m still holding out hope for United, although upon a quick read, I’m afraid there’s a lot of wiggle room.

From what I understand, Delta’s new policy requires that every time someone flies with a service animal, 48 hours before their flight, they have to submit a special form with paperwork from their vet certifying that their animal is up to date on its vaccinations and is healthy. They also can only go to a specific counter so their animal can be visually inspected by an employee. United’s policy is better, but still has some problems. It seems that anyone whose service animal is doing a task to mitigate a physical disability doesn’t need to do more than what we already have to do to travel. For example, if I’m traveling to Hawaii, I have to satisfy the requirements of Hawaii. But I don’t have to give all this extra notice and go to special counters. But, they have lumped psychiatric service animals in with emotional support animals, which is not cool. Psychiatric service animals are still service animals. They have been trained to do tasks like giving a person with PTSD space between them and a crowd, or looking around corners etc. Emotional support animals give their owner that warm fuzzy snuggly feeling when they give them a pet petty pet pet. Who knows if they have been trained to deal with anything unusual, which…flying several thousand feet above the earth is pretty unusual. Who knows if they’re used to sharing small spaces with other people and service animals. To be completely clear, I’m not being a discriminating arsehole and saying that certain disabilities are less worthy of having a service animal. All I care about is the rigor of the training that the animal goes through. Nine times out of 10, the people bringing emotional support animals either don’t need them and are just trying to get Foofoo on the plane instead of putting her in cargo, or they have no idea what puppy raisers and trainers go through to ready their dogs for public access, and that is the problem.

To get back to Delta’s policy, the reason theirs is problematic, above and beyond what I just said, is that they are putting unnecessary restrictions on people who have legitimate service animals as well, some of whom already can’t drive so are down one transportation option. The 48-hour notice requirement basically makes it impossible to make an emergency trip, use Delta as an unplanned connecting flight if another one gets canceled, or use Delta if traveling very frequently. In addition, I fail to see how these requirements actually help Delta do more than cover their butts. How are they going to validate that the animal will be good? The only way they’ll find out is when we board. So, they are making it harder for people who already have barriers, and for no benefit. For example, I now would have to make my vet fill out a form, or complete a potentially inaccessible form and navigate a website whose accessibility may change without notice just before I travel. I probably will have to pay to have my vet fill out their special form. People who want to bring Fluff-Muffin won’t find these steps to be overly problematic. They don’t have to worry about inaccessible websites or limited transportation options.

And don’t even get me started on the whole requirements of going to a special counter for a visual inspection. I have had my dog referred to as an emotional support dog. My black lab whose mouth isn’t moving has been blamed for the barking of a yappy chihuahua-sized dog several feet away. These people have no idea what they are inspecting. It also excludes people from using kiosks or curb-side check-in. They might find these to be better options, and again, it is of no benefit. At the end of it all, the person is standing in front of someone who has had very little training to make them qualified to make a determination that this dog is healthy and socialized. It penalizes people who are already limited in their options, and the owners of emotional support animals will only be mildly inconvenienced.

I have 0 problem bringing my dog’s health records, but I should be able to bring a certificate that the vet already drafts up, which we can receive at the point of last vaccination. I should not have to make a special trip to the vet to fill out some proprietary form, and every airline will have its own form. I also don’t even mind signing something quickly upon checkin that says something to the effect of “My dog will not crap on the plane floor, run rampant through the plane or gnaw on my fellow passengers or flight crew.” It’s annoying, more annoying than having health records on hand, but if I can do it quickly, I don’t mind. I have no doubt that my dog will be fine. When I was in Vegas, I had to sign such a form at the hotel. They didn’t charge me pet fees, but they wanted me to assure that I would not leave her loose in the room and she wouldn’t leave any undesirable presents for housekeeping. Fine. Whatever the process, it needs to be as streamlined as possible and can’t leave room for misinformed people to make decisions that could prevent a person with a legitimate service animal from traveling.

From what I have read, the whole problem could be taken care of by tweaking the Air Carrier Access Act a wee smidge to tighten up on what is a service animal so we don’t get any more support peacocks et al, as well as making clear procedures on how to deal with an animal, service, support or whatever, that has become a danger, and we wouldn’t have to deal with all these different airlines and their different policies.

The fact is Delta started the ball rolling and now we have to get the ball rolling the right way, or flying is really going to suck for anyone with a service animal. Here is a post that states it well and has links on where to make complaints and make our voices heard. The links are in the comments of the post.

Now that I have written all of this down, maybe I can put together something resembling a useful and reasonable complaint.

My Thoughts On The Draft Canadian Service Dog Team Standards

Very happy edit: The standard has been withdrawn!

I have said over and over that we need to deal with fake service dogs, mostly because those dogs don’t have the training to behave properly in public. They either make messes or attack others, making it hard for the real service dog teams to go about their business. I have slowly learned that the solution isn’t to make an ID card, because people can make fake ID cards, and it’s not the ID card but the behaviour that matters. I hoped for a set of standards for behaviour that businesses should be educated on so they know a fake when they see one.

Others have been thinking about standards, and are trying to draft one. I can tell they have tried to be very thorough, and they have somewhat done their homework on service dogs and disabilities. But for all the good that is in this standard, there are a lot of problems. I’m not one who frequently comments on drafts and legislation, but one way or another, I’m going to make my voice heard on this one. If the draft standard goes through as is, and is used as a supporting standard for laws, it has the potential to make the lives of at least guide dog teams very hard. If you feel the same, I urge you to comment. Public comment closes on Friday July the 14th.

Here is a news article and a blog post that basically agree with me, and tell me I have valid concerns. Writing my comment is going to be hard, because for the many good intentions I can see in the standard, there are many many things wrong with it, things that to me don’t even need explaining because they’re so obvious, but I know I’m going to have to break it down in a very methodical way.

Here are the overarching themes that keep coming back again and again.

  • The standard feels like overkill for any service dog handler from a reputable school. The standard wants to establish assessment and training criteria that the schools have handled seamlessly for decades. People ask why we go away to train for weeks, up to a month. The very things referenced in this standard, which it appears we are being obligated to prove over and over again, are the things we are being taught, and the things that are being reinforced. We are taught good handling, training, grooming, dealing with the public, knowing our access rights and limitations, dealing with dog health-related things, and on and on and on. Once we leave training, it’s not over. How many times have you seen me write about followup visits? The instructor is coming to check on our teamwork, the health of the dog, the willingness of the dog to continue to work, and the solidity of the training that I received. Why should handlers in my position be forced to submit to an extra layer of scrutiny? If you are training your own dog, then it makes sense to ensure that someone assesses your suitability for a service dog, and makes you aware of what is to come, so you don’t go into this relationship with false ideas. As for the rest of us, we know.
  • I know they were trying for a standard into which they could neatly fit all service dogs, but due to the nature of a service dog, this is doomed to fail. My guide dog’s duties are different than those of a PTSD dog, or a seizure assistance dog, …you get the point. By consequence, interactions are going to be different. For example, I am not always going to know about a distraction until my guide dog, well-trained as she is, gets distracted by it, at which point, I have to react. However, the standards laid out do not allow for such a reaction. I may have to tug on the leash. This isn’t a bodily choking, this is a movement to get her attention. This would not be allowed. Sometimes I put a gentle leader on my dog so I can better feel what her head is doing. This is not a muzzle, but may be perceived as such, and according to the standard, muzzles are not allowed. My dog would have to do off-leash obedience, which isn’t how we do obedience, since of course I have to feel what she’s doing, because, duh, I’m blind, hence the dog! There are so many examples of this, but you can already see that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. I think they tried to get feedback from all user groups, but because it was so divergent, they just gave up and this was the result.
  • I cannot stand the tone of this standard, for a couple of reasons. Let me start with the heavy emphasis on shifting the blame for any unfortunate events to the handler of the dog, not the environment or the other people in the environment. For example, if we encounter an aggressive dog, we are to avoid the dog by crossing the street, we are to stop the attack with our own bodies if necessary, tell the owner to get their dog on a leash, etc. How exactly are we to take proactive action when sometimes we are not aware of an aggressive dog until it is upon us? Not all aggressive dogs snarl and growl as warnings. Some of them, if they truly are aggressive, will simply wait until their target is in range and attack. For example, how on earth am I expected to avoid a dog jumping out of a car and latching onto me? How is anyone expected to avoid that, but if I can’t see it coming, I don’t have a chance. How am I supposed to avoid a dog lunging at us as we stand inside an elevator? How am I expected to avoid a dog attacking my dog when I am on icy terrain? How do I avoid meeting a deranged rock-throwing man? Also, how can I be expected to cross the street upon perceiving an aggressive dog if the street is extremely busy and not safe to cross there? How is a person in a wheelchair expected to immediately cross the street upon sight of an aggressive dog if there is no curb cut to cross there? How will I avoid glass if I don’t know of its existence until I have the misfortune of stepping on it? There is a big section of the standard talking about how we should take precautions when walking into roadways where there are cars. Of course we do, most of us don’t have death wishes. But what if we step off at the correct time, only to be cut off by an unobservant driver? Sure, the dog is going to do what he can, but sometimes you can’t avoid a speeding truck. Sighted people get hit, so how are we supposed to be superheroes? Is the default of this standard setting up to blame us for the accident? There is only so much one can do. Sure, we shouldn’t walk into danger with no regard for what may happen, that would be pretty stupid, but the onus shouldn’t be on us to prevent all situations.
  • …This leads nicely into my next point. There is an overall tone that we as service dog handlers need to be micromanaged, that we have no coping or problem-solving skills whatsoever, and should accept needing to provide all kinds of proof of every aspect of our lives to whoever asks for it. NO! It’s simple as that. N…O. If it has been deemed that we are capable of taking care of this animal, then treat us as such. We are being asked to do more than one reasonably does for their children. When you’re out with your kids, do you carry a fully-stocked first-aid kit? Or is it expected that if something comes up, you will ask for help and deal with it to the best of your ability? Are you expected to regularly show proof that you’ve taken your child to the doctor? Or, is this only brought up if your child looks ill or otherwise uncared for? Are you expected to provide proof that you know how to handle every single eventuality? Or are you expected to problem-solve. This is an unacceptable burden to place on people who are already taking exemplary care of their service dogs, and frankly, I find it insulting. Hands off! I am a competent adult and I demand to be treated as such.
  • On one hand, every little thing that the handler must do is detailed, but when it comes to the specifications for assessment, there are gaping holes where details should be. How frequently will these assessments be conducted? By whom? Will they be scheduled or unannounced? There is the description of a test where someone unknown to the dog will walk up and take the dog from you and walk away. Is this going to be done without warning? If so, I will be living in perpetual fear, and as a blind person, I will not know who is kidnapping my dog and who is an assessor. Will I have to go somewhere, taking off work, for these assessments to be done? How long will they take? How on earth will they properly assess play? Playing a game in front of someone is never as natural as what happens at home. What is the difference between testing and inspection? There is so little clarity in this part of the standard that it’s kind of terrifying. Yet, the people who wrote this settled on this as an acceptable way to treat us.
  • There is way too much weight placed on the public’s opinion. As any service dog handler or puppy raiser knows, all of the public have opinions in plentiful quantities, but many of those opinions are uninformed or misinformed. On any given day I can be told
    • that my dog is fat,
    • that my dog is too thin,
    • that my dog looks happy,
    • that my dog looks sad,
    • that my dog is too shy,
    • that my dog is too sociable,
    • that I’m good to my dog,
    • that I’m a mean mean handler (when I won’t let her get pets),
    • that my dog is well-trained,
    • that my dog has never seen a day of instruction in her life.

    I could go on all day. You get the point. If these people can make decisions about whether I can come in a place, I’m in trouble. Of course, if my dog looks like a flea-bitten disobedient mange-covered mutt who craps on the floor and bites people, then the public can say all it wants, but they are far too quick to criticize every little infraction, and to give them power scares me.

I’m sure, on its face, it looks like all these provisions are for the best, but I hope my examples illustrate my point. I am already doing my best to keep my dog’s training up. I do not want to live in constant fear that I will have to prove that to every Tom, Dick and Harry who says he’s an assessor.

I’m tired. I have been writing this for hours, and I’m going to have to reform this into something fit for a public comment. But I will do it, because it means that much to me.

If you feel the same, you can do it in one of two ways. You can submit your comments on this form, or you can write a letter and send it to Jennifer(dot)Jimenez(at)tpsgc-pwgsc(dot)gc(dot)ca
I kind of butchered her address in the hopes that it wouldn’t be spammed, so you’re going to have to rebuild it.

I really hope lots of comments come in and it gets a massive revamp. It’s not totally awful, but I think it needs work or it will try to solve one problem and create four more.

Not Special Needs

I saw this ad a few weeks ago, and it made me laugh. It also took no time at all to make a point that should have been clear all along.

I hope it makes some people think.

Have Your Say On A Newly-Forming Canadians With Disabilities Act, And Do It Soon!

I meant to write this, and do this, a while ago, but well…better late than never.

The federal government is trying to build a Canadians with Disabilities Act similar to the ADA I think. They want our input. Because I’m lame, I’m only putting this up a week before the public consultation period closes. So, if you have things to say about a new law designed to help Canadians with disabilities, fill out the survey ASAP!

I haven’t filled out the survey yet, I’ve hit a bit of a snag trying to download the discussion guide, but that could be because I’m trying to do this in a hurry.

The deadline is February 28…so go there as soon as possible.

Audio Voting Machines Are Impractical And Braille Candidate Lists Have Been Around A While. How Did I Not Know These Things?

A bit in this article about the challenges of accessible voting for the disabledcaught my eye.

At the polls, visually impaired voters will now have access to magnifiers and voting screens that let in more light, as well as previously available resources like braille candidate lists and templates that, theoretically, allow a person to mark their own ballot.
But disability rights activist David Lepofsky said the tools fall short, since users will still have to seek sighted help to see if the ballot is properly aligned within the template. Past elections, he said, have consistently been marred by half-baked solutions.
“The ability to mark the ballot has several components: independently marking your own ballot in private, and being able to verify that you marked it correctly,” he said. “Everything that’s out there falls short.”
Lepofsky hopes Elections Canada will one day join more than 40 Canadian municipalities and offer the ability to vote over the Internet, but spokeswoman Diane Benson says the logistical and security challenges of such a project mean it’s not currently under consideration.
The same goes for the use of accessible voting machines that allow blind voters to listen to a ballot and mark their choices alone. A 2010 report says the machines were given a limited test but later abandoned because they were impractical.

I have questions.

1. Braille candidate lists were previously available? That’s news to me. the only Braille seemingly within a thousand miles of any polling station I’ve ever been to is the numbers that run down the side of that metal template.

2. Given that they’ve been used in multiple provincial and municipal elections to my knowledge without incident, what exactly is impractical about the accessible voting machines? Sure they take a couple of minutes to get going, but unless I’ve missed a major disaster, I can’t figure out how waiting for one of those things to boot up is less practical than me walking into my polling station, encountering a clerk who looks at me like a deer in the headlights who’s just met someone from Mars and then has to confer with everybody else in that thousand mile Braille free radius before rummaging through the depths of a never entered closet to hopefully find that old thingamadoodle with the bumps on it. I’ve been lined up, verified, voted and gone in elections with those machines in as much or less time than that process takes.

Internet voting would be fantastic and I’m sure one day it’s going to be a thing, but I totally understand the security concerns involved there. Absolutely everything online is a vulnerability just waiting to happen, and when you’re dealing with something as important as fundamental rights it needs to be done as close to perfectly as is possible. But this voting machine thing, man. I’m just not feeling it. I’d really like some clear, reasonable answers. If we’re all getting screwed at the local and provincial levels, I’d like to know so we can get on people right now about fixing that for 2018.

A Wee Bit Of Good News For Blind Voters: We Have Useful Braille To Go With Those Numbers Now, Apparently

In my post the other day, I made mention of the disappointing lack of accessible voting machines in the upcoming federal election. Yes, yet again blind folks are stuck with nothing but that metal dealy with the braille numbers on it and our capacity to hope for the best. But as Carin just pointed out to me, that stupid numbery thing will be slightly more useful than usual this year.

Braille lists of candidates

On election day, each polling place will have a Braille list of
candidates that you can use with the tactile and Braille voting template
mentioned above.

The Braille list reproduces the names of the candidates and their
political affiliation in the same order as they appear on the ballot.
The candidates’ names have numbers that match the embossed and Braille
numbers on the voting template.

If you need assistance at any time during the voting process, ask the
election worker and let them know how they can help.

If this has been offered previously, it’s news to me. And given my various voting experiences, it’s safe to say it would have also been news to every poll worker in the history of the universe.

I won’t be happy until every election on every level is fully serviced by accessible voting technology, but this is at least a start. For once I’ll know what those numbers mean without having to ask somebody to read everything to me and then trying to remember it. That’ll be nice. Unfortunately it doesn’t solve the fundamental flaw in the system, that being that unless I have somebody actually look at my ballot, I have no idea whether or not my vote counts because I can’t see the mark I attempted to make. I’m still walking out of the polling station without the confidence of knowing that I succeeded in doing what I came there to do. That’s unacceptable no matter how you look at it, but it’s especially so because it’s entirely preventable.

Helen Henderson Dies

I got some sad news last week. Helen Henderson, who wrote a column on disability issues at the Toronto Star, died last weekend.

Whenever I would stumble across one of her columns, I always thought it was well-written and didn’t beat around the bush. She knew how to fight and just be honest about the issues a lot of us deal with all the time. I can’t find it, but I swear she wrote a really good one about silly things people do, like talk to us in the third person. Here’s one I could find, although they’re a little difficult to track down. I guess this is normal since she has been retired for 7 years.

Damn, another fierce advocate is gone, but she had one heck of an impact while she was here.

If You Want To Cancel Your Telephone, Internet Or Television Service, Wait Until January 23rd, 2015

When this news broke in November, we were right smack in the middle of one of the worst parts of Carin’s illness so I completely missed it. But it’s just as important now as it was then, so better late than never as we say far too often around here.

If, as we are, you’re looking to either move your landline telephone, TV or internet service to another provider or cancel it outright, January 23rd is your lucky day. It’s lucky because as of that day, Canadian companies are no longer allowed to force a 30 day notice period on you before they’ll honour your cancellation request, so sayeth the CRTC. Here is the commission’s ruling on the matter, and here is a news article that says basically the same thing but in far fewer words.

It’s about time this happened, and I applaud the CRTC for finally doing away with this completely garbage practice.

Years ago, 30 days notice made some sense. When you connected or disconnected a service, a living, breathing human being would have to go out and do the hooking and unhooking. But that was years ago. For at least the last 16 and probably longer but that’s all I can personally speak to, Bell has been able to turn your phone and its associated services on and off remotely from its call centres. The only time somebody needs to be sent out now is when a remote connection doesn’t work, which has happened to me 2 out of the 5 times I’ve either needed to move or establish service. All of my disconnections have gone without incident, which makes 30 days notice seem quite useless and very much like the money grab it is.

If it isn’t already obvious that big telecom companies look at us less like customers and more like ATMs, think about this for 5 or 10 seconds. Even though they don’t have to, they’re more than happy to bill you for an entire month of service you aren’t actually getting because a loophole from a different technological time allows them to. They do this for 2 reasons: 1. They’re wringing every last possible cent out of you that they legally can and 2. By essentially double billing you since you’ll have to pay service fees to your new provider if you’re switching as well as your final month with your current one, you might decide to stay where you are even though you’re not happy just because it’s cheaper in the short-term. It’s anti-competitive, greedy horseshit, and we should all be glad that in 11 days it’s going to be gone.

Oh, and a word of advice while I’m here. If you’re going to try to cancel before the 23rd, be careful how you do it. Rather than calling your provider and saying you’d like to cancel your service now, ask how long it takes for a cancellation request to take effect once someone asks. In the case of Bell who I spoke to this morning they’re sticking to the 30 days thing right to the end, quelle surprise. So had I started the cancellation process by saying I’d like to cancel, I’d be on the hook for bills into mid February as opposed to the less expensive 11 days I’m forced to wait now. But if your company says that cancellation is immediate or close (entirely possible since some companies support the change), then by all means say to them ok, then I’d like to cancel my account. It should leave them a lot less room to worm out of what they just told you if you do it that way.