Accessible Medical Equipment: Service Dogs

With the amount of disabled individuals in the United States increasing, creating better access to healthcare is one of the primary drivers of the Unicorn Party. Healthcare is a right that every citizen should have and that includes having the option to choose what mitigation tool best suits you. Not everyone requires the same accommodation for their disability, and some individuals have more than one depending on their needs or how they’re feeling on a day to day basis. Whether it’s a wheelchair, crutches, medication, or a dog, our citizens should be at liberty to select what works for their experience.

The Service Dog has become more and more popular, especially among the newer generations. They have the access to information necessary to explore and assess what ails them in this world. Recognizing that our current society has taught us to ignore any attributes that may actually be disabling to us in favor of suggesting we just aren’t strong enough, is a wake up call we needed.

Previous generations entirely ignored the spectrum of disability giving the term a suggested criteria, while those who fall outside of those parameters suffered without aid. On paper, getting a Service Dog is the most accessible option for people due to events like “clear the shelters” and “free dog day” that make a 4-legged friend easier to obtain than a wheelchair. That being said, Service Dogs require extensive training to be able to effectively do their jobs for their handlers…and here’s where the problem begins.

On average, most Service Dog training costs $150-$250/hr and the dogs require hours of training to reach the appropriate public access level. Most training continues throughout the life of the dog, because you cannot prepare them for every situation. The initial training is demanding, time consuming, and doesn’t always guarantee that the animal will make it to the point where they’re able to assist their handler. Ergo, that’s a ton of time, money, and energy as an investment to come up empty on your healthcare.

What about a fully trained dog? There are currently programs that only offer graduate dogs that are fully prepared to assist a handler in need. That costs about $30-$40k depending on which program, your needs, and what dogs they have available. Individuals are sometimes on wait lists for years with programs before being able to be matched with a dog. There are ways to claim your Service Animal on taxes, currently, but most filing companies infringe upon the ADA rights of the citizen and their medical right to privacy. It also goes without saying, medical insurance doesn’t cover the expense of a Service Dog.

Other developed nations, such as those in Europe, have specific government funded programs to provide assistance animals to their citizens in need. Something that is required for you to make it through your day as safely and healthily as possible should be an option for all parties. After all, having access to a Service Dog doesn’t mean that it will be that individual’s choice. Barring access to a potentially more effective medical aid based on pocket book, however, is elitist and not a reflection of universal healthcare.


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