A man who had been lobbying Metro to change its policy to allow his service dog to use station emergency gates has scored a victory — for himself and passengers in similar situations. Passengers with service dogs can now use the gates to enter and exit the system upon request, the agency said Monday.
“Such customers shall not be required to use a faregate to enter or exit the system,” Metro said in a letter to Ryan Honick. The policy is effective immediately.
Honick, of Alexandria, raised complaints last week after a Metro employee refused to let him and his service dog Pico through the emergency gate. Honick, who uses a wheelchair, was born with cerebral palsy. Pico assists Honick with certain everyday tasks such as opening doors and flipping light switches.
Honick said the fare gates have clipped Pico in the past and if the dog were to suddenly become afraid of the Metro, Honick would have to stop riding the train, severely limiting his mobility. But the station employee refused to open the gate, saying it was against Metro policy.
Fuming, Honick waited at the Eisenhower Metro station for nearly 30 minutes until a supervisor showed up and opened the emergency gate. Metro, he said, showed “absolutely no compassion.”
In a letter from Metro provided by Honick, Metro’s director of ADA policy and planning, said he appreciated Honick bringing the matter to his attention and the informative dialogue it inspired. Here’s a portion of the letter, signed by Director Christiaan Blake.
Metro appreciates you bringing this potential safety matter to our attention. As a result of your request, the informative conversations you shared with me, and Metro’s follow-up investigation into the matter, I am pleased to inform you that Metro has established a safety accommodation standard operating procedure (SOP) to allow customers traveling with service animals to use the equipment gates to enter or exit the system upon request. Such customers shall not be required to use a faregate to enter or exit the system. This SOP is effective immediately.
“This demonstrates the power of social media,” Honick said Monday. “You start out thinking, not knowing what you’re going to get out of it. With the support of enough people, you get enough attention, make enough noise, and change can happen.”
Honick thanked Metro Board member Corbett A. Price for raising the issue directly with Metro. He said he and Price spoke Friday and Price assured him the problem would be resolved. Price congratulated Honick in a tweet Monday, adding “We need more people like you.”
Honick said he trusts he and Pico will no longer encounter issues at the faregate. Just in case, though, he said he’ll be carrying the letter around for a while.
“I want to have that literally in my back pocket in case I meet any resistance.”