Makiko, a black six-year-old Labrador retriever, is no ordinary pet. According to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Makiko falls under the description of a service animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. It is because of Makiko that Jessica Naert can fulfill her work activities as a Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Denton.
The ADA and Texas law guarantee the right of people who have disabilities to be accompanied by a trained service animal in all public places. In addition, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees who need to use service animals. This workplace requirement allows Makiko to work alongside Naert, which she appreciates.
“Makiko is my first guide and she has changed my life in so many ways,” says Naert. “Makiko is literally the best guide dog I could ever imagine, and she has been such an easy partner when learning and adapting to the guide-dog lifestyle.”
Though Naert first experienced vision loss when she was in the second grade, she was officially diagnosed in the eighth grade. Her vision worsened through college, and in 2012 she was declared legally blind. She then applied to the Guide Dogs for the Blind school and attended training in Boring, Oregon. She graduated with Makiko in 2013.
“As a counselor, I travel multiple times per week to various campuses and meet with high school students with disabilities to help them transition into the workforce. I offer skills training courses and other individualized services, based on the customer’s need,” said Naert. “Makiko brilliantly remembers where we go in each of the schools and allows me to be confident without letting my vision loss affect that.”
For more information about service animals, read our brochure Rights and Responsibilities of People Using Service Animals (En Español).
We also have additional information on our Tips & Tools – About Service Animals webpage.