Um, congrats?

Life is not fair. We should all know that by now. There is no way it can be given our different perspectives. What seems fair to me may seem patently unfair to you. Without going into the whole socio-economic debate, life is just not fair.

But how do we determine “not fair” versus “discrimination” in today’s world?

I’m physically disabled. Is it “not fair” that non-disabled people use the stall intended for disabled people? I’d say yes. I would happily pass every single thing wrong with me to an individual who wants that stall. I don’t considering children to be a disability. Use the family restroom please. I also don’t consider luggage or packages to be disabilities. They don’t get their own seat on public transportation or qualify someone as needing the extra space in a stall.

I’m Autistic. So are two of my children. Is it “not fair” or “discrimination” that we face daily as we navigate a world that some feel we don’t belong in? Both, from my perspective. The “not fair” part consists of stares, disparaging remarks, being left out and flat-out bullying. It would be great if these things magically went away. However, because we’re all different and we perceive things differently, they never will.

The “discrimination” part comes into play when non-Autistic people insist on denying Autistics a voice in the discussions about Autism. When parents pour bleach into their children’s bodies to “cure” them of Autism. When our communities fail to work with us to develop supports so we can be active participants. When our co-workers treat us differently because we wear the same style clothes all the time (itchy tags!) or have responses that aren’t what is expected. This is discrimination. This is determining that because of a different way of looking at the world, we are less than deserving.

I am not less than deserving. I am not “taking” anything away from anyone else just by thinking differently or needing some extra space in a stall. I am not in need of fixing, although I’m happy to try to learn more tools to cope with a world that is overwhelmingly intolerant of differences. I will keep trying to help people understand that different is good. If we were all the same, the world would be a very boring place.

Congratulations to those who feel the word is fair and just. That must feel pretty darn good. For the rest of us, we will continue to speak up. Louder and even louder so our voices can be heard over the din of those who would silence us.

 

Why fakers ruin my life

So here’s the thing. I’ve been fairly liberal by most standards about service dogs.  I don’t judge other people’s choices and how they handle their SD. On Tuesday, my SD Blizzard was attacked by another dog in an office building. Nothing serious, but it threw both of us off our rhythm. I seriously doubt that the other dog was a service dog, since we were sitting down when this dog lunged at us and there was no provocation.

I went to work on Wednesday, only to find not one, but two pets were in the building. One pet the principal knew about, the other he did not. The principal did tell the “unknown” pet’s owner to remove the dog. What happened next should set many people’s hackles up.

I was told I had to check in with the other teacher to confirm I would be working that day. Then she would know when she could bring in her pet. The pet that, on my second day of work, the owner told me would probably attack Blizzard because the dog was territorial. Honestly, I lost it right there in the principal’s office.

It’s a slap in the face. I had to provide proof of insurance, doctor’s note and current vet exam/vaccination record for my SD in order to even get the job. This teacher gets to bring her pet to school with no accountability. Second…WTH! It’s pretty common knowledge that SDs have right of way over pets and even therapy dogs.

Back to the slap in the face. I’m sure you’ve seen something about “fake” SDs in the news. if not, just Google it. Here are two very personal examples of why “fake” service dogs are a problem. My SD was bitten by a dog wearing a $30 vest. I’m supposed to forgo my dog so someone can have their known aggressive pet in the workplace. My SD has undergone hundreds of hours of training to do her job. She has saved my life 6 times so far. We’re not just talking about making me feel good. We’re talking about call an ambulance and pray I don’t die on the way situations. Yes, “fake” SDs are a slap in the face too.

I get it. You love Fido or Fluffy. I love my pet Dane too. But, you are endangering my life by assuming your pet will be “fine” in public. You are risking my life because you are being selfish. Period.

Yes, selfish. Are you really disabled? I can’t tell by looking at you. Does your dog mitigate a disability? Again, I can’t tell by looking at you. But if you are honest with yourself, you know the answers to these questions. SDs are not robots and they do mess up. But you won’t find one barking hysterically unless the handler is down. You won’t find one lunging and biting other dogs. You won’t find one hidden away in a purse.

So, there you have it. Many of my social media friends don’t understand why this situation is so upsetting to me. What’s the big deal? Well, I can’t do my job. My SD can’t do her job. We’re constantly watching for another dog attack now. Asking me to go out of my way for a non-disabled person is discrimination in the workplace. No, I won’t “work it out.”  I shouldn’t have to and you never should have asked.