Service dogs out and about

17 Jun

As a social experiment, we took a small, friendly service dog (for an invisible but legitimate handicap) various places to see how welcome handicapped people truly are here, in this case, Israel.

A certain airline: let the person and the dog board, no questions asked, no humiliation, no nothing. Extremely friendly and helpful.

Various no-dog chain stores including food: 50/50. So in half those, a handicapped person cannot shop. What if they need food, clothing, or anything else a person needs, but need their service dog? Are they to dehydrate because they’re not allowed to enter a supermarket real quick to buy a drink?

A certain bus company: 2 out of 3 bus drivers allowed the dog to board without a muzzle; the third had to get yelled at by a planted bystander in order to show some humanity.

The railways presented no problem boarding the train with an unmuzzled service dog. No questions asked other than innocent curiousity.

A certain mall entrance security firm… Now here’s a quite appalling incident. The guard refused and kept refusing the handicapped person to enter with the dog, even though they said they just needed something from the pet shop right behind the door. Our person had to loudly make it known that they were handicapped and needed the dog, and that refusing the dog meant refusing the handicapped whatever they need at the mall, and that the guard can either let them enter, or explain to the company why they have a discrimination lawsuit waving.
Eventually the guard called the manager, but only explained on the walky-talky that the dog was, well, a dog, no word of service/handicap, so the manager wasn’t entirely convinced he should bother. Our person yelled at the phone “SERVICE DOG!” repeatedly.
A coworker of said guard got involved, and we thought he was the manager. He interrogated our person, the most offensive of all his gum-flapping being: “Yeah, but you’re not blind”. So only blindness is a legit dog-requiring handicap now? Or are only obvious handicaps acceptable? We were quite appalled to see people so openly and humiliatingly question a person’s handicap when they just want to do something at the mall LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.
The manager eventually came, asked what the dog was for ONCE, and without further ado, let us in.
Shame also on the dozens of people witnessing the incident, for not opening their mouths, something Israelis are so great at at any other time.

When you refuse a handicapped person with a service dog entry, remember:
This person has the same everyday needs and desires as a healthy person. They want to shop, they need to buy things and go places. Their plans and errands are no less important than yours just because they are handicapped and may need assistance in the form of a dog, a stick, a wheelchair, patience, whatever. We haven’t gone as far as trying to get into a cinema, but let’s be fair – can a dog really outnoise those idiots  blappering and texting through the movie? After the 3D do-over of The Lion King in 2011, I doubt a dog can do worse. And how many trained service dogs bark uncontrollably, anyway?
When you tell a handicapped person that they cannot enter with the dog they NEED to be safe, you’re basically saying you don’t want the handicapped person, or at least you are diminishing their participation in society. I mean, you can’t tell a paralyzed person that the wheelchair needs to stay out. Regulations my ass, regulations should be made to fit people, not the other way around. After all, what are they for if not society’s convenience?
You are denying the handicapped person their basic, humble participation in everyday life.

And when you interrogate a person with a service dog on the legitimacy of their disability, remember:
Our society, no denial, is ableist. Handicapped people get looked at and treated differently. You can apply in a sit-all-day job in a wheelchair and still go fuck yourself in most cases, I bet you. I nearly stared when I saw a severely handicapped man in a wheelchair in a certain retail shop, because – how often do you see an obviously handicapped person getting employed? In – gasp – public?
Once you reveal that you have special needs, you become a pity party at best, you get stared at, you get overlooked and many people even feel so awkward around the disabled that they downright ignore them.
And with all of that, you’re gonna flap your gums, “You don’t look handicapped, whatcha need the pooch for?”, seriously? Have we not all gone to school and learned that not all handicaps or diseases are visible? Epilepsy, anxiety, diabetes, autism, there is an endless list of invisible ailments and conditions people may need assistance for – and one way to assist them, can be a dog. Don’t humiliat them by doubting their problem and forcing them to tell the whole world what that problem is. I used to suffer from severe epilepsy and I don’t want to have to buy my right of passage into a fucking mall by explaining “Oh, I just twitch and spasm like crazy, hit my head, and piss my pants” in front of people. Seriously?

Of course, anyone can dress their dog up as a service dog and say they have an invisible handicap. But more often than not, people with a service dog are legitimately handicapped and with all the difficulties that come with that, don’t deserve more shit. To them, there is no doubt that they are handicapped, because life insists on reminding them and they don’t need YOU to remind them as well. Those dogs who aren’t legit, are unlikely to bring about the apocalypse if allowed to pass, so just leave them ALL alone, thank you very much.

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