Service Dogs Welcome?
Service Dogs Welcome?

Categories: Community Life

Ann Chiapetta sits on a bench with her Black Labrador service dog, Verona, sitting in front of herBy Guest Blogger Ann Chiappetta, M.S.

There is trouble out there in service dog land. The nationwide publicity about pet owners passing off their dogs as service animals has become a current event. To be more specific, there is an epidemic of pet owners trying to pass their dogs off as working dogs. Did you know that, with just a minimum of information, you can go online and purchase a vest and fake ID for your pet stating it is an assistance animal?

Legitimate service and guide dog handlers are at risk of being turned away from public places because of this epidemic. As a guide dog handler, I know this problem firsthand. For example, businesses are caught in-between following the laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities and their service dogs, while also not having a clear way of identifying illegitimate service animals.

One organization that is spearheading a campaign to increase public awareness about this issue is Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI). As the nation’s leading consumer and advocacy organization of people with visual impairments working with guide dogs as their primary means of mobility, GDUI hopes to educate the general public about this problem.

As a dog guide user, I am concerned about how the growing number of pet owners who misrepresent their pet dogs as service animals in order to gain access to public places, or to avoid pet fees, will adversely affect me. Currently, business owners are faced with trying to identify pets posing as service animals, a problem which is only mounting.

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The Everyday Things
The Everyday Things

Categories: My Story, Veterans & Military

Photo of Kathleen and Aaron Causey with their daughter AJ sitting on Aaron's lap

By Guest Blogger Kathleen Harris Causey, Coming Home Causey

You might not notice it at first. I know I didn’t. You think to yourself, as you stare at your newly catastrophically injured person lying in the hospital bed, and wonder how so much of life can change in an instant: “We can do this. My person is alive. We will make it and it will be wonderful. Even better than it was before.” You watch inspirational YouTube videos, invest emotionally in the Paralympics and Warrior Games, and find all relevant Facebook communities.

But disability seeps into your everyday in ways that you probably can’t articulate, even when you’ve been living with it for a few years. Or three, like us. Even when everyone else new in your life is living with something similar. It’s about where your dishes go - usually exposed, on the counter like clutter, because the cabinet is too high and he needs to be able to reach them. Figuring out where to fit the coffee mugs and glasses – some down low next to the spices for him, and others higher up where they usually go for you.

It’s when you learn that a range-top microwave is not safe, or that where you need to keep your medications makes them accessible to your crawling, growing child. It’s about space under a sink for a wheelchair to fit, or torn up cabinets in an apartment that you will have to pay to repair. Strange marks that appear on all the walls and doors where prosthetics and wheelchairs and other things rub, as you just try to get inside and prop things up when it’s raining outside. It’s not only forgetting your phone charger in the hotel room, but the prosthetic limb charger as well.

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Why I Don’t Mind Being Considered an Inspiration
Why I Don’t Mind Being Considered an Inspiration

Categories: My Story

Mel Finefrock lying, ironically, amidst stacks of printed books and smiling while pretending to read one upside-down. By Guest Blogger Mel Finefrock, Editor and Freelance Writer

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity and scornful comments surrounding what our community has coined as “inspiration porn,” and have found it quite troubling. Many people with disabilities believe that classifying people as inspirational on the basis of disability is demeaning, objectifying and oppressive. Though I firmly agree that not one population should be objectified or placed on a pedestal, I also strongly disagree with this perspective. It seems to suggest that being considered an inspiration to others within the context of disability automatically equates that level of condescension, without examining the intentions of the individual without a disability.

Furthermore, I don’t think we get to decide what does or doesn’t, should or shouldn’t, inspire others. As a person with a disability myself, therefore, I feel the need to peaceably impart my opinion as well, though I admit I may be in the vast minority in this regard and may meet with a fair amount of criticism. Not to worry, I have a relatively thick skin.

Every perspective begins with a story, so here’s mine: two years ago I experienced a domino effect of very unfortunate events which were ultimately life-changing. For whatever reason, it seemed like anytime I put my hope in anything or planned any course of action, the floor fell out from underneath me. I was in pain for a very long time, because I thought no matter what I did, I couldn’t be happy.

One thing that got me through this time, though, was finding inspiration in anything at all: a sky blue enough for me to see it, a particularly gnarly tree with character, a poem or song I really related to … and, you guessed it, other people.

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