That should go without saying on this blog, right? But in real life, out in the community, I come up against this all the time. I don't look disabled. Whatever disabled looks like.
A couple weeks ago, there was a rep from a mail order pharmacy doing a little sales pitch in the community room of my apartment building. She was serving free pizza, which I guess is how she figured she'd get people to show up to hear her pitch. I decided to go, both for the free pizza and to give Isaac an opportunity to practice working in a highly distracting environment (highly distracting because some of our neighbors, his friends, people he usually gets to socialize a lot with, would be there). Plus I was just bored.
It turns out the mail order pharmacy is a pretty neat deal. They accept almost all insurance plans, including mine, and the cost to the customer is the same as if you were picking up your medications at a local drugstore. I have a copay of $2.65 for most medications, which is the same amount the mail order place will charge me. But not only are your meds delivered to your door once a month, they sort them into these little plastic pouches, labeled for each dose. It's pretty cool.
But that is not the point of this post.
The rep asked me if I was training Isaac.
I said, "No, he's already trained." And then I decided to ask her what made her think I was training him.
She got this deer-in-the-headlights look and said, "Because of his vest?"
I asked her what about the vest made her think he was being trained as opposed to already trained. After all, the vest does not say "in training" on it.
She kind of stuttered and said, "I thought the vest meant he was in training, maybe?"
I said, "Sometimes people ask me that because they don't think he is my service dog because they think I don't look disabled. Whatever disabled looks like. You can't always tell if someone is disabled by looking at them."
My neighbors were all nodding.
The rep just looked uncomfortable.
I've had this conversation before. Not all disabilities are visible. In fact, many are not. Making assumptions about whether or not someone is disabled by looking at them is not a good idea.
By the way, a friend of mine is getting ready to work with a professional service dog trainer in order to train a service dog. The trainer uses a wheelchair. I wonder how many people, when she is in public training a service dog, think the dog is hers? Because she looks disabled. She can't be training that dog, can she?