I teach taxi drivers about the rights and responsibilities of service animal owners. Rights are secured by the ADA and the White Cane Law. Responsibilities are common sense and courtesy: control your dog’s behavior, clean up muddy paw prints and be prepared to pay for any damages. Veteran taxi drivers tell me that drunks and kids cause more damage than service animals.
One student asked me, “Are there questions too sensitive to ask a blind person?” This was a new one on me. Most questions are more concrete: “How do you tell a single from a twenty?” and “Does your guide dog double as a guard dog?”
I said, “The more I can tell you about blindness, and the more you understand, then the better we relate to each other. I don’t consider personal questions indiscreet. Too few questions are asked and answered. We all might be a bit overly sensitive about our privacy. Of course, I’m assuming your curiosity and concern are rooted in good motives. Some blind friends tell me they become guarded when asked for details on their vision loss. They tell me they are afraid of being taken advantage of. I don’t feel that way. I don’t know why, but I don’t.”
Then I said, “Of course, sometimes I don’t feel like talking about blindness. The whole thing gets tiresome. I’m not always inclined to be the good-natured educator or the eager conversationalist. At those times, if I decline to engage, I hope I will do so politely. If I distrust your motives, I might tell you to mind your own business, but do so in a Disney way. So, I guess from your point of view, if I look serene, ask away; if I look uptight, just tell me you like my dog and leave it at that.”
I sputtered to a stop. “Next question, please.”