You Can Fight for Disability Justice Too

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The one positive aspect of PTSD’s hypervigilance is the ability to turn the energy into something positive.  I think many people who have faced trauma involving a threat to life become activists.  I certainly have, and I want to encourage more people to become activists.  This does not necessarily mean attending rallies or marching in protests.  It can be done more subtly through writing.

A few months ago, I was harassed by a transportation employee about my dog.  We were traveling by ferry for an overnight trip, and my service dog helps me fall asleep in strange new places.  I had to practice sensory emotional regulation on myself to not allow this harassment to ruin my day.  (Here’s a YouTube video link on how the regulation process is done.)  Today I finally wrote a message to the ferry authority.  I’m sharing it here as an example of the kind of activism we all can do to make a difference for others.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have PTSD as a result of volunteering on 9/11 in New York City. I have a small service dog who was well-marked with a 3-inch round badge. My dog is trained to alert me by nudging me with her front paws if I dissociate for longer than a few seconds. She is also trained to calm me by resting her head on my arm to reduce my heart rate if I have anxiety.

I was the first on line at the ferry terminal in San Francisco waiting to enter. While we just stood there and it may have been difficult to judge whether my dog was trained, a staff person came to me with a chip on her shoulder. Though the questions she asked were lawful, her attitude was unwarranted. I said that my dog “calms and alerts me.” Her response was, “Well, that’s a gray area.” This response was utterly unprofessional and an insult. If she really wanted to make sure, she could ask for clarification how my dog calms and alerts me and I would have explained what I did in the first paragraph. However, I did not think this person deserved a mouthful of an explanation with her harassing behavior. As a person with PTSD who has struggled for 17 years, I can say that this kind of treatment is disgraceful, hurtful, and exacerbates an already difficult predicament. While I have learned to not allow such ignorance to ruin my day, I do not want someone else with a psychiatric injury or disability to have to deal with this incompetent behavior.

Thank you for your attention and diligence to the matter.

Kiai Kim

Thanks to all the activists who have paved the way to justice.

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