Joel wrote, in Walking While Autistic (something in itself I have way too much experience with, but that isn’t the topic of this post):
I’ve written about having a restaurant bill handed to someone else because I communicate differently sometimes. I know of other times when I went shopping with a wheelchair user, and because I don’t use a wheelchair, it was assumed I must be my friend’s “minder”. In some of these cases, my friends handed the store clerk money only to find the clerk handed the change not back to the customer, but to me instead. The obvious implication is that my friends were not competent with money, and needed someone else to do that for them (also that they weren’t competent to hand someone else the money themselves if they truly weren’t competent with money). I know other times when even people who are involved in the disability rights movement are very surprised when they meet someone in person, and find out that they don’t look or act exactly normal, or even disabled in the way which still “allows for the possibility of competence” in the eyes of the advocate.
I had a strange experience of this sort today.
I went into a hair salon with my staff person and my dog (it was too hot to leave her in the car). Since it was a short distance and the day was good for it and so forth, I was on foot, and not using any mobility aids. While I had a keyboard with me, I was not using it either. I was not even to my knowledge rocking or doing anything else unusual. We just sat and waited.
But even so, when it got to be my turn, the hairdresser talked to my staff person, and talked about me in the third person. She was surprised when I typed something, and did eventually redirect her attention to me in the first person. But I have no clue what quality in me caused her to do this. I’d been blaming a lot of it on the adaptive equipment or on overt stimming, but I wasn’t stimmy today, I wasn’t known to the hairdresser, my staff person wasn’t known to the hairdresser, and I wasn’t using any adaptive equipment that would’ve given me away. So there must be some other cue that people are picking up on. Maybe similar to the invisibility Bev talks about (and that I have seen Jim Sinclair and others discuss in the past).