For members of the disabled community, service dogs can be immensely important in helping people cope with everyday tasks. In some cases, they can even alert their owners to an impending potential emergency. For example, a service dog can detect changes in blood sugar for a diabetic.
When their owners are in danger, some service dogs can even try to find someone to help them. The TikTok user @onlyjayus, whose name is Isabella Avila, drew the attention of his 13 million followers in an extremely ableist way.
In the TikTok video below, titled “Illegal Life Advice,” Avila allegedly joked that people should steal from those who use service dogs when they have a medical emergency. “If a service dog ever approaches you but he’s alone, it means his owner is in trouble and he probably can’t move,” they said in the video. “So you should follow them because you get a free wallet.”
@onlyjayusIllegal Life Advice … for reasons this is a joke #fyp #lifeadvice #lifehacks #lifeprotips #protips #hacks #advice #illegal #illegalhack #onlyjayusBuild Build a B * tch – Bella Poarch
Avila is itself a member of the disabled community. According to Insider, Avila spoke about her experience with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Your ableist and malicious “hack” TikTok has over a million views.
In a TikTok responding to Avila, black disability activist Imani Barbarin, also known as Crutches & Spice, explained why Avila, as a member of the disabled community, does not give them permission to be terribly capable. Barbarin said the following:
I don’t care that they’re neurodivergent. I don’t care that they are part of the disabled community. But what matters to me is people who let them slip because you were sold a bill of materials that tells you that white disabled people are naturally children. Whether or not it’s a joke, the people who will be most affected if someone takes it seriously will likely be black or brown disabled people.
Avila’s “joke” is troubling for several reasons. People who use service dogs are already discriminated against far too much, and many have reported being denied access to business with their service dogs in the United States despite their ability to do so under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In an article for The Mighty, Brad Morris wrote about how airlines discriminate against people with psychiatric service dogs, even though the federal Air Carrier Access Act was supposed to prevent it. “A psychiatric service dog is a service dog that helps someone with a mental disability,” he wrote. “By lumping people who use psychiatric service dogs with people who use ESAs, airlines could not single out people more clearly for mental disabilities.”
Instead of apologizing, Avila redoubled her joke. Insiders reported that Avila responded to a critical TikTok of her joke by commenting, “Read the caption, dummy”.
Images via TikTok / @onlyjayus