safety

People act the way they think people act

Most people act the way they think people act. When people talk about what people are like, assume they’re including themselves.

For instance:

If a boss says that all bosses exploit employees, they’re likely to be terrible to work for.

If a man says that all men are rapists, misogynists, or abusers, he’s likely not a very safe person to be alone with.

If someone says that all marginalized people need to lash out at privileged people, it’s likely that they’ll eventually consider you privileged and lash out at you.

There are any number of instances of this. People tend to act the way they think people act. When people tell you how people act, or how people in a group they’re part of act, err on the side of assuming that they may act that way too.

Short version of the post on safety

There’s more to safety than making people feel safe. 

If your whole approach to other people’s safety is based on causing them to *feel* safe, you run the risk of forgetting to make sure that things actually *are* safe. 

If someone’s whole approach to your safety is about managing your feelings, it’s probably a good idea to be cautious about trusting them.

Safety vs making people feel safe

There are all kinds of affective things and cognitive tricks you can learn that make it more likely that people will trust you and feel safe.

It is possible to get really, really good at that without actually learning how to be trustworthy. You can be really, really good at making people feel safe, and still be a danger to people who trust you.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to focusing on trying to make people feel safe.

Often, it’s much better to focus on learning how to be trustworthy. Two major components of being trustworthy are paying close attention to practical safety; and listening to the people whose safety might be impacted.

For example:

If you want to know what’s dangerous, it’s important to seek out the perspectives of people you’re trying to create safety for. This isn’t something you can do completely on your own.

Part of this is seeking out writing about danger and safety by members of the affected group, or advocacy organizations run by members of the affected group. Another part of this is listening to the individual people who you are actually interacting with about their needs.

It’s important to communicate effectively about the things you are doing that might make trusting you a good idea.

It’s important to talk about safety improvements to make sure people know about them. (Eg: if you fixed a dangerous ramp, people need to know that it has been fixed). It’s also important to communicate your willingness to listen to people about their needs and fix things that are endangering them. It has to be true, and you have to do things to communicate that it’s true. It does not go without saying; willingness to listen and address safety issues in practical terms is actually fairly uncommon.

If you focus on practical safety through proactive research and listening to affected members of your community, you can get very far in building safe and welcoming community even if people do not feel safe.

Some people who do not feel safe still care very much about being there, and are willing to take risks in order to participate. It’s important to honor and accept that.

Some people aren’t ever going to feel safe. (And some of them will be right.) It’s important to accept them as they are, and not make feeling safe a prerequisite for participating.

tl;dr “Making people feel safe” is often the wrong approach. Focusing on being safe often matters a lot more. Some people don’t believe that they are safe, and are willing to take risks in order to participate. They should be allowed to have that perception. They should not be pressured into feeling safe as a prerequisite for participation.


asmileisamask:

ischemgeek:

Ordering food when you have dietary restrictions

realsocialskills:

What is the right way to ask over-the-counter-food selling people about the food? I keep having the problem where I ask things (like, what is in…

asmileisamask said:

I find that smaller businesses are more helpful than big chain restaurants, vegetarian cafés more helpful than non-specialty cafés, and anything in a health food shop is generally the best.

In my town, I’ve only ever found one place that hasn’t given me the wrong food/drink. It’s a little vegetarian café that caters to vegans as well, and the ladies that run it are the kindest and friendliest people I’ve ever met.

They put a chocolate-coated hazelnut on the spoon when you get a coffee, and the first time I went I carefully asked what it was. They told me and I said nervously that I was allergic. She immediately said she’d get me a different spoon. Ever since, I’ve never gotten one on my spoon and I’ve never had to mention it again.

When I order soy, I get soy. Every single time.

I see some posts on here that concern me, about people switching low-fat and soy for regular milk. I’ve lost count of how many times my drink has come out with regular milk, but it’s often enough that I sniff, take a wary sip, and if it’s not soy I spit it into my water glass before informing the wait staff that I was given the wrong drink.

ischemgeek:

Ordering food when you have dietary restrictions

realsocialskills:

What is the right way to ask over-the-counter-food selling people about the food? I keep having the problem where I ask things (like, what is in the food, for instance) and they interpret this as me ordering it and start making it for me. I…

ischemgeek said:

“Do you have an ingredients list for [item]? Can I see it?”

In many places, food providers are required to keep ingredients lists on hand and provide them to people who ask (most places in Canada and several American states have these laws). It is the single most reliable way of telling whether or not the item has whatever-you’re-allergic-to/can’t-eat in it, in my experience. Neurotypical people with dietary restrictions ask to see ingredients lists all the time, so if you’re worried about passing, asking for it won’t make you look neurodivergent.

In a restaurant or other place where ingredients lists aren’t on hand, “I can’t eat [thing you can’t have]. What foods are safe?” works if you don’t have anything in particular you’ve picked yet. Otherwise, “I can’t eat [thing you can’t have]. Is [item] safe for me?” works pretty well for me. I find starting out with whatever you can’t eat tends to get their attention better than including it in the same sentence. I don’t know why, but it works.

A final point: If you’re sensitive to cross-contamination and the person is unsure, I would really strongly recommend you pick something else because “I’m not sure” often means “sometimes and I can’t be arsed to ask the chef which it is today” and if you press things, they might just pretend to go ask the chef and then you can get cross-contamination. That’s a thing that’s happened to me. I find it’s a lot safer to err on the side of not getting the thing.

impfreak replied to your post “Some strategies for wearing costumes”

If you paint your face like a wolf, you can wear regular clothes and be a werewolf/ teen wolf! All you need is face paint, and if your clothes are old and you don’t mind shredding them up a bit, that can be a little extra fun.

realsocialskills said:

Note that if you are going to do this, it’s important to use face paint and not another type of paint. Paint not designed to go on skin can cause problems.

You had a piece on feeling unsafe vs. being unsafe and I wanted to add:
  • you are unsafe if people are pressuring you to do things that will use up spoons needed for survival
  • you are unsafe if you are around people who can get you to say things you don’t want to say
  • you are unsafe if you don’t understand what’s going on and the people around you have not earned your trust
  • you are unsafe if you see powerful people hurt someone else on the same power level as you, or if they deny power.

realsocialskills said:

Those are all important additions. Thank you. I’d also add a general rule: You are unsafe if everyone is trying to make you feel safe without first listening to you about the danger you're perceiving

animetriplicate : 
 
  realsocialskills : 
 
  doodlee-a : 
 
 GUYS, THIS IS IMPORTANT. I’ve been a lifeguard for four years, and I didn’t fully appreciate this until a little kid jumped into the shallow end of the lap pool. He wasn’t flailing. His eyes were wide in panic and h would try and push himself off the bottom, but the water was right over his head. It took me a couple seconds to register what had happened, and fortunately, another swimmer right beside the kid managed to grab him when he saw my reaction. 
 
 realsocialskills said: 
 Could one of y’all make an image description? I’m not up to writing one. 
 
 animetriplicate said: 
 Title: What Drowning Really Looks like Image: A man in the water, flailing his limbs and panicking Many people think this is what drowning looks like, but thrashing in the water is actually a sign of aquatic distress. This person is in trouble but can still take part in their own rescuer by grabbing onto something. After this point the Instinctive Drowning Response sets in. The person’s mouth bobs above and below the water and they press down on the water laterally to try to stay above it, and thus they cannot wave or yell for help. So be sure to look for these 10 quieter signs of drowning instead. 
  Each of the following descriptions includes an illustration showing what the sign of drowning looks like. In order, going from left to right, with the top row first, they are: Head low in the water, mouth at water level Head tilted back with mouth open Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus Eyes closed Hair over forehead or eyes Not using legs - Vertical Hyperventilating or gasping Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway Trying to roll over on the back Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder 
 I hope that helps, if I’ve made some sort of formatting error, please feel free to edit it. That goes for anyone. :) 
 
 realsocialskills said: Thank you for that description

animetriplicate:

realsocialskills:

doodlee-a:

GUYS, THIS IS IMPORTANT. I’ve been a lifeguard for four years, and I didn’t fully appreciate this until a little kid jumped into the shallow end of the lap pool. He wasn’t flailing. His eyes were wide in panic and h would try and push himself off the bottom, but the water was right over his head. It took me a couple seconds to register what had happened, and fortunately, another swimmer right beside the kid managed to grab him when he saw my reaction.

realsocialskills said:

Could one of y’all make an image description? I’m not up to writing one.

animetriplicate said:

Title: What Drowning Really Looks like
Image: A man in the water, flailing his limbs and panicking
Many people think this is what drowning looks like, but thrashing in the water is actually a sign of aquatic distress. This person is in trouble but can still take part in their own rescuer by grabbing onto something. After this point the Instinctive Drowning Response sets in. The person’s mouth bobs above and below the water and they press down on the water laterally to try to stay above it, and thus they cannot wave or yell for help. So be sure to look for these 10 quieter signs of drowning instead.


Each of the following descriptions includes an illustration showing what the sign of drowning looks like. In order, going from left to right, with the top row first, they are:
Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
Eyes closed
Hair over forehead or eyes
Not using legs - Vertical
Hyperventilating or gasping
Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
Trying to roll over on the back
Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

I hope that helps, if I’ve made some sort of formatting error, please feel free to edit it. That goes for anyone. :)

realsocialskills said: Thank you for that description

doodlee-a : 
 
 GUYS, THIS IS IMPORTANT. I’ve been a lifeguard for four years, and I didn’t fully appreciate this until a little kid jumped into the shallow end of the lap pool. He wasn’t flailing. His eyes were wide in panic and h would try and push himself off the bottom, but the water was right over his head. It took me a couple seconds to register what had happened, and fortunately, another swimmer right beside the kid managed to grab him when he saw my reaction. 
 
 realsocialskills said: 
 Could one of y'all make an image description? I’m not up to writing one.

doodlee-a:

GUYS, THIS IS IMPORTANT. I’ve been a lifeguard for four years, and I didn’t fully appreciate this until a little kid jumped into the shallow end of the lap pool. He wasn’t flailing. His eyes were wide in panic and h would try and push himself off the bottom, but the water was right over his head. It took me a couple seconds to register what had happened, and fortunately, another swimmer right beside the kid managed to grab him when he saw my reaction.

realsocialskills said:

Could one of y'all make an image description? I’m not up to writing one.

What to ask someone with adrenal insufficiency when you have bad news:

youneedacat:

1.  Are you sitting down?

2.  Do you have your steroids on hand?

Seriously.  Maybe not even in that order.

I haven’t had any major illnesses since I’ve been diagnosed, so I have no comparison.  But I do know that, so far, what’s been most detrimental to my health since I’ve known I had adrenal insufficiency, has been that initial burst of fight-or-flight adrenaline when I encounter very bad news or an extremely stressful situation (including one where vigilance is necessary and adaptive).  Every time I’ve had that burst, it’s been accompanied by symptoms.  In fact, many times the symptoms were the first sign I was under extra stress.

The symptoms are actually much more obvious now.  Because now that I’m on dexamethasone, I have much fewer actual everyday symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.  It’s really doing wonders for me.  So when I do have more symptoms, they show up more readily against that background.  Like before, it was relatively routine for me to get so tired that breathing became difficult.  Now, it’s a sign something’s going very wrong.  

I expected my frequent medical problems to be the main thing that would set off symptoms.  Maybe they will be, once I start having more of them.  But so far, the biggest thing has been emotional stress.  My friend says that emotional stress is usually the reasons for big bursts of cortisol to be exhausted by the body anyway.  I don’t know enough to know if she’s right or wrong.  But from experience, it’s certainly been the fastest thing to cause me serious symptoms since starting steroids.  Like I can be fine one minute, find out my mom just spent two days in the ICU and that a code blue was called at one point, and suddenly I’m fighting to breathe.  And not in a panicked-and-out-of-breath way, but in an I’m-too-exhausted-to-make-my-lungs-work way.  And when I had to go over and watch my friend to make sure she didn’t have another stroke, I started shaking all over even though I wasn’t actually freaking out that much, and that was followed by other symptoms that made me realize this was physical.  In both situations all the symptoms went away completely within a couple hours of taking steroids.  (Which would not be the case for anxiety-related symptoms, given that historically I’ve found steroids make my anxiety worse.)

So yeah.  If you have something startling or horrible to tell me, ask me about my steroids first.

Oh yeah and this is reason #23481 that running around startling people for fun is a crappy thing to do.

youneedacat:

soilrockslove:

realsocialskills:

altimetres:

realsocialskills:

fourloves:

realsocialskills:

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.

fourloves said:

anon needs to go away

who else gets chills when special ed teachers say “the word ‘can’t’ is not allowed in my classroom”

realsocialskills said:

Yes, teaching kids with disabilities not to recognize their own limits is a *major* anti-skill, and it does serious damage to people with disabilities.

altimetres said:

This. This. THIS.

I cannot tell you how many times in my early education I was told I am not allowed to say “I can’t” by special education teachers. At such a young age, that is dangerous. You are telling someone that they are not able to say “I can’t” to a variety of situations which can lead to very bad endings, and it is never the students fault.

One thing I remember clearly is one of my physical education teachers doing this. I have had joint problems my whole life (at 14, my knee joints were filled with micro-fractures, and that was not enough to get me out of PE), and it was never respected. One particular day, the teacher was putting harnesses on us to climb this indoor rope net. I KNEW I would not be able to manage it, as it requires a lot of work from your lower body. More importantly, your fucking knees. 

I told my teacher “I can’t do this” and she gave me the same speech that anon gave. “You CAN do it, we can’t tell what’s going to happen. You’re not allowed to say you can’t.” And even when I fought it, even when I went to walk away, I was threatened with a failing grade for the day. And since all my special education (well, 97% of it told me I couldn’t say no), I ended up on this net.

And what happened?

I made it four feet up, my knee popped out of it’s socket, and I was taken down crying as it popped itself back in. As my joints did.

And my teacher said “See, you CAN. Even with pain you CAN, you just don’t want to.”

This landed me on crutches and in doctors offices for 2 weeks.

So yeah, I wish I would have had more teachers with the guts to tell me “You can say no and mean it”. 

Fuck ableist teachers, get a new job.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, this.

This is what it does to people when you tell them “You’re not allowed to say I can’t.”.

soilrockslove said:

All of this!

And besides all this, if someone says “I don’t want to” and you force them to do it anyway - that’s no good either. O_o  And most people who I know who have said “don’t say can’t” aren’t that good at respecting “won’t” either.

youneedacat said:

This attitude is extremely popular among nurses, LNAs, and physical therapists and my local hospital.  And I’ve seen it do serious damage, both to me and to roommates I’ve had.

There’s a particular, really seriously awful, trick I’ve seen them pull on people multiple times.  Including me once, at which point I refused to ever get in a position where they could do it to me again.  (Which involved at one point firing my physical therapist.)

So here’s an example:

I was in really, really bad pain.  Not the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but bad enough that I couldn’t make myself sit up.  And I’m good at making myself do damn near anything.  This turned out to be because my feeding tube hadn’t been inserted properly, but they treated me like I was just being a wuss and complaining too much.  Like my roommate at the time would get them rushing into the room and giving her five different kinds of pain meds for every twinge, while I was actually frequently delirious from pain and they only grudgingly gave me pain meds, and only one kind.  It was really frustrating.

But here’s what they pulled on me:

They wanted to get me to get up and transfer to a bedside commode to use the bathroom, rather than being rolled and using the bedpan.  I don’t know about you, but if I’d been able to get up and use the commode, I would have:  I hate bedpans.  But they seemed to think I was being lazy.  They said they had people with much worse surgery than me up and moving on the first day, and therefore that I was just being lazy.  Nobody thought to check and see why I was still having excruciating pain so long after the tube was placed, when it shouldn’t be doing that.  No, they just chose to doubt that the pain was really that serious.  The pain had to get to a nine on the pain scale, after I got home, before anyone even checked the position of the tube, only to find that a piece of it was lodged in a really horrible position.

So what they did:

They badgered me and cajoled me and forced me until I finally put forth a phenomenal amount of effort to get up.  This involved gradually rolling over and creeping along the bed, taking frequent breaks in which I was crying and screaming from pain.  (It takes a lot of pain for me to do that.)  It was painstaking and horrible.

Then, after getting some help and getting to the commode, they showered me with praise and told me “See, you can do it after all, you just have to try.”  They told me how great I was for trying.

It was horrible.

Doing that to someone is a violation.

And it wasn’t a one-off thing, I saw them do that to a roommate with myasthenia gravis who was terrified of falling, forcing her to walk across the room and then showering her with praise at the end.  She had some cognitive disabilities that made it hard for her to see that as manipulation, and they were able to talk her into endangering herself regularly.

If you’ve never been in that situation, maybe you don’t know what a huge violation it is.

But to push someone into doing something that is painful or dangerous to them, to badger and cajole and threaten and harass them until they do it, and then shower them with praise when they can do it after all… it gets into their heads.  It tells them that they’re wrong about their abilities, that some nondisabled person has to show them their real potential.  And it puts them in grave danger, a lot of the time, because it overrides their own ability to judge what is safe for them and what is not.  It’s awful and it should never be done.

After the incident above, I fired my physical therapist and refused to get out of bed until the pain went away some.  I was told that if I stayed in bed for even a week I’d get deconditioned and horrible things would happen.  I told them I’d single-handedly brought myself back from months worth of deconditioning and that a week wouldn’t kill me.  But I had to fight them every step of the way.  It was worth it, though, because pushing through pain that bad is never a good thing.

clueless creepiness vs skillful creepiness

There are two kinds of problems that get conflated a lot but aren’t actually that similar:

  • People who do creepy things because they have trouble understanding boundaries
  • People who do creepy things because they understand boundaries well and have highly developed skills at violating them with impunity

People who are good at violating boundaries and getting away with being creepy sometimes seem socially awkward, and sometimes don’t. Sometimes they get away with it by getting people to think things like “Oh, that’s Bill. He’s just awkward like that. He doesn’t mean anything by it,” and sometimes it’s more like, “I can’t believe James would do that! He’s like the nicest guy ever, and he does so much for this community. Don’t you remember the awesome party last month?”, and sometimes it’s more like, “Steve is really sensitive right now. Did you really have to turn him down like that? Couldn’t you have given him a chance? Don’t you understand how much courage it takes to approach a girl? What harm could giving him your number have done?”. 

People who are inadvertently creepy *care* when they’ve violated boundaries, and try to fix it. Saying, “oh, they’re just awkward” isn’t doing them any favors, because people who are inadvertently creepy don’t *want* to trample all over other people’s boundaries. They want to know, so that they can stop doing it. This doesn’t mean it’s the job of victims of their creepy actions to explain it to them – it isn’t, particularly since most creepy people are doing it on purpose, and calling skillfully creepy people on things tends to go badly. I am mentioning this because skillfully creepy people often convince others that being “just awkward” means that everyone else is obligated to refrain from objecting to their creepy actions.

Skillfully creepy people who boundaries boundaries on purpose come up with excuses about why it was ok, and try to make you feel horrible for objecting. (Eg: “I was just being friendly! Learn to take a compliment!”, or “I know that if you were in your right mind, you wouldn’t have said that you didn’t want to spend time with me. I forgive you. We can still spend time together.”, or “Wow. Harsh. I guess girls really don’t go for nice guys. Have fun dating assholes.” or just getting a lot of people to laugh at you, or any number of other things.)

As a culture, we shouldn’t tolerate creepy behavior from anyone. Part of not tolerating it means assessing when people are being cluelessly creepy, and when people are being skillfully creepy. 

If you are a supervisor/teacher/community leader, or otherwise someone responsible for intervening and keeping things safe, it’s important to respond appropriately. Communities need to help cluelessly creepy people understand how to act, and to expel skillfully creepy people so that they can’t keep preventing the people they hurt from being part of the community. 

wolffyluna:

eubalaena:

yungmeduseld:

realsocialskills:

hey I’m not sure if this is a good blog for this (if not, just delete this) but after several bad experiences today I thought I’d share something that apparently a lot of people don’t know: if you’re going to a public park where horses are allowed on trails:
1) if you’re riding a bike and about to come upon some horses, please say something! Just “hello” or anything human-sounding you can manage — long story short, bikes freak horses out, but most of them find human voices reassuring and so it makes things safer for everyone if you can just signal that you’re human and not a scary bike monster.
2) if you’ve got a dog, have the dog on a leash /please/. A lot of parks have a rule about this but I’ve seen so many people casually breaking this rule it’s not even funny. I don’t care how good your dog is. Just today, I had several leashless dogs growl at my horse, aggressively run up to my horse, and even scurry up to her back legs and touch her.
Thankfully my horse is pretty desensitized to dogs, but not all are, and not having a leash on a dog creates a dangerous situation. If a horse feels threatened, a kick to the head would kill a dog real fast. I’d be so frustrated if my animal or their animals got hurt because of these owners’ negligence. Please, if you care about your dog, have a way to restrain it from unsafely approaching an unfamiliar horse. I try to keep my distance from dogs, but there’s not much I can do when they run right up to us.
realsocialskills said:
Thank you, anon. I don’t know very much about horses or how to act around horses, so it’s good to hear advice.
Do any of y’all know other things about how to act around horses in public places?

As someone with a skittish horse:

Don’t run up behind them

Don’t ride your bike behind them

Basically approach very slowly from behind if you must pass them on a trail (or give them a wide birth from behind if you have the room)

Do get off your bike and walk it when passing horses, better yet:

Do get off your bike and allow horses to pass you, and give them a good distance before getting back on your bike and heading the opposite way.

Don’t give the horses treats unless their rider says it’s okay

If the horse seems at all hesitant to pass you, please stand still and allow their rider to handle the horse, pleeeeease stay still until the horse has passed and gotten a good distance away.

eubalaena said:

In fact just don’t touch the horse unless the rider says it is ok! Even if you’re an equestrian yourself! (if you are you should already know that but some people seem to ‘forget’) I know that some people think of horses as big, rideable pets and in some ways they are but seriously these are animals the size and weight of a small car that can cheerfully and without any malice accidentally bite your finger off or break the bones in your foot because they didn’t even know it was there, much less horses that actually ARE malicious and the damage they can do. Please be safe around the animals of others and remember, no matter what it is, always ask before approaching or touching an animal

wolffyluna said:

Horses are also a bit like working dogs when it comes to a lot of ettiquette. Don’t go up to them without the riders permission, and if they and the rider are doing something, don’t interrupt them. You’ll probably break their concentration, and if they’re doing something that makes the horse nervous, you could make them bolt by surprising them.

Also, if you are around horse, don’t be super quiet or super loud, and don’t stare at them. They associate these things with predators. Use an outside voice, and keep them in you peripheral vision. Definitely make some noise if you have to pass directly behind them, so they know where you are.

eubalaena:

yungmeduseld:

realsocialskills:

hey I’m not sure if this is a good blog for this (if not, just delete this) but after several bad experiences today I thought I’d share something that apparently a lot of people don’t know: if you’re going to a public park where horses are allowed on trails:
1) if you’re riding a bike and about to come upon some horses, please say something! Just “hello” or anything human-sounding you can manage — long story short, bikes freak horses out, but most of them find human voices reassuring and so it makes things safer for everyone if you can just signal that you’re human and not a scary bike monster.
2) if you’ve got a dog, have the dog on a leash /please/. A lot of parks have a rule about this but I’ve seen so many people casually breaking this rule it’s not even funny. I don’t care how good your dog is. Just today, I had several leashless dogs growl at my horse, aggressively run up to my horse, and even scurry up to her back legs and touch her.
Thankfully my horse is pretty desensitized to dogs, but not all are, and not having a leash on a dog creates a dangerous situation. If a horse feels threatened, a kick to the head would kill a dog real fast. I’d be so frustrated if my animal or their animals got hurt because of these owners’ negligence. Please, if you care about your dog, have a way to restrain it from unsafely approaching an unfamiliar horse. I try to keep my distance from dogs, but there’s not much I can do when they run right up to us.
realsocialskills said:
Thank you, anon. I don’t know very much about horses or how to act around horses, so it’s good to hear advice.
Do any of y’all know other things about how to act around horses in public places?

As someone with a skittish horse:

Don’t run up behind them

Don’t ride your bike behind them

Basically approach very slowly from behind if you must pass them on a trail (or give them a wide birth from behind if you have the room)

Do get off your bike and walk it when passing horses, better yet:

Do get off your bike and allow horses to pass you, and give them a good distance before getting back on your bike and heading the opposite way.

Don’t give the horses treats unless their rider says it’s okay

If the horse seems at all hesitant to pass you, please stand still and allow their rider to handle the horse, pleeeeease stay still until the horse has passed and gotten a good distance away.

eubalaena said:

In fact just don’t touch the horse unless the rider says it is ok! Even if you’re an equestrian yourself! (if you are you should already know that but some people seem to ‘forget’) I know that some people think of horses as big, rideable pets and in some ways they are but seriously these are animals the size and weight of a small car that can cheerfully and without any malice accidentally bite your finger off or break the bones in your foot because they didn’t even know it was there, much less horses that actually ARE malicious and the damage they can do. Please be safe around the animals of others and remember, no matter what it is, always ask before approaching or touching an animal

On "feeling unsafe"

Sometimes, people in power use “feeling safe” in a manipulative way. They shift the conversation away from whether or not you actually are safe, and into a conversation about your feelings. Sometimes people in power who do this have a kind affect and seem to really care about helping you to feel better. This can make it hard to know in your own mind what the problem actually is, and hard to keep hold of your understanding that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

It helps to keep in mind that these things are different:

  • Feeling unsafe in reaction to something even though you actually are safe
  • Seeing something as evidence that you are actually unsafe
  • People in power will often try to confuse you about which thing you are experiencing, but it’s important to stay mindful of the difference.

It’s also possible to have a feeling that you are unsafe, and not be sure whether it’s reasonable or not:

  • It’s important to take that feeling seriously
  • And to think through what it means, and whether there might be a real danger
  • Sometimes when you feel unsafe it will be an irrational reaction, but don’t be quick to dismiss it as one
  • If you think it’s an irrational reaction, make sure you have a concrete reason for thinking that it’s irrational and that things are actually ok

People can feel unsafe around someone for all kinds of reasons other than being unsafe:

  • Being bigoted against another group (eg: racist fear of black people)
  • Being triggered by something (eg: feeling afraid because seeing men wear hats is triggering)
  • Forgetting to take medication and having strange reactions to things as a result 
  • Taking a new medication with unexpected side effects that complicate your ability to perceive things accurately  
  • Misunderstanding something someone did or said (eg: taking something literally that was not intended literally)
  • Hallucinations
  • Being exhausted
  • When it’s this kind of thing, sometimes the external situation still needs to be addressed, but often it can be dealt with by processing things yourself 

But sometimes the problem is that you’re *actually not safe*, and sometimes this is in ways that it’s hard for other people to see, eg:

  • If you are being pressured to share private information with people who can’t be trusted to keep things confidential
  • If you are being pressured to use a ramp that is too steep to be safe, or allow people to carry you into an inaccessible building
  • If people around you are bigoted against you in subtle, but constantly corrosive ways
  • If people are intentionally triggering you in order to confuse and disorient you into doing what they want
  • If you’re being triggered in a way that makes it impossible for you to understand what is going on well enough to keep yourself safe, even if no one is doing it on purpose
  • If there is no food available that you can safely eat for an extended period
  • If you are experiencing executive functioning problems in ways that make it hard or impossible for you to do things that are necessary for survival, and no one is willing to help you
  • If you’re spending a lot of time in a environment is physically overloading in painful ways
  • If you have medical problems and doctors refuse to communicate in a way you can understand, or if you only have access to them in an environment that prevents you from communicating
  • and any number of other things

All of these things are the kind of thing that apparently well-meaning people will often try to address by trying to get you to process your feelings so that you will feel safe. That’s a dangerous reaction, and it’s important to notice when people are doing it, and to learn how to insist that they address the actual safety issue.

Sometimes the feeling is the problem.

Sometimes the problem is that you’re *actually not safe*.

If someone’s trying to manage your feelings rather than the actual threat to your safety, it’s important to remember that they’re doing a bad thing. And that it’s ok to want to actually *be* safe, even if all they want to do is make you *feel* safe. 

Cooperation with feelings derails is one of the hardest anti-skills to unlearn. But it’s also really, really important.

mis-andry replied to your post“Arguing isn’t always ok”
i would think if you argue with someone about their boundaries they would feel unsafe about stating their boundaries in the future, even with other people, even if youre careful not to cross them after this. thats why its not ok
realsocialskills said:
Yes, exactly. If you make it painful and difficult for someone to express boundaries to you, it will deter them from expressing boundaries. Even if you respect the boundaries after you resist them.

Add words when color coding

andreashettle:

tapiopeltonen:

realsocialskills:

If you’re making color-coded signs, also write the colors on the signs.

For instance, if your train has a red line, write “red line” on red line signs.

This makes the color-coded things useable by colorblind people.

tapiopeltonen said:

Yes, this is really important. It’s not just about colorblindess, the redundancy also helps when the visual conditions are poor, such as in a case of fire or loss of power, and it can save lives in an emergency. All possible information channels should be used for aiding people to find their way.

andreashettle said

Reblogging to add emphasis to “All possible information channels should be used”

This can be applied more generally to many more contexts than just the issues of color-related information for color blindness.

For example, if you need to warn many people very quickly that a serious natural disaster is about to occur within a few minutes, NEVER EVER confine yourself to one and only one possible channel of information. Because ANY one channel of information, in isolation, will ALWAYS miss some people.  Sound-based warnings, for example, automatically miss all deaf people and some hard of hearing people and may even miss some hearing people in certain circumstances (for example, sound asleep in a room that muffles most sound from the outside).  Visual warnings automatically miss all blind people.  And so on.  But if you use MULTIPLE channels of information in combination, then you have a much better chance of reaching very nearly everyone. For example, a siren, COMBINED WITH colored lights (carefully designed to not trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy), COMBINED WITH text messages to all cell phones COMBINED WITH radio and CAPTIONED TV messages, COMBINED WITH a buddy system for helping people who maybe can’t be reached by any of the above or still need assistance even if warned, COMBINED WITH a back up buddy or three in case the first assigned buddy/helper can’t do it.

Social skills for autonomous people: Etiquette and Safety for Zoos, Pet Stores, and Other Places Animals are Found

matchbook-stories:

embermaye:

realsocialskills:

A lot of people either don’t know, or don’t seem to care about proper conduct in a place where animals (that do not belong to you) are kept, but proper conduct is often very important. Here are some of the most important things.

Noticing, Reading, and…

matchbook-stories said:

ALSO! You don’t know if an animal is well or not. Education animals are almost definitely well, but lots of animals hide illness as a survival tactic, and some of these illnesses can be transmitted to people. It is not safe to touch animals without permission, in lots of different ways.

Etiquette and Safety for Zoos, Pet Stores, and Other Places Animals are Found

embermaye:

realsocialskills:

A lot of people either don’t know, or don’t seem to care about proper conduct in a place where animals (that do not belong to you) are kept, but proper conduct is often very important. Here are some of the most important things.

Noticing, Reading, and Obeying Signage: 
Since zoo and aquarium staff cannot always be monitoring the public-facing parts of their exhibits, they often rely on signage to tell guests what they need to know. Some examples include: “Do Not Climb on Rocks,” a hand with a “no” symbol across it (“do not touch”), “Animals May Bite,” and “Please wait for one door to close before opening the next.” These signs are not there for convenience, but for the safety of guests and/or animals.

Note: some zoo administrations do not allow overly “negative” language on their signs, which means they are not always literally accurate. “Animals May Bite” does NOT mean ‘you can touch the animals as long as you understand the risk.’ It means ‘animals WILL bite, do not touch them.’

Pet stores often have important signs as well; those that do cat adoptions often have signs asking that customers please not touch the cats through the bars. This is important for prevention of disease. If you would like to pet or hold a cat, please ask an adoption rep or store employee.

Visual and Physical Boundaries:
Even if a boundary is not physically built so that it can completely block hands or bodies, it is important to respect it. Tortoises, for example, are not much of an escape risk, and so may be kept behind low walls to allow for better viewing (and easier access for keepers). This does not mean that it is okay to reach into the enclosure. If there is a wall, a rope, or a chain, it is almost always an indicator that you are meant to stay on your side of it. 

Additionally, and this is VERY IMPORTANT: do NOT climb on the walls or fences surrounding enclosures. Do NOT rest your child on the walls or fences surrounding enclosures to give them a better view. This has caused some very tragic accidents, and I still see people do it almost every single day.

Another type of boundary is doors. Many zoos may have free flight aviaries, butterfly houses, and other types of free-roaming exhibits. Most of these exhibits have two sets of doors with a vestibule in between. It is important that only one set of doors be open at a time. Do not hold one set of doors open while someone else is coming through the other set. Do not rush through the vestibule and open the next door before the first one has fallen closed. Escape and recapture can be extremely stressful and dangerous for some animals, and some types of animal escape (particularly butterflies) can violate agricultural or wildlife laws. 

Other Boundaries:
Some of these may be double-covered by signage, but I’ll go over them anyway.

Do not touch animals unless you have explicit permission to do so. It does not matter if the animal is big and slow and does not seem dangerous. It does not matter if you have the same kind of animal as a pet at home. It does not matter if you feel you have a connection with animals. Do not touch them. They are not yours, and you do not know them. You don’t know what kind of stress you may cause them, or what behavioral issues you may be aggravating (I knew a bird who was very aggressive because guests constantly tried to pet her; funny thing, it was usually staff members who got chased and bitten). Additionally, there is a saying: “anything with a mouth can bite.” It’s true. And animals that you think of as slow and docile are frequently able to move much faster and bite much harder than you expect them to.

Many zoos have a “petting zoo” area, and this is a great place to go if you want to touch animals.

Do not feed animals unless you have explicit permission to do so. There may be areas when you can feed animals, such as turtle food dispensers, or chow dispensers for domesticated animals like goats. This does not mean all animals are okay to feed. You should not give tortoises the turtle chow. You should not offer the zebras the goat chow. You DEFINITELY should not pick plants you find around the zoo and offer them to ANY animals. Most zoo animals are on carefully formulated diets, and may have specific dietary concerns that you don’t know about; some birds can become very sick from even a small amount of iron, for example, and animals can develop allergies just like humans. One example that I see frequently is guests feeding fallen black walnuts to tortoises; the animals accept these with evident enthusiasm, but they cause stomach upset and foaming at the mouth.

If you want to feed animals, check out the petting zoo areas! Also, pay attention to the schedule of keeper feedings and talks; a few may allow guests to participate.

And finally, while I can certainly understand the frustration of going to the zoo only to see an animal sleeping with its back to you so you can’t see it, please be considerate about trying to attract their attention. Things like calling out to them, finger-snapping, and making kissy noises, while possibly irritating to keepers, probably does not do animals any harm. However, bear in mind that they hear those noises all the time, and are probably very used to them and unlikely to respond. That said, tapping on aquarium glass is considered rude. The sound carries very well through water, and can be terrifyingly loud to aquatic animals. 

Lastly (and a little less seriously), Questions that Bug Zookeepers:
These aren’t that big of a deal, since they don’t tend to have a direct effect on animal welfare or guest safety. 

“Can you make it move?” Well, how would you like it if you were having a nap and someone came along and poked you with a stick? I might technically be capable of inducing the animal to move, but I probably won’t. Animals deserve respect too.

“Is that fake/real/actually alive?” While it’s possible that some zoos may have inanimate dioramas or statues, if it’s actually inside an exhibit, surrounded by other live animal exhibits, it’s probably alive. You may be looking at a “sit and wait” predator that spends most of its day perfectly still waiting for prey, or a nocturnal animal that spends most of its day napping. Displaying a fake, animatronic, or dead animal amongst a bunch of real ones is highly unlikely.

“Why does it smell so bad?” Two words: everybody poops.

Beyond that, don’t be afraid to ask staff members questions—even if they seem silly. You don’t have to be as much of an expert as the keepers themselves, and you deserve a respectful answer. If you get rudeness or mockery for your question, the keeper is in the wrong, not you. And if you’re concerned about an animal’s health, don’t be afraid to approach a staff member. 90% of the time it will be a known issue or a normal behavior that looks strange to those who haven’t seen it before (birds basking in the sun can sometimes appear to have sprawled out and died). But the other 10% of the time can be vital.

embermaye said:

All of this, times a thousand! With my couple of additional notes:

Seriously, DON’T let your kids hang over those railings. Even if you think you have a good grip and that they won’t fall in, it happens all the time. And even if you the child is fine, this is often how shoes are lost into exhibits - and a dirty shoe floating in the water of an exhibit is not a good thing for the animals - I’ve seen kids’ shoes pulled out of koi ponds, especially, where the falling shoe risks injuring an animal!

Staying behind barriers can also be incredibly important for the stress and well-being of animals, because for some territorial species like anything from wolves to cranes, that first fence around their exhibit is their territory line, and even if they’re on the other side of the exhibit, if you cross it it can seriously stress them out. I’ve seen cranes that have broken their beak because they tried to get to people who leaned over or crossed the first small fence around the enclosure. This is not ok, even if you know you’re completely safe.

Even if you’ve seen other people petting an animal, or you know it’s an education animal, WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE EXPLICIT PERMISSION like this said. Seriously. I’ve gotten scratched and nearly bitten because people walk up to me with education animals and grab for them. I’m happy to let you pet these animals, but I need to make sure you know where to safely pet them and that the animal is calm and will react favorable for the safety of both you and the animal.