Let’s have some courtesy for the city’s disabled residents

I’ve never taken a head count but my impression, at times, is that nearly half of the metro area population has some type of disability requiring the use of either a wheelchair or cane. Mass transit does a fairly decent job of accommodating folks with disabilities but there are a few significant exceptions. The main exceptions that come to my mind are out of service escalators and elevators, the removal of most of the benches along the red line platform at Gallery Place station and the lack of proper bus stops with seating at many locations. 

But even though mass transit aims to provide accommodations for the disabled, these efforts require the cooperation of able-bodied riders. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve boarded buses and trains to find priority seating occupied by able-bodied, usually young, people. Sometimes such folks will notice my cane and offer me a seat, as well they should. 

However, when it comes to the buses, you must consider the fact that one wheelchair rider alone takes up five to six seats. Add a second wheelchair and that’s a total of 10 to 12 of the priority seats occupied. And please forgive me for my lack of compassion and understanding but more than a few of the folks that I have seen in motorized wheelchairs appear to be afflicted with the disability of simply being extremely large.

Wheelchairs and single and multi-seat strollers have the capability of being folded up if the child/children are removed and held in the caregiver’s lap. Yet most caregivers opt not to fold up the stroller taking up a good deal of space. It can be like running a gauntlet for a person with a cane to make her or his way to a seat, if one is available. Lord forgive me for being irritated at parents just trying to make their way around the city with young children on public transit, but I have a legitimate disability. Since when is having children a disability? Isn’t that more of a choice?

Mass transit issues aside, I am happy to say that it’s the norm for strangers to afford me numerous courtesies such as the yielding right of way while boarding escalators and elevators and holding doors open. 

Unfortunately this is not the case universally. Recently, I was waiting for a bus along with a woman who was clearly a senior citizen and a group of able bodied grade school students with one parent present. The senior citizen moved toward the front of the line to board the bus and the parent complained that the children should be allowed to board first. I responded by saying “How about senior citizens and persons with disabilities being allowed to board first?” This didn’t sit particularly well with the parent but she let it go. I suspect because she knew I was right. With that kind of example being set for young people by their own parents it’s no wonder that priority seating is frequently occupied by able-bodied young people. 

Jeff Taylor is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media. 

Issues |Disability|Disability

Region |Washington DC

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