On wheelchairs and strollers and buses – part two

I posted yesterday, and my Facebook page exploded with discussion. One particular issue kept arising, and I wanted to address it here for the sake of those who had thought it, but not commented.

What about the mother who is struggling with an invisible physical infirmity (eg back problems or injury post-birth) who can lift their baby but not at the same time as dealing with a buggy, AND they have depression, and so asking for help with a buggy would push them over the edge into sobbing, and they would just have to leave the bus rather than be able to move? What makes one disability trump another?
This is a good question, and worthy of a good response. I am not saying that depression is not a disability – far from it. But mothers are not the only ones with depression. I guess my question is – what if the wheelchair user who is being refused a space is also struggling with severe mental health problems? Depression often accompanies long-term disability. What if the humiliation of being refused a space tips them over the edge into a severe depression?

I don’t think it is appropriate to make wheelchair spaces available on the basis of whom it would cause least mental distress, not least because I can’t imagine who would be in a position to adjudicate such things. The wheelchair spaces are there as the legal right of wheelchair users.

I can understand the anger and sadness of the parents in this position, however. It is incredibly stressful to travel on a bus with children, juggling shopping, a buggy, and little ones who are crying for your attention, whilst trying to keep noise to a minimum so as to avoid disapproving glances.

Parents who are in this position – I understand your anger, but please direct it towards the able-bodied people on the bus who see your distress and don’t offer to help, not the wheelchair user whose space it legally is.

And this is my plea: Able-bodied bus travellers – please, please be kind.

Please kind to disabled people, including the ones who don’t use a wheelchair, and may not ‘look disabled’ or ‘deserving’ but who ask for your seat because of their invisible illnesses. Choose to believe them when they say they can’t stand for long journeys, and remember how hard it is to ask for things from others. Jump up and tell the blind person where a seat is, and say hi to their guide dog, let them know they are safe and welcome.

Please be kind to parents and their children – look up from the book you are engrossed in, notice them, ask if they need help, and volunteer your seat loudly, encouraging others to do the same, be patient and don’t huff or tut when they take longer to get off the bus, or if they breast-feed their child to soothe their distress. Even better, ask which stop they will be getting off, so you can get up a little bit beforehand and put their buggy up for them before the people on the bus start queuing to get off, blocking the exit.

This is my plea for a little more kindness – to make buses and the world a nice place to be. Thank you for listening.


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7 Responses to On wheelchairs and strollers and buses – part two

  1. Ros 22nd April, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    I’ve been a mother with post-natal depression struggling on public transport with 3 young children. And, since one of my children, now an adult, has been a lifelong wheelchair user, I have also struggled to use public transport with a disabled person. And I can tell anyone who asks, it is far harder for the disabled person, and their needs really should take precedence. One of the parties has promised to enshrine this in law if they are elected. It’s policy I would support. I’ve only just become aware of your petition, and have signed it.

  2. Mark Allman 16th December, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    I wish this was not an issue at all. We should not have to choose “sides” as if we think there are sides. We should be able to make this work for everyone without hurting people that need it the most.
    I think we all should be of the attitude that let me be inconvenienced anytime I can help someone else.

  3. Newell Hendricks 15th December, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    I am not completely disabeed, but when I take the “T” or bus in Boston, I cary a cushion in a back pack to lean against. It is easiest in the corner seats reserved for elderly or disabled, but other seats are OK. I had 2 back surgeries because the cancer had damaged 2 vertebras, and since I have been on chemo therapy since the surgeries, my back has not really healed. I do not look disabled. I am 71, but look a bit younger. I do watch who gets on the bus and try to adjust my seat if someone who appears more needy should sit where I am sitting. Anyway, I do resent young people that sit in the seats that are marked for the disabled or elderly. I think everyone, in every situation, should be aware of those around them and help where needed. But I have a hard time scolding people in public. Maybe that is the next step. But thanks for your perspective and wisdom.

  4. Megan 15th December, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    This is such a hard thing for me. On the one hand I think this poor handicapped person they have no option right, they cannot get out of their wheelchair it has to be used. However as a mom of a 10 month old and now 7 months pregnant I realize I cannot physically get around town without the stroller for my child. I am healthy so it seems like it should be no problem but I think most women who have been pregnant will agree that pregnancy in and of itself can be very limiting on your physical abilities and if you are in tow of one or more other small children it’s even more difficult. I am NOT saying it’s the same as being handicapped, I just think it’s so much more complicated than it appears at first light. I can’t even tell you what I would have done if it was me. I know if a person with a wheelchair came what would I do with my stroller? I can’t hold it. I can’t make it disappear. I would just have to get off the bus. BUT I have a very dear friend with MS who I know has the greatest difficulty getting transport to his doctor appointments because no one has wheelchair accessibility and I feel for that immensely because ultimately I can possibly get a friend to pick me up or something. But in that moment I can see the mother feeling overwhelmed with what to do so I don’t feel I can say “what a horrible person she was!” As you said I wish we would all be nicer to each other and recognize that we are all dealing with our own bad day or difficulty that may not be visible to the naked eye. Those spaces legally are for wheelchairs, and I try to always give way when I’m anywhere with my stroller and using a wheelchair space because I recognize it is theirs. But I still keep coming back to feeling sad for the mother who was potentially between a rock and a hard place. I hope I have been able to share my heart because I feel as though it sounds offensive to those in wheelchairs and I certainly don’t mean to be.

  5. Heather 15th December, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    This post and yesterday’s were great. I loved your clear explainations yesterday. I’ve been the one travelling both with a stroller and a wheelchair. The difference btw inconveniece and impossibility cannot be stressed enough. Also, parking….ugh. Motorcyles can’t just squeeze into a tiny part of a blue cap space. I’ve had to go home a few times when I can’t find parking. This all seems so basic but is worthy of your space here.

    Thank-you for sharing this!


  6. Rebecka 14th December, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    I wish we would all be kinder to each other…


  1. » On wheelchairs and strollers and buses – part two - 14th December, 2014

    […] I posted yesterday, and my Facebook page exploded with discussion. One particular issue kept arising, and I wanted to address …read more       […]

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