I am disabled. But I don't look disabled. Even with a cane. Far too often (daily) I have to ask for a seat from someone who grumbles, refuses, shoots me a dirty look, or is asleep.
A few years ago the New York City MTA had signs up reading "Not all disabilities are visible". They no longer post these signs.
Then the MTA made overhead announcements that "Courtesy is Contagious". These announcements are very rarely played now.
Most people on the subways and buses in NYC are reading, listening to music, writing things, or zoned out; they don't notice each other. I am rarely offered a seat, and far too many times I see elderly, disabled or pregnant people enter the train or bus and not a single person offers them a seat. I've even fallen over because I had to to stand on a subway train. I had to stand once, while on chemotherapy & visibly ill, and I was pushed & forced to stand. It's a very bad memory for me. Even recently, when I was actually being given a seat, a man behind me pushed me before I was able to get to the seat & I nearly fell on the floor (ouch AND yuck!). I see 20 year olds sitting, headphones in, totally unaware, while little old ladies, a man with a cane, a woman about to give birth, and a guy on crutches are all standing.
Some people choose to stand, and if they can then great. But the man who'd just had a cortisone shot into his knee that was healing from surgery needed a seat on the M57 bus & it took me getting on & asking to get both of us seats. Not everyone feels comfortable asking. It can be embarrassing, even humiliating.
People in New York City have a lot going on and they may think "Oh, well my feet hurt" or "I'm tired"- I even got one guy, while I was on chemo, tell me, after reluctantly giving up his seat, that he DOES "have a bad knee"! My bad knee was the least of my problems at that point. I couldn't feel my feet! I've walked through a subway car, stumbling, in pain from Neuropathy & Arthritis, with no offer of a seat. I have to ask, and often, like I said above, it isn't always a positive experience, no matter how nicely I ask. I've seen this happen to a blind woman who was asking for a seat. No one gave her one. A girl with a broken foot walked all the way to my end of the train & I said "Have a seat. This is the cane section!" No one offered her anything. No one noticed.
My disability is really none of anyone's business, but because of it I cannot safely stand on a moving train or bus. People who can stand should be getting up to offer their seats. The only way this is going to happen is if the MTA comes up with more advertising & assistance. It IS the law to offer your seat or give it up when requested.
There are already enough issues with crowded elevators full of people fully capable of taking the stairs (I would if I could!). Not to mention bad elevators, broken elevators, and subway doors closing on the disabled. Sometimes the train conductor sees me or any other "cripple" & shuts the doors before we can get on. When I got stuck in the doors, getting off the C train, a woman yelled at the train driver for me, which was really nice of her.
There ARE good people out there, they just aren't aware of how much we need them to step forward. This needs to be promoted more. If you can stand then please stand up so someone who can't stand is able to sit down. Courtesy IS contagious, but it starts with just one person recognizing the need. And I've meet a lot of them. Just not enough.
The MTA has to step in here & create better options. Here are a few ideas I have. Sign the petition & add your own ideas. The more the better. Spread the awareness!
Most elderly, disabled & pregnant people need the railings to help get up and down- this should be factored into planning. The seats near railings should be designated for those with the need for them. A simple sign on the back of the seat will do (just like the ones already on the wall where no one can see them). These are on some old train cars & on some buses. Let's see more!
This is also the case for seats near the door. Not only is is often difficult to maneuver through a bunch of feet while using a cane or crutches, it is also difficult to get to the exit fast enough when we need to get off the train. Seats near the doors are most convenient for those who can't stand. Plus, they are often next to a railing. Two birds!
Perhaps have a button on the outside or inside of the train cars that triggers an announcement that states: "A person who needs a seat has just entered the train. Please offer your seat." Or something about "standing up for those who can't". This may be costly but an good idea that could be very well worth it. Better than sending electric shocks into people sitting down!
More signs. Bigger signs. Better signs. Prominently displayed so they can't be missed or argued.
More enforcement of the law. If there's a penalty for refusing then print that on the sign. Like the fine for honking or littering signs.
As a person with disabilities I should never have to be asked by another passenger to "prove it". Remember: Not All Disabilities Are Visible. Nor are they anyone else's business!
Sign the petition to get the MTA to solve this issue!
Marie Farrell started this petition with a single signature, and now has 185 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.