4 Rude Comments I've Received While Taking Public Transit With a Disability
Before my most recent surgery on my leg, I thought taking public transit was frustrating. Looking at me then, nobody would’ve known I’d had 10 surgeries to correct a birth defect, including lengthening my left leg by about 7 cm and straightening it. Nor would they know I was still having problems that caused pain, made walking difficult, and that I have never had very good balance. I also have other illnesses that can leave me feeling not so great.
I was often frustrated by drivers not waiting for me to sit down before they started driving, having to stand for long periods of time, or feeling like people were judging me for sitting down in the accessible seats. For some reason, I didn’t expect things to be more difficult after my surgery. Thankfully, people now see me on crutches and let me sit down. But drivers still don’t always wait for me.
Taking transit now comes with even more challenges, which is disappointing because many of them could very easily be avoided. Since I’m in university but still living at home, I take transit to and from school three days a week. I live quite far from my school, so due to transfers I ride six buses each day. And each day, I have a bad experience on at least one out of the six. Here are some of the “highlights.”
1. “Weren’t you normal last week?”
The first day I caught the bus near my house on crutches, I got quite the greeting from the driver. As I struggled to get up the stairs, the driver yelled out, “Hey – didn’t I pick you up last week and you were normal?” First of all, I hate the word “normal.” Yes, she did pick me up a couple weeks prior, before my 11th leg surgery, when I didn’t have a cast on, and was not using crutches. But was I “normal?” *insert eye roll*
2. “Sorry, I’m running late!”
Since I have so many buses to get to and from school, plus the moving around to classes, we figured it would be safest for me to use my wheelchair. That way I always have a seat, I can’t fall and damage my healing leg, and it preserves a bit of energy. However, I learned that it does not ensure you’ll actually get on a bus. What happened to me is something I’ve seen happen before; the bus slowed down and the driver said to me, “Sorry sweetie, I’m running late and don’t have time to load another wheelchair,” before continuing on with her route.
3. “You’re going to fall over doing it like that.”
When I wasn’t on one leg and using crutches, I didn’t realize how big of a step it was to get on a bus, especially if the bus is an awkward distance from the curb. When one of the not-so-friendly drivers pulled up, I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t attempt to get close to the curb or even lower the front of the bus. I wasn’t in the mood to interact with him, so I just stepped / jumped up, the way you do with crutches. As I sat down, he called back to tell me I was going to “fall over” if I didn’t better rehearse my bus entrance. He then proceeded to tell me how to use my crutches, and his description would have been physically impossible for anyone on crutches. What would have been possible is for him to have pulled closer to the curb and lowered the bus to a more reasonable height.
4. “Isn’t it easier to just use crutches?”
After many suggestions from friends, I decided if I was going to be using crutches I’d give forearm crutches a try. From what I’d heard, it seemed like they’d be easier on my body. They actually are much nicer to walk with, much lighter, and so much more convenient (I can open a door or turn off a light without losing my crutches now!) So, one day I got off a bus and was walking down the sidewalk when the driver pulled up beside me and reopened the door to call out, “Wouldn’t it be easier for you to just use crutches?” and laugh at me. I told him it was actually a lot easier for me like this, and walked away. I should have informed him that forearm crutches are in fact crutches.
I could list so many of these situations, but those are a few that stood out to me. As much as these situations are frustrating and make the day more difficult, I try to hold onto the good experiences. Some drivers and fellow bus riders really go above and beyond — I just wish there were more people like that!