I’m kind of surprised I haven’t really written about buses before. It’s not the most interesting topic I suppose. You get on, you go to a location, you get off. Pretty simple.
For a disabled person it can be quite daunting. The first step is getting on the bus. You don’t want to hold people up, You hope there is a seat available, can you get your change out quick enough, don’t slip, you are holding up the line. In Auckland there is the tag on, tag off hop card system. It works pretty well and I prefer it over handling change which can be easily dropped and again holds people up.
People are not patient on public transport. I have seen this firsthand. There was an old woman struggling to get her walker and shopping onto a bus. “Aww come on!” I heard somebody groan. The driver heard it to. He got out of his seat and helped the old woman, who reluctantly accepted his help, on board. He then told the complainer to wait for the next available bus.
Getting a seat on the bus should be easy. You see someone elderly or less abled getting on a full bus, you offer them your seat, if you’re physically capable. Some people do have invisible disabilities and may require the seat. An invisible disability could be Arthritis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, a number of conditions with no outward physical marking.
Buses will assign certain seats for the disabled. Commonly the front two seats, the two seats facing each other and the flip down seats on the side. I have crutches, a backpack and a right knee that won’t bend past 90 degrees. So the front two seats are out, they usually have a barrier in front of them, also you usually have to go up a step to get to them. I don’t know who decided they should be disabled seating but whoever did, bad call.
The flip down seats are annoying and I’m not wholly convinced that those are seats for the disabled. I think that area is meant for a wheelchair user. The seats flip up to enable a wheelchair to fit in. But there is a huge handicap logo there which means often people will clear out of those seats for me. Holding down the seat and sitting in it is a physical challenge I can sometimes win. Sometimes.
The two seats facing each other. These are the best. Plenty of leg room means I won’t have a foot spasm and there is a handrail to help me get up. Of course these are also popular with school kids, office friends, tall people, big people, backpackers, shoppers, parents. People will not give up these seats unless it is a last resort….and even then maybe not.
I got onto a bus yesterday. It was full, standing room only. A woman offers me her seat. But unfortunately it is a front seat with a barrier. If I sat there I would have to squeeze my right leg in. The cramped space would trigger a spasm. I politely decline saying “Thanks but I couldn’t fit my leg in there.”. I wait….and wait….I haven’t tagged on….”I’ll get the next one.”. I am disappointed. Not that I’ll have to wait 20 minutes for another bus. But because people ignored me so easily. As I sit back on the bench. A few shocked faces look out from the bus. No doubt they all thought somebody else would move while they ignored the situation preferring to stare at their phone.
Don’t be that person. Don’t assume somebody else will move and don’t put the pressure on somebody to have to ask for a seat.
It’s hard enough having everybody stare at you.