Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reader kindly asks that we don't judge a book by its cover

This message is important. Just this morning a very able-bodied woman, at least she appeared able-bodied to those who glared at her - smokers frigidly smoking their cigarettes as they huddled on the bus platform - exited her car from where she parked it -- in a disability spot right next to the entrance of the Oshawa GO train platform. One man made a point to look her up and down and rolled his eyes and turned away, continuing to puff right under a No Smoking Sign - oh the irony. But is it?

For all we know, the woman had a brace on her knee, hidden under her pants.

Submitted via email
(Name, initials, email withheld by request)

Dear CJ,

    This happened about two weeks ago on the LSE 5:10 (I have been taking the accessibility coach since Dec 16). I'm twenty five, but I look about twelve. I have been sitting on the accessibility coach because I had ACL reconstruction and a meniscus repair the first week of Dec.
The first couple weeks were great. The coach accommodated my crutches and my knee immobilizer brace. The assistants in the coach recognized me and were extremely friendly. I began the healing process, first losing the crutches, then trading in my immobilizer for a smaller metal jointed knee brace.
My smaller brace fits over most of my skinny leg dress pants, however, I have one pair of wide leg dress pants it fits comfortably under.
Well I was sitting in the car, with said pants and brace on. Another young woman with a cane sat across from me. I had my headphones on and was reading waiting for the train to depart. The train car was becoming more and more full. The assistant came asked that anyone not requiring a seat to please get up. This is when it started...The woman across from me and the woman standing beside her began staring at me. I continued reading until it become uncomfortable. No one was giving up a seat and these women were sure I didn't need one. They began saying very rude things about me to eachother, finally I pulled off my headphones and pointed at myself, as if to say, you are talking about me. The woman across from me said "yes, you need to get up". Without a word I lifted my pant leg and revealed the heavy duty metal brace hiding beneath. She muttered sorry under her breath and would not make eye contact with me for the rest of the trip. The other woman just turned around.
     I'm now able to walk without the brace and I have stopped taking the accessibility car to avoid situations like this. I'm not even 8 weeks post op, I still have lots of swelling and discomfort. I arrive at work early so I can leave a bit early to ensure that I get a seat on the train home because I don't want to have to prove to anyone that I "deserve" an accessibility seat.
So I just wanted to post this so that other passengers kindly consider that reasons for requiring a seat on the accessibility car may not always be visible. If you cannot see a physical disability (while someone is seated), it does not give you the right to harass or bully them, no matter how young or able bodied they may seem to you.
Fellow train passenger


Squiggles said...

Oh I feel for you. I really do, partly because I may be facing the same situation soon and I am a little freaked out about it.

But I get the same looks when I take the elevator as in this weather especially, it hurts to climb the stairs. I see people think: wow, big girl is too lazy to climb the stairs.

Anyway, no, you should not have to prove that you are injured and deserve the seat. Those people are just rude and mean. Ignore them.

Anonymous said...

Active looking, high heel wearing, but metal knee - some days it hurts so bad and other days I'm fine. Don't judge me when I need it - if I am able to stand and you are not, you'll get my seat, but if I need it, you won't. Even the mornings when I opt to take an elevator because the metal has frozen beyond belief and the thought of bending my leg is too much, you wouldn't know, but you'd judge me...and I've seen ya do it (the royal you of course)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I've experienced it myself. I have MS, usually no visible signs and I've had people had lengthy discussions about my rudeness because I don't always look like I need to be in the accessibility coach.

Anonymous said...

I would not be polite to such judgemental people. Not every disability is a visible one and it's not always constant. "What is disability supposed to look like to you?" That's what I'd ask them. I recently broke two toes and damaged the joints for each. I am limping but there is no cast for what I have. I have taped my toes and am wearing big ugly white runners. Sometimes you can see me limp a bit - or a lot if it's the end of day or a cold Monday morning after a weekend up my feet being up. I dare anyone to look me up and down in the elevator because I would love to ask them to take off my shoe and examine my black and blue and twisted foot. I'd invite them to experience the same injury and try walking up and down the stairs with two out of five toes and joints immobile. No, I haven't had any overt stares. But that's probably because I have a look that says that I don't suffer morons. I'd tear a strip off of them and not feel one ounce of pity while doing it, either.