Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Woman w/stroller Cries Because She Was Forced Out of Wheelchair Space

So, last week in Ottawa, a woman with a stroller was forced to get off of a bus, because she was taking up the space designated for people with wheelchairs and someone in a wheelchair needed the space. Some folks are grumbling about it.

I have no problem with her being told to get off if she's taking up the space designated for wheelchairs. It sounds like the driver wasn't being a jerk, because he allowed the stroller-users to take up the space for as long as it wasn't needed for someone who is supposed to have it available to them. When that space became needed, it was only appropriate for it to be emptied in favor of the person who it was designed for. Even then, it doesn't seem like he just had a thing against women with kids in strollers, because his decision allowed the woman with two kids to stay on.

If the bus driver had been a jerk, he could have kept her off the bus in the first place, because there wasn't enough room for her to get on without taking up the wheelchair-designated spot. She'd have had to take the next bus anyway. His decision to let her ride as long as the space wasn't needed seems fair to me, because if her trip had been shorter, then she might have been able to get off and on without anyone else ever needing that spot.

In New Orleans, a large portion of the population used public transportation. I've ridden as a person with disabilities and I've ridden as a mother with a child in a stroller. In fact, I did it for a couple of years, five days a week, twice a day. Down here, it was illegal to leave your stroller in the aisle, so you had to be able to put it between your seat and the seat in front of you or in the area reserved for wheelchairs. If someone with a wheelchair came along, you had to move. It was as simple as that. They issued you a transfer ticket so that you could get on the next bus, and at least you were closer to your destination than you would have been if you hadn't been allowed to get on in the first place.

I hate how so many people have switched from the smaller (less expensive) strollers to using these SUV style models and just expect for everyone else to work around them. Those umbrella strollers are still on the market. Heck, there are even lots of deluxe strollers that fold flat. The only models that don't fold flat are the ones that cost a lot of money. It makes sense, though. If you're spending big money on a top of the line stroller, the manufacturers seem to figure that you must be planning to put it in a spacious, top of the line automobile.

If someone knows that they may have to use public transportation, it just doesn't make sense to get a stroller that is too big for those spaces. If you have one non-disabled kid, why should you be allowed to use the space that was designed for folks in wheelchairs? You're certainly not entitled to that space.

People with disabilities have had to fight to get these designated spaces on public transportation. If the folks who use those SUV style strollers really think they should have their own designated spot, then let them go and make their case with the public transit authorities in their region. Complaining because you weren't allowed to use the space that was meant for a person with disabilities is nothing more than ablism. As much as I love babies, I don't think that parents should be given a free pass on this.


Anonymous said...

SUV style is so correct!

I am really frustrated by this scarcity economy which we didn't create but we are supposed to navigate. In my experience, bus drivers are great at driving buses, but not so shiny at customer service and negotiating highly personal boundary issues.

Everytime it happens to me (around once a month) I imagine a script I could provide to the drivers and also narrative over the PA. This script would reference stated (and posted) policy, that the players would now readjust themselves, that if someone doesn't want to play they're free to walk and contact the bus co directly. What do you think?
(Here from a slow RSS feed, BTW.)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you! Many years ago, my Mother and I took my 3 small toddlers to Disneyland in California in 1986. My Mom didn't want to go to the expense of renting a car (the last day, she "caved", then said she wished we had gotten one at the air port!
The SUV-style strollers weren't on the market then. I did have an _old_ (even then) style double stroller. It folded down flat. We did not take up any handicapped positions on the bus. My mother's late husband had been blind. He would have been eligible for the handicapped seating. I have friends who are blind. They too are eligible for the handicapped seating.

I am now permanently handicapped, and have to use a wheelchair. Many people may not realize that the handicapped designated seating areas on the buses generally have a wheel locking system which keeps the wheelchairs from tipping over and/or rolling around inside the bus. Some wheelchairs braking systems are "less than ideal" to say the least.

As a Mom to 15 children, the woman who had the stroller should have taken the opportunity to be gracious, and voluntarily and quickly remove/collapse/stow her stroller and move. She would have set a good example to her children, as well as been acting as a good citizen.

Maybe, instead of taking the bus at all, she should try navigating both a wheelchair _and_ a stroller. Just a thought.

Anara from able2able said...

There is still so much ignorance about handicapped spaces it's ridiculous. It's not pick up/drop off parking, it's not there for the convenience of construction workers and deliver trucks, and it's not first come, first served unless you are one of the designated users.

If this happened in some cities here in the U.S., they would probably not allow people with strollers to use the space at all to prevent confrontation and lawsuits. Too bad the woman with the stroller could not have been more gracious or appreciate that the driver gave her a break in the first place.

Sarah said...

Being both the mother of two children and disabled, I can attest that it is far more difficult to "make do" when your mobility is compromised than when you're out with your children. The gear you bring with you as a parent is a choice. Being disabled isn't a choice.

Somewhere along the way, we started thinking strollers are a necessity to parenting life. And of course, once you establish something as the norm, you get a culture war where bigger and fancier mean better, regardless of the logistics of lugging such a creation around.

When I was able-bodied, I often found it far easier to put one kiddo on my back and one on my front in a weird amalgam of sling and mai tai baby carrier. My kids were safe, my hands were free, I could maneuver easily, and it was easy enough to slip the kiddo on my back off when we wanted to sit down. (Say, on a bus.) Bonus: free workout, no gym fees! As a disabled mother to two small children, using an SUV-type stroller would have made my life difficult beyond belief. Too heavy, too cumbersome, too difficult to maneuver. A lightweight umbrella stroller was so much easier.

Handicap spaces are legally designated aids for people who are medically disabled. Parenting is often hard, tiring, and physically demanding. But when it comes to handicap spaces, simply being a parent doesn't count.

Elizabeth said...

Small umbrella strollers only have a 30 or 35lb weight limit so if you have a larger child you need a larger stroller. I just bought a lightweight semi small stroller with a 55lb weight capacity for my 2 year old who isn't walking yet. If he was walking I wouldn't have to take the stroller everywhere.

Laurie said...

You are absolutely correct. I don't think she should have been upset to have to give up a space designated for someone else.