902: Taking Up Too Much Space

I ran across a blog post by the usually cheerful Liz Henry that described how the nondisabled feel free to treat wheelchair users in public space. “This particular kind of bad behavior seems to me like it is unconscious but it reflects deep unwillingness to have people with disabilities in public at all or to consider us fully human. We are not considered citizens of the world. When we are in it we are always In the Way.” Read the whole thing: it’s sobering.

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4 thoughts on “902: Taking Up Too Much Space

  1. It disheartens me to hear of people acting like they constantly seem to act towards Henry. While I do not interact with wheelchair users on a day to day basis I have seen many people act in a similar way to what Henry is describing. I thought it was especially interesting that she has had people ask her to move out of their way when someone standing behind her could much more easily move. I wonder if people assume they are being in some way less discriminatory by asking her to move because they aren’t ignoring her presence. However, even if that were the case it is still rude and presumptuous to ask her to move and still shows a lack of consideration on their parts. Along the same line, her description of what a typical bus ride also interested me because I’m sure the bus drivers think they are doing their jobs efficiently, but really do view anyone using a wheel chair as a burden and extra inconvenience they have to endure. Her experience leads me to believe that the bus drivers expect her to either have no clue how to get around and function, or else they want her to be a perfect model disabled person who understands her place in the world; after the able bodied people. Both attitudes are disgusting to me. Neither attitude is helpful, or right. The fact of the matter is, as Henry points out and many disabilities activists are trying to make the world understand, she is a person with as much right as any other person to be anywhere any other person can be.

  2. It surprises me when people discriminate disabled people this way. For me, no matter what happens, I try to say politely, “Excuse me.” When someone is off to the side, I usually just go around the person so I do not bother that person. Since I tend to ignore my surroundings, I do not notice these kinds of discrimination. Hearing this happen in a restaurant when the other person could move is troubling. The easier move could have been for the other person to move his/her chair. When I move around, I sometimes check my surrounding to see which method is the best way to move around. Then, i take that easiest way. Also, public transportation is supposed to be available to everybody. Modifications have been made to accommodate disabled people. Subways and trains sometimes have raised platforms so wheelchair users can easily come in and out. Buses have ramps to do the same thing. The bus driver should not be treating her like a little kid or preventing her from getting on the bus. It may take a little longer to get on the bus compared to people who can just walk in, but it would take no longer than a nondisabled person securing his/her bike onto the bus . She is a human being so she should get the same rights as any other nondisabled person. When I ride the train, I do not see a lot of wheelchair users and only some stations are wheelchair accessible. There are sections in the train for people to put their wheelchairs. If more stations became wheelchair accessible, I think a lot more would be riding the train.

  3. It’s interesting to hear the perspective from a wheelchair user because we think nothing of it as we pass someone in a wheelchair by. Most of us probably are more concerned with just getting out of the way and moving on to whatever we have to do. I think it’s terrible that some people are so rude to wheelchair users just because they think that they are superior because they can stand up and walk around on their own. Henry was being very considerate by remaining in the corner by the staircase, which was very clearly out of everyone’s way. It was completely unnecessary for the woman to cause a scene because she could have very easily said the same thing to a person who was more capable of moving out of the way.
    The paragraph on bus drivers is interesting to see because I haven’t really noticed many wheelchair users on busses probably because of the hassle it takes for the bus driver to strap the chair down and make the bus kneel to accept the wheelchair. This is extra work for the driver that they don’t have to perform on a regular basis, so they are reluctant to comply when their services are most needed. This is an unfortunate situation because disabled people have every right to access that non-disabled people have and they deserve to be able to take full advantage of them.

  4. I think it is unbelievable and rude for the workers to tell Henry to relocate or move herself. These discourteous behaviors Henry faced, occurred due to people’s lack of understanding the difficulties in moving a wheelchair person. Another reason for the workers requesting her to move, and not others may be because since she is a disabled and minority of the group, that they thought Henry would be okay to blame on. Whatever the reason, it was disrespectful to Henry because it appeared they viewed her as an object or someone lesser than abled people, which is not true at all. I also find it disrespectful when the bus driver announced to the bus a few times that a disabled was getting on the bus because it is unnecessary and is pretty much telling the disabled person that there is something wrong with the disabled, and that everyone needs to be cautious. Along with it being unnecessary, it can emotionally damage an individual if he or she had to go through that on an almost daily basis. To reduce these situations from happening, it would be beneficial for anyone who is not aware of ableism, to learn about it. That way, abled people can gain a better understanding for disabled, and reduce the rude occurrences that Henry had to go through.

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