Some Dos and Don’ts of Behavior Towards the Mobility-Limited

A little while ago, I made a Facebook “public service announcement” about how people should really try to help people who are by themselves in carrying a baby stroller up or down a set of stairs.

Admittedly, I was on one of my self-righteous streaks when I put such a post on Facebook. I wrote it after helping a mother carry a baby stroller (with a baby inside) up a set of subway stairs, even though many others came before I did and passed the mother by. So yeah…I was in a mood to show that the behaviors of those around me were just plain wrong.

Yes, I was pretty self-righteous.

Self-righteousness aside, this one incident made me start to think about not only the stroller issue, but also some other dos and don’ts of behavior (particularly behavior when you are out in public) toward the mobility-limited.

But what are some of those dos and don’ts? If you’re not sure, please keep reading, as I break down some dos and don’ts of behavior toward people with different types of mobility limitations.

Parents with Baby Strollers

If you don’t have any physical limitations, DON’T just stand idly by while watching a parent toil with a baby stroller with the baby inside. For those who haven’t carried one before, they are so heavy and bulky! When I’ve helped in the past, it was honestly a challenge even with two people working on it, so I could not possibly imagine it being a one-person job. So if you’re physically able to help, please offer to help (even if that means missing your train or bus).

So, DO offer to help if you see a parent (especially if without a second adult) with a baby stroller. The worst you’ll get is a polite “no,” and at best you might just make a person’s day by being the stranger who helps out.

Wheelchair Users

Please, for the love of everyone, DON’T DON’T DON’T push someone’s wheelchair without the wheelchair user asking for it. Especially through the blogging world, I’ve met oh so many people who are just pushed around on their wheelchairs without asking for help.

DO push or help someone in a wheelchair, though, if they ask for help. But the key is being asked to help, because otherwise your actions fall into the category of a “don’t.” Also, if you see someone struggling with a wheelchair, DO ask if they would like any help.

People with Canes and Walkers

If you see someone on mass transit with a cane or walker, it means that the person with the cane or walker needs it for some reason. Therefore, please please PLEASE DO offer to give up your seat to a person with a cane or walker. If you are able-bodied, that person will need the seat more than you do.

On the other hand, please DON’T take the action of refusing to give up your seat to a disabled person. Furthermore, DON’T spend 100% of your time in transit on your phone or asleep…because if you do so, then you will not pay attention and may end up blinding yourself to the fact that someone needs your seat much more than you do. (Trust me, I’ve been guilty of such an offense before…I felt very embarrassed when I found that there was a person with a cane in front of me who needed a seat more than I did.)

Conclusion

To some of us, the previous sections of this post only elaborate on obvious etiquette for being an able-bodied person who is a pedestrian or is taking mass transit. To others, though, maybe this post serves as a reality check that we are not really having the proper behavior when it comes to interacting with people of limited or no mobility. Regardless of whether this post listed obvious etiquette, served as a reality check, or was somewhere in between, please post in the comments section below if there are other dos and don’ts of behavior toward the mobility-limited that I should cover!

How Crosswalks are Still Ableist, Even With Disability Laws

For able-bodied people, going through a crosswalk is pretty simple: we get to the street, we wait to have the right-of-way, and then we cross.

For people who are not able-bodied, it is not necessarily that simple. Not only that, but there are actually a number of ways that crosswalk areas are problematic to people who are not able-bodied, and are therefore ableist:

  1. Some crosswalks don’t have long enough light cycles for the people crossing. There have been numerous times where even I, an able-bodied 24-year-old, struggled to cross a street before I lost the right-of-way. If even I struggle with crossing by the time I lose the right-of-way, the problem is even worse for people who are not swift on their feet.
  2. Some crosswalks don’t have any noise cues for people who are blind. Honestly, I’ve always asked myself how a blind person can possibly cross a street without being run over by a car. If this video is any indication, it is difficult at best to cross the street without sound cues. Yes, blind people often seem to rely on sound cues from cars on the street, but many crosswalks (including crosswalks in New York City) lack sound devices to inform blind people on when it is or is not safe to cross the street.
  3. Many crosswalks seem to have the pedestrian right-of-way mostly (or only) activated when a button is pushed to ask for a walk sign. However, from amputated arms to simply an old person struggling to get to that button the person needs to push, there are various reasons why the pedestrian right-of-way activation button is not easily accessible for many individuals.
  4. In many snowy areas, snow is often pushed to the side, to the curb and to…the crosswalks. And sadly, such snow is often not removed from these crosswalk areas. The result is that many street crossings are barely accessible to even able-bodied people like me, let alone those who are not able-bodied.

While crosswalks have improved in some ways—most notably an increasing number of sound cues for crosswalks so that blind people can cross safely, as well as ramps that allow people with wheelchairs to get from the walkway to the street and back to the walkway again—we should not settle for these improvements alone. We should not settle for the aforementioned improvements alone because there are still several ways that crosswalks are not safe for many to cross. Hopefully, the appropriate changes can be made, so that crosswalks are accessible to more than the able-bodied.