Friday, June 16, 2006

The "Handicapped" Pecking Order

I saw an elderly, fragile-looking woman standing on BART today, and gave up my seat (I was seated in one of the seats by the door that are designated for handicapped or elderly anyways) for her use. At that moment, a man in his 30s, fully healthy, except he had a big cast on his foot, swooped in for my seat before the woman could.

The old woman got upset and said, "This is for the elderly", and gestures for him to get off. While he said, "Oh no you don't, see my cast on my ankle? I am handicapped rignt now." He wouldn't get up, and she wouldn't quit with her comments about how she is entitled to this seat. Finally, someone else got up to give the elderly woman his seat.

This brings up an interesting debate! Hypothetically, who should get the seat? An elderly person who has "shaky" legs? Or an injured, otherwise capable person who is balancing on two crutches with no free hands? (which was NOT the case with this man...he should have given her the seat since he could have easily balanced off one foot while leaning against the wall!) The elderly person may have tired legs, but he/she has the free hands to hold on to a bar while standing. The injured person with crutches may be naturally healthier and younger, he/she does not have the use of the legs or arms. Is there an order that we must follow when giving up seats? Is the order determined by age and general state of health, or by who fits more into the definition of "handicapped" at the very moment?

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