Arm cast = disabled?

Some of our most popular stories center on the issue of being disabled — whether you’re blind, pregnant, or elderly — and how the rest of us iPod-wearing, briefcase-toting zombie commuters could stand to … stand on a crowded BART or Muni bus.

In some cases, being oblivious to a pregnant lady will get you tripped on a bus. In other cases, being this guy on a crowded BART train will get certain pregnant contributors to this website to shame you and your seat-hogging ass.

In still other cases, some people don’t need seats, but will insist that they do.

I was seated on a non-crowded BART train during commute hour in the disabled seats. A woman got on and asked for my seat, which would be fine if she actually seemed disabled. She was middle-aged, walked and talked and acted perfectly normal, but happened to have a wrist cast on. Kind of like this one, which I didn’t even realize she had until she pulled her coat sleeve back.

She explained, using these words, that she needed a seat because of her cast.

Though I let her have my seat, I maintain (for better or worse) that this was a clear abuse of the give-up-your-seat clause on public transit.

Maybe if the train was crowded.

Maybe if she had a sling, and any bumps to the elbow could have resulted in an hour of pain.

Or maybe I’m a big jerk.


  • CAK

    I don’t think you’re a jerk.

    I do think that the most interesting piece of this puzzle is that fact that she asked you to move. Most of the time those who would like/need a seat passive aggressively glare and harrumph (or trip, in the pregnant lady’s case). Maybe we can just shrug this off as hey, if someone wants it bad enough to pointedly ask, we should just give it up. I wonder what would happen if I asked someone sitting in the middle, and not in the accessible seating, to let me have their seat for no reason?

  • I dunno about this instance, but there are plenty of ways to be legitimately disabled without looking like Bob Cratchet.

  • tara

    You’re right, CAK, in most instances, I would (and did) shrug it off when someone’s asking for a seat straight-out.

    True also that you don’t need to look like Bob Cratchet (haha) to be legitimately disabled. But I still think that if you have a physical disability that’s bad enough to warrant asking for someone’s seat, it certainly helps your case to be sort of obviously disabled. You’re asking a perfect stranger to do you a favor, based entirely on how you look for about 10 seconds. But you’re not elderly and you’re moving freely without the aid of any implements. This particular instance was just a little odd, in that respect.

    It comes down to different strokes, perhaps. If I had a wrist cast, then I wouldn’t ask for a seat. If I had an arm sling on a busy train, I probably would. If I had an arm sling on a roomy train, I would not. But that’s my metric, maybe not anyone else’s.

  • flue

    I often need to hold on with dear life when the N-Judah careens through the tunnel between Carl/Cole and Duboce Park. If I had only one usable hand, I’d be likely to look for a seat too…first to any open one, but if none are readily available, then the disabled seating.

  • doyle

    I could, like flue above, see a great preference for a seat when I would otherwise be fine standing. My shoulder is, due to years of work, not great for holding on to poles anymore. Sometimes I consider asking someone for a seat, but I am otherwise healthy in appearance so they’d probably think I was lying about it just to be able to sit down.

  • hipster

    Just tell her you have a hip problem and your doctor advised you not to stand on busses.

  • I’d accept that as a disability on Muni, where you have to hold on tight, but on BART… I don’t know. I’d probably give her the benefit of the doubt. I know on days I’ve been to the blood bank I feel like I should get a seat so I’m not banging my blood-drained arm, but its not an obvious injury or anything like that, so I just grin and bear it.

  • Elizabeth

    I had a broken hand a few years ago (in my pre-Muni days) and sometimes I think about what a PAIN IN THE ASS it would have been to ride the bus with that cast. Mine was a REAL cast though — not that lame BRACE that you linked to above. I wouldn’t expect anyone to give up his or her seat to me but it certainly would have been appreciated — it is surprisingly difficult to do anything with one hand trapped inside a plaster prison.

  • Nunsequitur

    I just want to point out that not all disabled people “look” disabled. Not sure what that would look like. I have severe nueropathy, but appear otherwise healthy. I can’t stand for more than a few mins at a time, and I certainly can’t stand on a moving bus without falling down. Does the fact that I don’t look like I need it mean I shouldn’t have a seat? This is another way in which we discriminate based on looks.

  • Marie

    Sorry, you really are a big jerk! =) I have a bilateral hand syndrome that resembles carpal tunnel (long story, but the real problem is in my shoulders and neck so it isn’t “real” carpal tunnel). I’m 25 and super healthy looking (and in fact, otherwise am– I’m active, athletic, slim, etc.) BUT. My hands just don’t work right. I cannot grip things properly. I lack full strength. If I fall and put my arms out, they will NOT hold my weight. Standing and gripping something like the Muni handrail for half an hour is enough to cause severe pain, tingling, numbness, etc. in BOTH hands. If I have to hold an overhead rail I actually cannot get my arms up without causing damage because my mobility is so restricted. I sometimes wear a wrist brace, but since the real problem is higher up, it doesn’t do a lot. Because my problem is bilateral, both hands suck. However, even on days when one hand is the “good” hand it’s tough, because like the good little worker bee I am, I too have a briefcase, etc… in that good hand. I live in terror of a dramatic Muni faceplant. I am usually too embarrassed to ask anyone for a seat even when I wear my braces, let alone on days I don’t, so I inevitably spend my half hour Muni commute in sweaty, miserable pain and fear, while you iPod-wearing folks do your zombie thing…

    Anyway, obviously if I don’t speak up I can’t blame anyone but myself. But it’s pretty sad to see a post like this castigating a woman who wears a brace JUST LIKE MINE for asking for help. And BART is tough too, I’ve fallen more than once at station stops.

  • Marie

    Wow, having looked at one of the entries linked here, I am not the same Marie who hates pregnant people!

    • @Marie: “hates” pregnant people? if you’re referring to the “Marie” who commented on this post, i wouldn’t call that hatred. i will call it a beef with that particular pregnant woman, who did, remember, commit the first violent action. i’m sensitive to the word hate, especially in a public forum like this site.

      i do appreciate the comment, but please don’t confuse issues with hatred.

  • Marie

    @Jeff.. hmm… actually… I’m not confused. She wrote, “since when does pregnancy equate disability? I’m one of those people who sees someone like you and closes my eyes as well. Especially now that I know you might turn into a jerk like you did here.”

    To me, when a person says “when I see someone like you,” –referring to pregnant people as a group I assume, since after all there is no way to tell if people are violent jerks just by looking– and takes an action deliberately to spite that group (closing her eyes and refusing to give up a seat to pregnant women), I find that pretty hateful. I’m sorry the word offends your sensitivities and we can agree to disagree one whether my comment was appropriate, but I meant what I said and was not “confused.” I find it hateful for someone to apparently decide to ignore people who need seats “because” of the bad behavior of one person on the internet. I was disturbed enough by it that I felt compelled to write a disclaimer, after all.

    At any rate, if my comment inspires censure from a mod and hers is defensible… I think I will wander away to a less crazy corner of the Internet.

  • @Marie: Okay, we might be approaching (or, perhaps, well into) semantic territory here, but I still see the other-Marie’s comment as directed toward people who fail to consider others, people who are blind to the fact that other people are alive, sharing buses, car lanes, sidewalks, the world, etc. I do not see her comment directed at all pregnant women. Not at all.

    If I were to encounter what I thought was blanket hatred of a group of people on this site, I would disclaim Muni Diaries’ connection to said comment, as fast as humanly possible.

    You admit yourself that you “assume” she’s talking about pregnant people. Perhaps she is. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m often wrong. I simply don’t see it that way. I guess I’m defending this other Marie until they wander back to defend their own statements. But I’m also addressing what I see as the integrity of the site itself.

    And I in no way meant to censure your comment. I merely meant to point out a discrepancy between your assessment of the comment, and the comment as I read it. I help out with this site because I love public comment/debates. We’ve wandered away from the main point of this one in particular, but nonetheless.

  • Jonno.N

    I just want to say that not having proper use of all of ones limbs could make it REALLY difficult to deal with a moving bus that jerks around terribly. If that person felt they needed a seat, you should trust their better judgment over their own body and give up your seat kindly. It’s not your place to tell others about their bodies and what they can handle. Obviously the person wasn’t rude to you, so why all the fuss? If you’ve ever fallen down before and didn’t have your hands freely available, you’ll know that they are there to protect your face. If they can’t do that, you smash your face when you fall. It sucks, and if she did fall and used the hand in the cast to fall on it could break it worse. I think it’s pretty careless for you to act like you may have needed the seat more than that person. It doesn’t seem like you had any reason at all to need the seat other than your own comfort. Anyone with ANY TINY BIT more reason than that is deserving, and you are selfish.

    Not to be rude, but seriously people, show some humanity once in a while. Where’s the love? “Be excellent to one another” in other words.

  • Dave

    i have cerebral palsy and it’s quite obvious even though i walk, i also usually wear pass around my neck on a lanyard. on a few occasions i have had ask if i can sit and i do not speak really clear so i dread have to ask but they always comply. i simply cannot stand on a moving train or bus i will hit the deck! not long ago i got on a crowded train downtown and nobody offered a seat before train took off. a man grabbed me and helped me stay standing then he said to a kid about 10 years old “hey get your butt off that seat let this guy sit down!” the kid got up and i thanked the guy when he got off. then for rest of trip the little snot glared at me.

  • Heather

    OK I got one.
    What about when nice people freely offer up seats to the Elderly who happen to have kids or mothers who are pregnant and/or who have a lot of stuff ( like a stroller) who also have kids. THEN they give the seat to the kid/s!

    When I or other give up my seat I bascially intend it for the adult, the kid can sit on the lap. Yet the adult just pushes the kid in to it. Yes I get that it helps to contain the kid to a seat but cant the kid just sit on your lap?

  • I reckon some people milk it more than they need to, should do or warrant doing so.

    You should have kept your seat and said you had a sprained wrist too, your just not wearing a cast. Heh

  • ecp

    I was sympathetic towards the author until I realized that the author assumed that having a small cast meant a small injury.
    Also,why does the author need a seat? If she is disabled, does she look sufficiently disabled?
    Has she ever broken a bone (even a small one)? It hurts. It hurts so badly that every bump can be searing pain.
    But you assumed that since she has a small cast, she has a small injury (you also falsely assume that her injury isn’t acute). She could have been returning home from the orthopedic surgeon.

    And since you want to judge the ability of a person to stand or not stand based on how they look…I’m 27 and look completely healthy, but my inner ears have severe damage and aside from profound deafness, I have very real and severe problems with balance. Some days I can barely stand up without vertigo and standing up on a bus would render me into a ball of vomit and nystagmus within seconds.

    What I’m saying is don’t think disability equals wheelchairs and maybe grow up.

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