Being pregnant and disabled doesn’t get you a seat on public transport
I didn’t always to feel so nervous about assertiveness whilst travelling. I used to think nothing of standing up to bullies at school and intervening when I saw someone being picked on. Even at 17, when I witnessed with horror a load of school kids literally ‘hanging’ a kid by his backpack on a double decker bus stair rail, my rage spurred me on to put a stop to it, even if I was outnumbered by 10 to 1.
But at 29, since my pregnancy has become more obvious and the government and the likes of the Daily Mail seems to have upped the anti when it comes to spreading anti-disabled feeling, my vulnerability seems to have got the better of me.
Take this afternoon on the bus. It was only a short bus ride, but I was getting pregnancy-related stomach cramps, my prosthetic leg was sore and my back ached. I really could have done with a seat. There wasn’t one. I’ve never particularly relished asking some unsuspecting sod to give up their seat so my weedy bum can sit on it, but in recent weeks, I’ve found it too humiliating to even get the words out.
In London, it’s clearly not enough to be obviously disabled thanks to my walking stick and deformed hand, nor is it enough to have a pretty obvious baby bump. People just don’t offer. Worse, they stare.
It may seem easy to calmly ask someone to give up their seat or make a semi-sarcastic comment about their inability to notice a pregnant, disabled woman, but when you’re feeling vulnerable and don’t want to provoke a Daily Hate-type comment, it can be enough to stun you into a silent fury.
Surely if I just look fat, and people are worried about causing offence, other commuters have noticed my walking stick and my obvious discomfort at having to stand? Clearly not.
Maybe it’s time I order one of those London transport ‘baby on board’ badges to see if that makes a difference.