By Katherine Hawkes (she/her)
This piece is part of the We Are LUNA zine. The full zine can be viewed here: https://issuu.com/thelunaproject/docs/we_are_luna_ or listened to here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5vAfESFMrSMWDafJKXaC9Z?si=fc821d0b7f284e34
Signs for priority seating are often seen on public transport and mark seats that should be available for anyone who is less able to stand or walk to other seats. Unfortunately, it’s common for these to be taken by able-bodied people who refuse to give them to less abled individuals. Being unable to sit on public transport can have serious consequences. People with dyspraxia (a coordination disorder) are likely to fall and hurt themselves while standing on a moving bus. People with a chronic pain condition may find standing painful. These disabilities are invisible, yet they are exactly who priority seating is designed for. But how do you notice an individual who needs your priority seat? And how do you approach the topic without causing offence? The most important thing to remember is to keep yourself safe. Don’t give up your seat if it’s dangerous for you or your health. However, if you’re able, we suggest three steps: be aware, be polite, and be respectful.
Be aware. Look for anyone who needs your seat. Pay particular attention to mobility aids. These can be items such as a walking cane, but they may also be another person. Someone might hold another’s arm to stabilise themselves rather than use a mobility aid on busy trains or buses. Age is another thing to be aware of. Older individuals are more likely to need priority seating. However,being younger doesn’t mean they won’t need a seat. One final thing to be aware of is their face and body language. Do they look like they are in pain or worried? Are they hunched over or hurrying to a seat before the bus moves? If you notice any of these, they may need the seat.
Be polite. Catch their attention with a “hi”, before asking “would you like this seat?”. Avoid saying things like “are you disabled?” or “you look like you need it” as they can make people feel uncomfortable. Although, if you accidentally say these, don’t feel bad. We all make mistakes, just learn from it.
Be respectful. If they need the seat, move without complaining or showing disappointment. If they don’t need the seat, feel free to enjoy the seat. Offering a stranger a seat can be a scary experience. However, we hope this makes you more confident in doing so.
Just remember, be aware, be polite, and be respectful.