Hidden disability

While visiting Amsterdam over the past few days I nearly always got a seat on the trams. What a contrast with public transport in London, where I live. If I’m lucky I’ll get a seat, but usually I end up standing (holding on with both hands to steady myself) due to the sheer volume of people travelling in rush hour. The problem is I’m too polite to ask other travellers if I can sit down. Rheumatoid arthritis and ehlers-danlos syndrome are hidden (for the most part) disabilities. Sometimes while standing I take out my Freedom Pass and hold it in front of me, hoping that people will notice. That’s worked a couple of times, and on both occasions men gave me a seat. But the rest of the time it’s just too subtle an approach. What’s best – to ask people directly? To start pointedly looking at and holding my wrists in the hope that people will realise how swollen they are and that it’s too tiring to stand? To sit down in the aisle? When it comes to the escalators on the tube, I always sit down, as I just get too tired. People tend to give me strange looks and once a woman asked if I was ok, but on the whole it’s fine. It gives me a little bit more energy to face having to stand on the train.

What do other people do in this situation? How about wearing an awareness bracelet, brooch or badge, similar to the one expectant mothers wear (‘Baby on board’). Not sure whether I want to advertise the fact that I have arthritis to everyone. There’s a brilliant quote I saw many years ago ‘label jars not people’ which I really identify with, and in some ways wearing a badge/bracelet feels like it would contradict that. But perhaps I should try it as an experiment.


4 thoughts on “Hidden disability

  1. I have challenges with things like this also. My rheumatoid arthritis is pretty darn obvious at this point, though, so people tend to offer me seats and assistance going up and down steps wherever I go. I even had one man at the gas station realize how difficult it was for me to walk and so he offered to go inside to pay for me. I was glad he offered, because I never would have asked and would have sucked it up. I really don’t like to ask for special treatment even though I really need the help.

  2. Yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone offered automatically rather than burying their head in a book or newspaper? I’m going to get the awareness bracelet as a starting point, then see if I feel up to asking people directly for a seat.

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