Last week, a bus driver’s efforts to accommodate a wheelchair user made headlines around the world.

When able-bodied passengers refused to move from the wheelchair space on a Paris city bus, the driver kicked everyone off and welcomed the wheelchair user aboard. The two rode off together, leaving all of the other passengers behind. How’s that for a lesson?

You can read the full story in this report from The Evening Standard.

Yesterday in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, I had an experience that reminded me of this story.

The city bus I needed to get on was the last of the evening, and it was fully loaded with passengers. Much to my surprise, the driver yelled, “I CANNOT leave a wheelchair, move to the back of the bus or get off.”

While the people didn’t vacate the wheelchair space and I had to ride the bus without being properly secured, I was pleased that the bus driver had made an effort on my behalf.

That experience caused me to contemplate the differences between the French and American societies.

In Paris, the passengers who were kicked off the bus didn’t complain. They recognized their shameful behavior and moved on, hopefully having learned a lesson. Indeed, they were probably embarrassed by their behavior. The story only came to light after the wheelchair user shared it on social media.

But in America, where people feel much more entitled to complain (it’s just a fact), such a teaching moment could never occur. If my bus driver had kicked everyone off the bus to send a message, they’d have immediately sent messages via Facebook and Twitter to their friends, the media, the city government and maybe even the Attorney General. The driver would have likely been fired, and horrible people who refuse to make room for a wheelchair user would have been empowered.

If you are able-bodied, make way for wheelchair users, seniors and other people with disabilities on public transportation. It isn’t something you should need to be instructed to do, but if you are, listen and follow directions. It’s the right thing to do, and everyone deserves to ride.

In your experience, do people offer their seat for those with disabilities?
Are wheelchair users given priority for the wheelchair space?
Let me know in the comments below!

Featured image courtesy Jean LECLERC/Wikimedia Commons.

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