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Woman and Baby Ordered Off Bus to Make Room for Wheelchair

Woman and Baby Ordered Off Bus to Make Room for Wheelchair

Last week in Ottawa, a woman was left in tears when she and her 2 month old daughter were kicked off a public transit bus in favor of a passenger who wanted to board with a wheelchair. Nelly Elayoubi and her daughter, Ayah, had boarded several stops before with Ayah in a stroller. When a second stroller with two children boarded, the area at the front of the bus became crowded. When a person in a wheelchair wished to board at a later stop, the bus driver demanded that the “last stroller on” get off – but upon realizing that that stroller contained two children, he ordered Elayoubi and her daughter off the bus to make room for the wheelchair.

Strollers and public transit are a contentious issue in Ottawa and many other cities. Many people believe that strollers, especially the large so-called “SUV” style strollers are a danger and an inconvenience to other bus riders. And while certainly strollers take up space, what this unfortunate case illustrates is not the danger of strollers but rather, the lack of common sense and civility among bus riders and drivers alike.

Earlier this year, the Ottawa City Council debated a motion to force parents with strollers to collapse the stroller while on public transit. But who are we kidding, really? It’s not “parents.” It’s women. Often, it’s women of lower income in the first place, who rely on public transit as their only mode of transportation around the city, and for whom fully featured collapsible strollers may be out of their budget. This “solution” debated by the city council would force a parent to juggle one or more children while trying to collapse and stow a piece of equipment that often requires two hands to collapse – if their stroller collapses at all. If not, public transit would be largely cut off to this group of riders. 
Perhaps the worst of all, the motion was brought forward by an acessibility group who found that too often, wheelchairs were getting left waiting by the side of the road for the next bus due to capacity. One group of riders is pegging another group as a scapegoat – and we’re an easy scapegoat, us mothers who dare to leave the house with our children, our children who should be seen and not heard and definitely shouldn’t inconvenience anyone else – when the reality is, it’s not the fault of the riders if the bus is full.

A public transit system is meant to be available to all. Instead of pitting one group of riders against another over “who” has more rights to ride the bus, why not give common sense and courtesy a chance to prevail? Hold public awareness campaigns for parents traveling with children about the most rider-friendly ways to travel, such as using a sling or carrier or smaller, collapsible, stroller.  Ensure drivers are able to assist parents who need an extra set of hands to collapse strollers when required.  Let families know when the best off-peak hours are to travel to allow room for their strollers. And hey – it’s great marketing for stroller companies to say that their stroller is transit-friendly. Why not develop better, lighter, smaller, more easily collapsible stroller options for people who ride mass transit?

But the most important part, truly, has nothing to do with the stroller or the wheelchair. We need to encourage everyone who rides the bus to respect the fact that all people, no matter how able-bodied or not, no matter how young or old they are, are entitled to use the transit system. Encourage a spirit of cooperation and courtesy when the buses are crowded. All this woman needed was a helping hand, a friendly person to say “here – squish the stroller in here. I can stand,” and this entire situation would have been prevented.

Common sense and courtesy. Simple.

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Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

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409 comments

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12:05PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

I need a disability buggy, and believe you me, you are guaranteed one *screaming NIGHTMARE* a year because of some people's attitudes!!! If I was a nervous insecure person I wouldn't dare use the buggy at all, and consequently would be housebound!!! Currently I have no car, but that will change - even so I have to get about once I'm out of my car.

Living in the countryside I seldom use public transport, so I can only think back to the times when I did. I love the last paragraph - this is surely the right way for everyone to view the issue!

11:33AM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Gigi, you are insanely rude! You are so callous, I wonder if you are jealous of moms! You are mixing so many different comments in your post; crying kids, moms and exercise...it is difficult to find which one is most repulsive! Newsflash, non-mom, kids who can walk STILL need strollers!! You will get the mother of all meltdowns if you make a toddler walk all afternoon! It simply is not fair to expect young children to walk that much. Surely you knew that! And a mom cannot carry a child all day. Now please take a minute and think about your motivation for being so cruel. And the sooner, the better, dear.

11:18AM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Strollers are such an inconvenience to other bus riders. I can't believe you think you are entitled to take up 2-4 seats just so your kids don't have to walk. I'm on the bus as I type this comment and I just witnessed a lady force 3 elders out of the priority seating. She politely said thank you but when she saw one seat was still free, she let her child, WHO CAN WALK sit in that seat then went to sit in that seat herself while her son sat on her lap.

Wow ridiculous. My argument against strollers are that they take up so much space. sometimes the child will throw a fit and god is the crying ever loud. Sometimes I don't even see the parent trying to stop the crying. I understand if it's been a long day and don't want to deal with it anymore but hey neither does the rest of the people. Lastly it takes so much longer to load and unload a stroller.
If it was a simple stroller from the 90s it would be easy to maneuver and would not take up space. However nowadays the luxury of your children is put before consideration for others.

And please don't make this into a feminist argument or about women. Honestly no one is telling you to stop bringing a stroller because you are female. If YOU think that way then have your husband bring the kids out to grocery shop. As another women I find that a ridiculous excuse. And low income? Save yourself the money and don't buy a gigantic stroller. Let your kids walk, they'll be healthier. Carry your kids, you'll get a work out.

Ps. No

6:35PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

I am from the US. Here we have laws that protect certain groups of citizens. The ADA protects the persons with disabilities. This is a civil rights issue in the US. We have laws protecting our rights to do normal activities like ride the bus. This was a Canadian story and they have no rights protecting the rights of the persons with disabilities. That is a shame.

5:43PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

When my children were in a stroller, I would breakdown it down. In 1990, I had a 1yr old, newborn, stroller, two O2 tanks, diaper bag, and sometimes groceries. I learned how to break it down before the bus got to the stop. @ 1st is would take approx 1-2 min for us to get on the bus, but the timing got better. Now days, people that aren't disabled will tell people that I need the seat and you need to move. I refuse to move even after they say that everyone need to move since its for strollers. I usually ask if they're disabled, and if so, let me see their disability card. I then show them the sign that show the space is mainly for wheelchairs.

I had one person that wouldn't move for a wheelchair. There was a wheelchair in one spot, and I moved the stroller so the wheelchair could board and be in a designated spot.

6:12PM PDT on Oct 12, 2011

Since when did this evolve into an "us-or-them" argument?
Public transport is for all (or should be) and when one wishes to use it, it should be available to ALL.
There should be enough buses, trams, trains etc for all, at reasonable intervals so one wouldn't have to wait for hours or be delayed for work or other appointments.
And Mary D, I beg to differ. Sure, one doesn't need an SUV stroller, but a stroller is necessary for a mom out doing errands. I don't know where you live, but babysitting is not affordable by all and one can't carry the week's groceries plus a 22-pound one-year old and walk half an hour to get to the market and another half to get back. Just try it.

5:18PM PDT on Oct 9, 2011

I see the Militant Martyr Mommy Brigade has been out in force here. Yes, they're so much more oppressed than anybody else on the planet because they can't shove their massive strollers into people's knees or let their spawn (yeah, I said it, deal with it) run amok in public. Indoor voices, bedtime -- those are the Oppression of the Child Class.

The "children's rights" idiots are functionally indistinguishable from the parents who are inconsiderate by nature and who view their children as extensions of their egos.

6:29PM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

Take a walk, don't catch the bus. Be grateful you are able to walk when others aren't so fortunate. Thanks.

6:20PM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

When I was growing up back in the 1970's, there was no such thing as SUV strollers - children really do not need strollers, babies do, and unless a mother has a dozen kids she just gave birth to and they can't walk - maybe leave them at home with a babysitter instead of dragging them everywhere. And if the child can walk then there is no need at all for a stroller. Elayoubi is making it into an "It's all about me!" issue.

4:04PM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

I'm a mom of six. I thank God every day for the health of my children and for the strength of my arms and back. I am grateful for all of this, and you know what else that means? That I can hold my child or have my child stand on his own two feet so a disabled person can have a place on the bus for the half an hour or so it takes to get to where I'm going.

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