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TTC now offering buttons to inform fellow riders of disability

Last Updated May 13, 2018 at 9:09 am EST

The TTC has launched a new initiative which is aimed at making it easier for people with disabilities to get a seat on a bus, streetcar or train.

Starting Tuesday, staff at TTC stations will provide a blue button that says “Please offer me a seat” to anyone in need.

They’re meant to be a quick way to indicate that a person needs a seat without having to disclose long-term conditions or invisible disabilities, like HIV, fibromyalgia and chronic pain.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross said although the buttons are meant for people with both visible and invisible accessibility needs, no proof is required to get one.

Activist Kate Welsh created the original Equity Buttons that inspired the idea.

Welsh has lived with chronic illness and episodic disability since childhood. She was inspired to create the buttons when a friend expressed her frustration with riding the TTC as a young woman who appeared to be able-bodied, but suffered from episodic disability, which is often invisible.

She says while she’s glad her advocacy led to the initiative, neither she nor other disabilities advocates were consulted before the TTC launched their buttons.

“My thought initially was ‘wow this is so amazing, my activism has worked and become institutionalized’,” she says. “Also (I felt) a bit of frustration because I wasn’t acknowledged.”

“It’s a trend that people with disabilities do the activism and it gets taken … and people with disabilities don’t get credit.

Shortly after his original tweet, Ross acknowledged the role of Welsh’s advocacy on the issue, after several Twitter users pointed out the omission.

Accessibility advocate and former Lieutenant Governor David Onley says the initiative is a positive step.

“Torontonians and Canadians, we like to apologize for everything,” he says. “(But) people find it hard to ask point blank ‘could I have a seat, I’ve got a bad back or I’ve got arthritis.'”

However he adds the idea needs to be properly presented and explained to the public in order to prevent confusion and misuse.

“If anybody can just say ‘I want one’, or they make one that looks just like it, then there would be potential for misuse,” he says

“This is not necessarily for people with disabilities, it’s just a courtesy button,” he says. “I think they’d have to have a real promotional campaign to make it clear what it’s all about, otherwise it could be confusing.”