We looked out and saw that it was raining so hard that the puddles danced in celebration. We like walking home, up Yonge Street, from the movie theatre, but the decision was made for us when we watched people come into the lobby completely soaked. We'd take the subway home. This was more daunting a decision than you might imagine. During peak hours, or during poor weather, it's really hard to find space on the train for a wheelchair, particularly one as big as mine.
The platform was completely packed, even so we made our way to where the very front of the train would come to a stop. For some reason it's always less crowded here, and for us it made sense because at our stop, the elevator up would be right outside those doors. We waited and waited and the space around us become more and more filled with waiting passengers.
When the train came, the front carriage was nearly empty, but there were a bunch of young teens who were leaning against either side of the door. They were either talking or using electronic devices. Those on two feet hopped ahead of me into the train, Joe was on, but I realised that it was too dangerous to get my speed up to get in with the space made narrow by legs in baggy jeans.
I managed to catch one young fellows eye and he immediately saw the problem. He batted the friend next to him and the one across from him and, at the signal, they scattered, leaving plenty of room. Once on, the disabled seating was taken by three children whose mother, when she saw me, shooed them off the seats so that I could pull into that place. I did, thanking her for making the space free.
It's a short ride, of only three stops, but during that time I thought about how nice it was to simply have people notice AND THEN RESPOND. I didn't have to say a word, other than 'thank you' which I did several times, first to the youths and then to mom and kids, to get what was necessary.
It wasn't about the space, it was about how the space was used, how the space was allocated. I feel oddly, quite valued, if I'm just given space. Those kids and that mom probably thought that they were doing nothing more than what's right. But, really, their behaviour communicated that they saw me as having equal right to access and equal right to space.
They may not have thought that they had made a statement about the rights of people with disabilities to share and use public space, but they did.
They may not know that they demonstrated themselves as 'allies' to access - but they were.
And maybe the fact that they did it without thinking about what it means, makes it an even more powerful political statement.