The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has launched a pilot program designed to encourage customers to offer pregnant, disabled, and senior riders a seat. The program is modeled after a program that has been used in London. It will be the first program of its kind in the United States.
MTA already provides disabled customers with “priority seating” on busses and trains. While riders are required to relinquish seats in those areas under federal regulations and MTA rules of conduct, new courtesy buttons can help riders better identify which customers need seats. The campaign also encourages customers, as a matter of courtesy, to give up any seat – not just those in reserved “priority” areas – to customers wearing an MTA-issued button.
Customers who are pregnant can ask the MTA for a “Baby on Board” button to wear, or they can ask for a “Please Offer Me a Seat” courtesy button. The “Please Offer Me a Seat” courtesy button can also be worn by customers who have disabilities and seniors who choose to wear them. No one is required to obtain an MTA button if they do not want to.
Anyone with a disability (whether temporary or permanent) affecting their need for seating may request one button by filling out a specific form. Buttons will be mailed to the person in approximately three weeks. There is no fee, and no documentation is required. This is a pilot program that began on Mother’s Day of 2017, and will run through Labor Day of 2017.
It is modeled from a program created by Transport for London for the London Tube (which began in 2005 and is ongoing). The London program distributes approximately 130,000 of the badges distributed every year. Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton brought international attention to the program in 2013 when she wore a “Baby on Board” button. The program was followed by a pilot program for disabled customers.
MTA Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim said: “Pregnant riders, seniors, and those with disabilities often need seats more than others but their condition may not always be visible. We hope this campaign will help their fellow riders to be more willing to offer them a seat without having to ask a personal question first.”
Health advocates for transportation and disability praised the initiative as a positive way to help disabled riders and spread awareness that not all physical conditions are clearly visible. The MTA is intending to make more of their system ADA-compliant by adding elevators at stations and focusing on ways they can improve their existing elevators.
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