People tend to think of disability in terms of only things they can see or verify for themselves.
If you need a wheelchair or a cane, you are disabled.
If you don’t, you aren’t.
“Invisible” disabilities – so called because you can’t tell someone is afflicted by looking at them – really mess with this preconception.
So, what happens when you judge someone based on their appearance, find out you were wrong, and press on anyway?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Asshole-aficionado when he came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for asking someone with an invisible disability to move seats?”
OP dove directly into the situation at hand.
“Myself (28 Male) and my partner (31 Female) were recently riding the underground.”
“My partner is 8 months pregnant and looks heavily pregnant too, no one could mistake her for being any different.”
“She’s not particularly mobile either now and we’ve taken to riding the underground more, even for shorter journeys just to allow her to rest more frequently when we are out and about.”
“We jumped on the Circle Line today and it was a particularly busy service during the rush hour with people packed in tightly and standing throughout the aisle.”
“On trips like this I would look for one of the nearby priority seats reserved near the doors and would ask someone to vacate it to allow my partner to sit down.”
“On all occasions up until now we have never had a problem, those who were sat in the seats could see my partner would struggle to stand on a busy train and will give up the seat without hesitation.”
“On this particular day, one of the seats is occupied by an elderly gentleman with a walking stick (probably mid-80s) and one by a younger man (probably mid-20s).”
He explained his logic,
“I make what I think is my best judgment call and ask the younger man if he would give up the seat for my partner.”
“He replies that he has autism and that his disability allows him to use a priority seat too.”
I do understand that people have less visible disabilities and that under normal circumstances, he should be allowed to use the priority seat.”
“However, I also felt that despite this, it wasn’t a physical impairment and he was more capable of standing than my partner who had been stood up for a long time and really needed to rest at this point.”
“When I tried to explain this to him, he became very defensive and called me an a**hole for not appreciating his needs too.”
“Eventually, others began to overhear what was being said and someone else voluntarily offered up a ‘normal’ seat.”
“But the experience left me wondering if I was an a**hole for insisting this person needed a priority seat less than my girlfriend.”
OP was left to wonder,
“So, am I an a**hole for asking someone with an invisible/non-physical disability to vacate a priority seat for my heavily pregnant partner?”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
AITA/WIBTA voting acronyms
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: YTA
Some gave specific reasons for their ruling.
“You should have left it alone after that young man said he was disabled and needed the seat.”
“Autism can be comorbid (occur together with) sensory, anxiety, and/or motor function issues that might make it difficult or overwhelming to be in crowded spaces or stand in a moving vehicle.”
“It’s very possible that this young man might have had trouble standing up on a moving train, that he could be easily overwhelmed and suffer panic attacks from unwanted physical contact and crowded conditions, or both.”
“Not everyone with autism spectrum disorder has these issues but a lot of people do and yeah, if they do, they need a seat on the bus or the train.”
“Next time just do what I did when I was pregnant: move on to people in the regular seats and ask if they will let your girlfriend sit down.”
“EDIT: for tone and clarity”
“EDIT 2: thanks for the award!” ~ HanaBothWays
“Yeah, I agree.”
“OP is not an a**hole for asking the first time, but for insisting after being told ‘no’ and when there were plenty of other people he could ask.”
“Beyond all the great points you mentioned, this is also a useless confrontation to have in public.” ~ SandwichOtter
“‘When I tried to explain this to him'”
“Not for asking. For this ^^^”
Some felt that OP was mocking the autistic man.
“The fact that the passenger was autistic makes this even worse.”
“Even if OP didn’t intend it this way, it likely came off as ‘well, since you don’t understand this incredibly visibly pregnant person is pregnant, lemme tell you about it.””
“If she had also had an invisible disability, it would be one thing for OP to explain why she needs the seat.”
“But…OP makes the point the pregnancy was obvious.”
“Did they think this guy didn’t understand that” ~ Elaan21
“Clearly the only thing that would ever prevent someone from wholeheartedly agreeing with OP and immediately giving in to his demands is being so cartoonishly stupid that you need a condescending explanation of what is right in front of you /s” ~ TrustMeGuysImRight
There were also personal stories.
“Asking was fine. Arguing makes you the a**hole.”
“Unless you are that specific person’s care provider and are 100% certain of their limitations, your opinion/observations mean sh*t.”
“I have an invisible disability, and people like you are the bane of my existence.”
“If your partner is that tired and unwell, get a cab, wait for a less busy train, whatever” ~
“Same here, and I’ve literally had a pregnant woman try to shove me over after I told her I was disabled and push into the seat next to me when I was sitting in the handicapped area of the bus with a back injury that meant I couldn’t twist.”
“When I got upset she told me my wrist brace (the visible disability) didn’t mean I needed a seat and then she tried to tell me her back hurt worse than mine, so I could just stand.”
“Eventually someone else gave me their seat and from just the twisting I had a hard time getting up, and then I got called a drama queen and told my guilt trip wasn’t going to work.”
“I ended up flat on my back in extreme pain for the following 3 days.”
“Invisible disabilities are still disabilities, and OP is an AH for trying to argue with someone about it.”
“YTA, op. You could have avoided being called that but you had to go and argue.” ~ gonechasing
“For years, my SO and I didn’t know he was suffering from a broken back (which essentially collapsed one of his vertebrae).”
“And we couldn’t afford to see a doctor, so he was just living in absolute agony while appearing to be an able-bodied young man.”
“He felt ashamed and would always give up his seat because he was afraid of someone starting a fight with him over it.”
“There were times he came home from taking the subway and the muscles over his whole torso would be spasming so hard it was visible through his clothes.” ~ ZugTheMegasaurus
Commenters might’ve handled things differently.
“In fact, even if the guy had just said, ‘no, I’m not giving up my seat,’ OP would still be the AH for arguing.”
“The correct response is to just say, ‘okay,’ and then in a loud voice to the rest of the bus say, ‘Is there anyone willing to give up their seat for my wife? She’s pregnant and needs to sit down.”‘
“If there’s still no one willing to give up their seat, then people suck and you wait for the next one.”
“To the people arguing that might not be fair, what do you think happens when too many ppl try to get on public transit with strollers?”
“Been there, done that, had to wait for the next bus.”
“Lots of people need assistance on transit and there often isn’t enough room for everyone.”
“Sometimes you have to wait.”
“Do people take advantage? Sure, but we lose nothing by assuming that isn’t the case.” ~ cpt_kaddywhak
Some felt this was more an education problem.
“We really need more education on invisible disabilities, it gets so annoying especially if you look young it’s like people cannot compute that illnesses happen at any age.”
“I remember once it even happened with a cop, I have a parking permit and my mom drove me to the shopping centre and we parked in one of the disabled spots (I’m in my 20s).”
“We parked at the same time as an elderly couple who also used a disabled spot… the cop only checked on one of our cars. 😒” ~ sleepyplatipus
Never assume that someone is as able-bodied as you are simply by looks.
Always, in every instance, try to practice kindness and patience.