I’m blind. I usually use a guide dog, but also use a long white cane when I’m between dogs or the dog can’t work for some reason. I currently live in New York, but these episodes go back decades to other places I’ve lived, so I tried to specify where they took place.
When cell phones were still unusual, a man came up next to me (with a long white cane) on a DC Metro platform. He was talking on his phone, and he started holding my arm, without talking to me, but continued his phone conversation. I sidestepped away from him. The train pulled in and he ended his conversation and yelled at me about how he’d been helping me.
I was walking with my guide dog down stairs onto an NYC subway platform and someone took hold of my arm. I startled and asked what he was doing while I pulled away. The answer was that he was helping me. We continued in opposite directions.
I boarded an NYC subway and held onto a horizontal pole that was higher than my head. A woman grabbed me by the armpit. When I startled, she yelled at me about how crazy I was.
I boarded an NYC subway with my guide dog and was backing toward an empty seat when someone grabbed me from behind by both hips and tried to pull me down into the seat (or into his lap? Or what?). We ran the other way.
A JetBlue employee was supposed to be helping me to my gate at JFK airport. Rather than giving me verbal directions, she grabbed my guide dog’s harness handle and twisted it, in an attempt to change the dog’s direction. She could have really hurt the dog. I dropped the handle, found her hand, and removed it. In spite of this, when I filed complaints they argued with me about the sequence of things that happened.
I was waiting to cross a street in Queens, New York with my guide dog when a guy came up from behind my right side and started pushing me by my right arm. I stood still and raised the arm so he would lose his grip and pass by. He said nothing until he was mad I didn’t accept him pushing me out into the street.
People have tried to grab my metro card (which we use to pay for the NYC subway) when they saw my guide dog and that my first swipe didn’t work. They are always angry when I don’t let them have it, even though I don’t know them and they don’t speak first.
While sitting on the DC Metro with my guide dog, a woman standing in front of me knocked on my head (?!) to get my attention to ask me a question about the dog.
People often grab at me when I’m getting on and off trains. They often get angry when I take my body parts back from them and stay still until they stop trying to push or drag. Recently, someone pushed me by the small of my back with both hands.
I was using a long white cane and exiting a DC Metro station. The exit fence was partially closed. A guy came up behind me and grabbed both of my shoulders. I was very startled and he angrily told me he was helping me. I explained that the cane is a tool to detect obstacles like the partially closed fence. He was only interested in his own actions and how helpful they were.
A woman tried to grab my hand off an NYC subway pole and drag me toward a seat with no words or consent. She got very angry and lectured the whole subway car when I told her grabbing wasn’t okay.
Yesterday I was boarding a plane in Raleigh, NC, and the flight attendant’s hands were all over my shoulders and back. This was without permission, and when I asked her not to, she said she thought I was going to fall. I told her I was not inherently always about to fall. It’s really when focusing on navigating a small space quickly with a guide dog—these hands that are on me without my consent. At the end of the flight, as I got my bag out of the overhead, her hand was on the small of my back. It was just staying there. When I said please don’t, she said she wasn’t thinking about it, and her coworker said she was helping me. I said no, and asked them not to touch people without their consent.
Flying is really horrible!
I’ve been adding on to this document for weeks as more of them come to mind. Hopefully this is all.
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex