by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW
Earlier this month, a college student with a disability was brutally attacked while riding the MBTA train in Boston, Massachusetts. The student, whose name has not been release to the public, was 21 years old, and living with cerebral palsy. The student was verbally and physically assaulted by a 63 years old man named Thomas Kennedy. Kennedy, reportedly ranked of alcohol, sat next to the student on the train, and began hurling ethnic and homophobic insults, then progressed to punching and kicking the student.
The student was taken to Boston Medical Center for treatment from the injuries he sustained from the violent attack. The police was able to identify Kennedy as the attacker by using the surveillance cameras that were located inside Downtown Crossing. At the time of this article, Kennedy was later arrested on the day of the attack, and charged.
This story caught my attention because the use of public transportation, whether it is subways/trains, buses, cabs, etc., is something that people with disabilities rely heavily on, especially if you live in a city like Boston. No one should fear being physically or verbally violated from riding the train or bus; everyone has the right to utilize public transportation without being harassed or victimized because of their disability status, or other social identifiers.
Discrimination and assaults of people with disabilities when it comes to public transportation is not uncommon. There are several stories of bus drivers refusing to assist wheelchair users by unloading the elevator lifts so that they can board the bus, bus drivers not stopping to pick up wheelchair users, and bus and train stops being inaccessible for those with disabilities. All of these incidences violate the federal rights of people with disabilities to utilize services that are for public use.
My experiences with public transportation has been pleasant; however, I know that is not the case for some of you, whether disabled or not. If you have been discriminated against and/or victimized while using public transportation, share your experiences with me. Where the perpetrator(s) arrested? Was disciplinary action taken against public transit employee(s) who refused to serve you because you were disabled? In order to make public transportation truly accessible and safe for all, we have to report these incidents and the individuals behind such acts.
(Featured headlining image: Courtesy of Enable Magazine.)