Disabled, and invisible, on the 39 bus

A far cry from an activist on the issue, I rarely speak of my disability. But I am compelled to do so after a recent experience on the number 39 bus. I have taken this bus walking, on crutches, on a knee walker, and in a wheelchair, and I have often been in awe of the disregard for others that people routinely exhibit.

Last week, entirely dependent on crutches, I stood on the bus for 25 minutes. All the while, seemingly able-bodied individuals sat in the four priority seats and surrounding seats without batting an eyelid. Perhaps I was invisible to them. It wouldn’t have been the first time I felt that way; nor will it be the last.

Boston is a great city, and there are some phenomenally compassionate people here. So, what gives? I don’t have the answer, but I know that we all need to do better. Being tolerant does not just mean giving up your seat if you are able. It means clearing a path so that people who need help can get to where they need to go. That way, we can all get on with our lives.


I was trying to get to Harvard Medical School so that I can finish up my last few months of study, become a physician, and work to improve the health and livelihoods of my future patients, as my physicians have repeatedly done for me. Wherever it is that you are going, I implore you to try to bring a little more empathy and compassion along for the ride.

Katherine Albutt

Jamaica Plain