Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reserved seating in Brazil

Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability. While the law has changed numerous arenas of everyday life including employment, schools, commercial facilities, the law has revolutionized public transportation. Wheelchair ramps, wheelchair tie-downs, seat belts, and slip resistant floors (which are also good for able-bodied persons) are just a few of the changes.

But is the ADA also the guiding document behind the reserved seating for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and pregnant women seating in the front of the bus? (I believe so but I'd be interested to hear from someone with the exact reference.) Certainly, these reserved seats are standard on public transportation across the US, from buses to rail.

While in Brazil, I noticed similar seating for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and pregnant women but with one variation. Accommodation was specifically included for obese persons. A Reuters article from August of 2010 discusses the increasingly worrisome problem of Brazilian's growing waistlines. Obviously, public transportation systems are responding to this crisis. From a very non data-driven perspective, although I did notice quite a few overweight persons while in Salvador, Rio, and Sao Paulo,I did not see one obese person.

Here's the Sao Paulo metro platform with a couple regular seats for regularly sized people and then a larger blue seat for obese persons. In fact, the sign above the blue seat specifically states that it is for people with a body mass above 40. (Normal range is about 18-25.) Well, how would you feel if you got to sit in that seat? I think you might feel labeled!

Just for comparison, here's the sign on the front of the bus from Salvador, Brazil, a coastal city in the northeast. I find it very interesting that obese people are listed first as being allowed to use seats at the front of the bus, even over women with small children or the elderly/persons with disabilities.

Including obese people as eligible for reserved seating was not standard across Brazil, however. Or even within the same metro system, for that matter. Below is the sign for inside the metro cars in the Sao Paulo metro. 

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. I'm doing research for a book set in Brazil, and I might just include this piece of "local color". Thanks for sharing!