This is another attempt to post more about my everyday life.
Since abruptly becoming physically disabled around four years ago, I have developed a keen awareness of the way strangers react to my disability. In the case of the taxi drivers I rely on to ferry me around a logistically challenging city, I find that they fall quite neatly into five categories.
Type I—The Overcarer
The overcarer is especially eager to help but tends only to hinder by being excessively supportive. This kind of individual earnestly leaps to provide unbidden assistance and will unthinkingly patronize you by taking your arm and leading you like a small child or a geriatric and even offer to do your shopping for you while you sit in the car, heedless of the fact that you might enjoy the freedom of doing it yourself, despite the challenge. At best they are just bunglers (I place myself I am somewhat ashamed to admit in this particular subcategory); at worse they become angry if you decline their special attention and may even switch to the deliberately unhelpful Type V thereafter. In my experience, approximately 20% of taxi-drivers in Recife fall into this category.
Type II—The Goldilocks Helper
This is the best type. They only lend a hand when it is requested or obviously needed and do so usefully, competently and with as little direct intervention as possible. God bless the 30% of Recife taxi-drivers who fall into this welcome category.
Type III—Couldn’t Care Less
Some taxi-drivers seem so lost in a world of their own or uninterested in their passenger that they remain blithely unaware that you have a disability or are in need of assistance. If they do notice and decide to do something about it, they are more likely to switch to Type I than Type II. Around 15%, say, behave like this.
Type IV—The Grudging Helper
This kind of helper will provide assistance and usually in a Type II-type way. However they do so with a hostile muttering, grimace or body language that clearly communicates that they find this a nuisance and makes the recipient of their assistance feel bad. Again about 15% fall into this category.
Type V—The Psychopath
The saddest insight into human nature that disability has brought me is that a good one fifth of taxi drivers are either completely unwilling to offer help to a passenger with special needs or may even actively behave in such a way as to make life more difficult. Such a psychopathic driver will, for instance, deliberately park as far as possible from the entrance to a destination when there are clearly more convenient spaces available or pointedly refuse to help a passenger on crutches by opening the car door for them to get in, even when the passenger has already made several unsuccessful attempts. Such behavior may be accompanied by a grimace, a stony face, or, in the worst cases, a sadistic little grin.
The downside of this admittedly not very scientific survey is that it suggests that a significant minority of taxi drivers are unlikely to change their unhelpful or disruptive behavior even with extensive public information campaigns. The good news is that a majority could, under the right circumstances, be educated to show more respect for public transport users with special needs.