New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) launched a new awareness campaign to encourage customers to move their feet and offer a seat for pregnant riders, seniors, and those with a disability who are seeking seats.

The pilot program, which began on Mother’s Day and runs through Labor Day, will examine ways to encourage courtesy by helping riders easily identify fellow customers with specialized needs who need a seat.

MTA already provides disabled customers “priority seating” on buses and trains; while riders are required to relinquish seats in those areas under federal regulations and MTA rules of conduct, the new courtesy buttons can help riders better identify which customers need seats. The campaign also encourages customers, as a matter of courtesy, to give up any seat — not just those in reserved “priority” areas — to customers wearing an MTA-issued button.

Customers who are pregnant can choose from a “Baby on Board” button or a “Please Offer Me a Seat” courtesy button, which can also be worn by customers who have disabilities and seniors who choose to wear them.

The MTA will distribute buttons to all users of our system and the initiative will be integrated into its existing courtesy campaigns via transit system advertisements and social media.

“Pregnant riders, seniors and those with disabilities often need seats more than others but their condition may not always be visible,” said MTA Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim. "We hope this campaign will help their fellow riders to be more willing to offer them a seat without having to ask a personal question first.”

Health officials and advocates for transportation and disability praised the initiative as a positive way to help disabled riders and spread awareness that not all physical conditions are clearly visible.

“A little courtesy goes a long way. Providing a seat to a special needs user, without having an awkward conversation, can make a big difference with a small gesture,” Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and MTA board Member said of the initiative. “I’m glad the MTA is launching this pilot campaign to remind its customers of priority seating while also explicitly including pregnant women and older adults to the group of special needs transit users."

Transport for London has had a similar program for the London Tube since 2005, with approximately 130,000 of the badges distributed every year. It started with a “Baby on Board” pilot, which was later followed by a pilot for disabled customers. Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton brought international attention to the program when she wore an official “Baby on Board” button in 2013.

The awareness button pilot is considered to be the first of its kind in the U.S. and marks the first time MTA is using buttons as part of a courtesy campaign.

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