Tagged with: accessibility assistive technology disability wheelchair
Times Square! Broadway! Bright lights! Rockefeller Center! Empire State Building! 9-11! When I think of big, bold, brave, and, well, the greatest city on Earth, my mind stops at New York. My family and I visited between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, one of the busiest times of the year in the city. We stayed Dec. 26-28 in the SOHO neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. We visited toy stores, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Station, the subway, 9-11 Memorial, Wall Street, and the Statue of Liberty. My biggest concern about the entire trip was accessibility. For this trip I rented a mobility scooter from Big Apple Mobility, who delivered the 4-wheeled device to my hotel and picked it up when I was finished. I saw the world from an entirely new perspective—on wheels. And I learned a lot.
Following are my tips for accessibility in New York City as a first-time traveler using wheels:
1. Plan ahead
We stayed in Lower Manhattan, but when we do it again, we will stay closer to Midtown where most of our sites were located. Not all subway stations are wheelchair accessible although maps can be found online that mark stations with elevator access. The only way to get through the accessible gate is with an accessible metro card, which must be purchased weeks in advance through an approval process because it is a discounted rate. Or get a friend to push it open from the other side.
2. Be considerate
With a mobility device, accessibility in New York is excellent at street level. My experiences made me feel invincible in the city, moving street to street and moving long distances if we needed. I ran into just three street corners without curb cuts during our three days in the city. At times, I was prepared to drive my mobility device across town; the battery power never showed signs of slowing. But my family couldn’t walk that. Be considerate.
3. Speak up
Several times, our group ran into situations when accessibility was available but not exactly easy. For example, at Rockefeller Center when we went to the Top of the Rock, few facility employees knew how to point us to elevators to send us out to street level. I had to be vocal with others in the building, explaining my need for an elevator. Bottom line, New York isn’t for the quiet person. And it isn’t for the quiet person with limited accessibility.
My wife and I became extremely frustrated during the mornings when the two of us (and our 6-year-old) struggled getting from our hotel to Midtown to meet our friends who were familiar with the city. Once we met them, however, things became much easier. At times it was due to their familiarity with the city. At other times it was due to us having more heads thinking about the possibilities of navigation. Things just became easier with more people involved, especially if they were more familiar with the city.
5. Quality over quantity
Next time, we plan to pick our favorite sites and spend more time there to educate ourselves. Instead of spending two hours in Central Park, we’ll spend a full day. Instead of walking through Times Square, we’ll catch a show, eat there, and spend a day exploring all the shops. Instead of looking at the Statue of Liberty, we’ll wait in line and head over to the island. Quality over quantity.
What are your favorite travel places? Any recommendations on accessibility when traveling in big cities?