My recent experience visiting New York City in a wheelchair might help those planning a trip. New York City can be challenging for anyone, but especially for those who use a chair to get around. That’s not to say it can’t be done – advance research and planning can go a long way to creating a positive experience. Over my many years of traveling in a wheelchair, I can’t overstate the benefits of placing a few phone calls before you start your trip.
Last month, after being a part of the New York Abilities Expo
, I was fortunate enough to spend an extra day in the city – my second trip ever. My first was when I was in high school before I was paralyzed. I remember we walked so much that my feet were killing me and I fell asleep during the musical CATS on Broadway. It seems strange that I can remember when I could feel pain in my feet. I guess there are a few advantages to paralysis, right?
Hotel Accommodations in NYC for people with Disabilities
On this trip, I stayed at Lowe's Regency on Park Avenue (thanks to a deal from a family connection – super swanky!). I called ahead and ask for a wheelchair accessible room with a bathtub. I find that even if you check the accessible room online and put a comment in the notes about what you need, you still must call! The place was, of course, beautiful and the bathroom was large and comfortable enough to maneuver my wheelchair. The bathtub was a little too deep for me to get out of without some minimal assistance. If I had been traveling alone, I would have asked for another room or a tub bench – which hotels are required to provide when asked.
The hotel has a restaurant downstairs in the lobby called The Regency Bar and Grill. They have a lift behind the hostess stand that makes it accessible for wheelchair users. Which is nice because the restaurant around the corner left me out in the freezing rain while they decided if they felt like getting the ramp out to help me down the steps. Rude!
Getting Around NYC in a Wheelchair
Wherever you are in New York, getting around is the biggest issue. We took the subway a few times during my trip, which is an adventure. As a wheelchair user, I had to pay extra attention to which stations have elevators, as they usually don’t have one - only about one-forth of the 472 stations have them
. Thankfully, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to install 50 new elevators over the next five years. They also just hired Alex Elegudin, the MTA’s first accessibility chief. These improvements to New York’s transportation system are long overdue.
I found using accessible cabs and Ubers were the most efficient ways for me to move through the city. We didn't have any time to waste waiting on buses or trying to find a subway stop with an elevator. Jim Wiseman, the president of the United Spinal Association, fought for 30 years to get more accessible cabs in NYC and thanks to him they are much easier to find these days. Accessible cabs will assist you with a power chair or a manual wheelchair. Uber is not covered by the city’s accessibility requirements
for taxi cabs.
Visiting the Statue of Liberty in a Wheelchair
When arriving at the Statue of Liberty
ticket area (still on the island of Manhattan), wheelchair users are able to go through a special gate to avoid steps. It’s was a nice treat because it also enabled my group to skip most of the line of people waiting to purchase tickets – another tiny perk of being a wheelchair user!
Once we purchased tickets, there was a series of ramps that led us all the way to the ferry that would take us to Liberty Island. The crew on the ship was accommodating in assisting me up and down the steep ramp to board. Once we were on the boat, there were designated spaces for wheelchair users to line up along the window, with a grab bar to hold onto. I did try to use the bathroom on the boat since it was marked as accessible. But upon entering the bathroom, I realized the "accessible" stall had a wide door with grab bars but was not deep enough to get the chair all the way in and still shut the door. My wheelchair has a seat width of 14 inches, so it’s smaller than most. The stall was so small that the door was not even close to shutting. I don’t know about you, but I like a little privacy! Those of you wheelchair users reading this can relate to this situation. My recommendation is to use the bathroom before or after the ferry ride. It’s important to note that the bathrooms on Liberty Island are accessible.
Once we were on the island, most everything was accessible
and I was able to get all the way around. There was even a ramp up to the snack bar. They are working on a new $100 million freestanding Statue of Liberty Museum. The new museum
will be opening soon and is entirely wheelchair accessible.
If you have any questions or you would like to share your story about accessibility in New York City contact me at my social profiles or email me at LifePossibleKR@Numotion.com.