10 Things for Wheelchair Users to Consider When Visiting The Big Apple

If you were to believe everything you saw in the movies, New York may seem like the last place a wheelchair user would ever want to visit. Busy, overcrowded streets with hundreds of thousands of people all rushing to be someplace does not sound ideal, but NYC is a modern city and, as such, generally wheelchair friendly.

However, there are still some pointers that will help you get the most out of your time there. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our top 10 tips for wheelchair users in the Big Apple:


1) Choosing Your Hotel

New York is notorious for its small hotel rooms, so be sure to contact your prospective hotel by phone prior to booking. Ask them about accessibility and what their rooms have to offer wheelchair users.


2) Taxis

New York’s iconic yellow taxis unfortunately vary in size internally, so there is no guarantee that the one you hail will be suitable for you. However, cabs on the streets of NYC are not allowed to turn down a wheelchair user so if you’re in a manual chair and can stow it, it could work. Most of the drivers are extremely helpful as well.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that special taxis for powered wheelchair users are available 24/7 from Accessible Dispatch and can be pre-booked if needed.


3) Public Transport

Public transportation is a possible option thanks to some stations having ramp and lift access, and the buses all have automatic ramps too. New York has recently taken strides to improve its infrastructure for wheelchair users, so you should be able to get around without any major difficulty using public transport, although it can be very busy at peak times. Also, if you’re taking the subway, make sure that both your starting point and your destination has a working elevator before you board the train. You don’t want to get stuck at your destination with no way to get above ground. It has happened to me before and wasn’t very fun…


4) The Streets

Many of New York’s streets now have dropped curbs, but some can still have higher ones that can prove difficult to navigate. Again, don’t believe the movies, New Yorkers are great people and there should be someone nearby to help out if you ever get stuck.


5) Attractions

New York’s main attractions have all gone the extra mile to accommodate wheelchair users. The Empire State Building has disabled restrooms as high as the 86th floor and the big department stores are all wheelchair friendly too. You can even take an accessible ferry to see the Statue of Liberty up-close if you wish.


6) Tours

There are a number of wheelchair accessible tours that will take you around NYC. From visits to Times Square to the Statue of Liberty; you can generally find a helpful tour guide to show you around.


7) Book A Greeter

Big Apple Greeter is a voluntarily run welcome service for visitors to the Big Apple, and the resident New Yorkers who offer their services are always delighted to help out wheelchair users visiting their city.


8) Book A Broadway Show

Theater is a huge part of the NYC experience. However, many of the venues are old and unfortunately do not accommodate wheelchair users extremely well. For most theaters though, you should be able to make it work and many will even offer discounted ticket prices for wheelchair users and a companion. Check out access information for Broadway theaters – including step-free access, restrooms and wheelchair spaces – and even interactive seating maps, include reviews and photos, on SeatPlan by clicking here.


9) Dining Out

One thing you are never short of in New York are restaurants. Booking a table should be a breeze unless you are heading to one of the swankier joints in town. However, it is always advisable to ask beforehand about accessibility as it can vary from excellent to non-existent! Be specific about your needs too, as you can find sometimes that things are not quite as they were described over the telephone.


10) Bring A Friend

While it is not entirely unfeasible for a wheelchair user to visit the Big Apple alone, it will be a whole lot easier if you do so with a friend.






  • Emma says:

    Great post! I’ve visited New York three times now and never had any major problems with accessibility. I love New York. I completely agree that New Yorkers are great people as we were approached several times by people asking if we needed a hand. It was great. We sometimes had problems finding accessible companion care restrooms, which was a problem for my boyfriend assisting me to the toilet. Great tips Cory 🙂

  • Karin says:

    I’ve been to NYC four times and agree with a lot of this. Wheelchair accessibility depends a lot on neighborhood. The Times Square area is very accessible, the East Village, not so much. It’s best to call first if you have a specific destination in mind, particularly restaurants. If you go in the summer, many restaurants have outdoor seating so even if there’s a step to get in, you can still eat there.

    Bathrooms can definitely be hard to find, but Starbucks and other newly renovated coffee shops are usually a good bet. They can be a good solution for people like you, Emma, as they have one unisex stall.

    I have given up on attempting the subway. Buses are very accessible. But mostly, I just use my van. I actually save money by staying in New Jersey and driving in, as long as I can find metered parking. The hotel rooms in Jersey are so much less that even if you get stuck paying a premium for parking a couple of times, such as in Times Square, you will save money overall.

    I am a Broadway junkie and had visited quite a few of the theaters. They all have accessible seating. Your location may vary, some are better than others. I highly recommend seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Belasco. They have the best wheelchair seating, hands down. It’s in the center of orchestra, about 10 rows back. You’re totally integrated with the rest of the audience instead of stuck in a separate section. Phantom of the Opera also has good wheelchair seating, it’s very near the front, though to one side.
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    • Cory Lee says:

      Thanks so much for the detailed answer, Karin! I’m a Broadway junkie as well, so it’s great to hear that Hedwig has ideal accessible seating. I haven’t seen that show yet, but would like to. I’ve also found that some theaters offer reduced pricing to wheelchair users if you call the box office. When I saw Rent and Spring Awakening, we got tickets extremely cheap (about a fourth of the regular ticket price). Do you know if this is the case at other Broadway shows?

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