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.
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.
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.
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.