Written by Debs; part of the Tripility team.
If you are looking for an accessible city destination, New York is definitely the place. Having experienced this city as a wheelchair user, I found it to be incredibly easy to get around. The people I came into contact with were very friendly and helpful, if anyone saw you struggling to navigate a non-automatic door (although this was quite a rare find), they would stop what they were doing in order to help you. Buildings had lifts and automatic doors, even old buildings were made accessible, often by connecting through to the building next to it and using their lifts. Attractions were made easy by staff being on hand to navigate any small steps, or provide access on and off boat tours and there is no need to think about queuing. Every attraction I approached, I was encouraged to the front of the queue to avoid any hanging around, or having to navigate through any difficult barriers. Below is a mini guide to the attractions I visited and an outline of services that can be accessed as a disabled person in New York City. More information about the services can be gained through NYC Go website: http://www.nycgo.com/accessibility
- Big Apple Greeter tel: 212-669-8198 : this is a volunteer program
that connects visitors with Greeters in order to help you find your way around the city. Many of the Greeters have special interests such as Sign Language skills.
- Scootaround Tel: 1-888-441-7575: A wheelchair and scooter rental business that offers a delivery and pick-up service from wherever you are in the city.
- Accessible Dispatch: This program allows users to order an accessible taxi from wherever you may be in the city, no advance booking necessary.
- Call the dispatcher directly at 646-599-9999
• Call 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (212-639-9675)
• Use the WOW Taxi smartphone app (available free through iTunes orGoogle Play)
• Send a text message to 646-400-0789
• Book online at accessibledispatch.org
- Vega Transportation tel: 718-507-0500: Wheelchair customised vehicles which such things as wheelchair lifts, high top roofs and doors, special suspension and wheelchair locks.
- Broadway Accessibility Initiative tel: 212-730-4750: This service offers people with disabilities the chance to enjoy Broadway shows with services such as I-Caption for people who are deaf and hard of hearing; D-Scriptive for blind and low vision theatre goers and ShowTrans for non-English speaking audience members.
My city break:
- Train to London Kings Cross
- Walk from Kings Cross to Euston
- Euston to Heathrow on the underground
- Heathrow to Newark airport with Virgin Atlantic
Hotel: Hotel Pennsylvania
401 7th Avenue, Ny 10001
Check out our review of this hotel here:
- Empire State Building: Gaining access to the Empire State Building in a wheelchair is very easy. We went at 8.30am and there wasn’t much of a queue, however, it wouldn’t have been an issue even if there was. When we were seen, we were ushered straight to the lifts, it was then made sure that they didn’t pile loads of people in the lift with us enabling me to turn the wheelchair if necessary. When out of the lifts, it’s time to navigate security, very much like at an airport. Again, this wasn’t a problem, we were taken straight to the front meaning we didn’t have to snake in and out of the cordoned off areas. Once through security, it was another set of lifts, the same happened this time, we were sped to the front! When you reach the top, there are plenty of lowered viewing points to make life easy (and the cost of visiting worthwhile)! The only downside, which is to be expected, is that it is quite difficult to navigate around the viewing deck due to the sheer volume of people. Getting down in the lifts was just as easy as we were made a priority again.
- Rockefeller Center: Firstly, I would highly recommend visiting this at night, it is a stunning view and gives a whole different perspective on an evening. From an access point of view it was much the same as the Empire State Building. The only different thing was that when we first entered the building, we were a bit confused where we had to go, wheelchair users are directed to use a lift in the entrance to make life easier for them, but this wasn’t clear to us initially. From then on things were very easy, we were made a priority for the lifts and again we were not crammed in with too many people, the floor surfaces were tiled making it very easy to get around in a wheelchair and all doors are either automatic, or someone is there to help you. The only part we had to queue for was when we went for our copy of the iconic Rockefeller picture, if you didn’t want to do this, you wouldn’t have to queue! Once at the top, there are lowered viewing points and ramps to get in and out of the buildings, when we went, it wasn’t very busy which made it even easier to get around.
- Liberty Island and Ellis Island: Just before the end of our trip we made our way to the port to catch the boat to visit both of these islands; we caught a taxi from outside our hotel to the port. This was the one and only time we had to queue for our entire visit; however, it was only when we went to buy our tickets. The queue for the tickets are round a a brick building, it may be the case that if someone had spotted us we wouldn’t have had to queue. We felt we had been pretty lucky all week with queue jumping so we were happy to wait! The barriers made it quite narrow but we didn’t have a problem navigating the wheelchair around. Once we had bought our tickets, there is a second (very long queue) for the boat. Next to the top of the queue there is a little gate with a wheelchair sign on, we felt sure where that was where we were supposed to wait but as it was at the front of the queue we were a little nervous! Don’t be! This is exactly where you should queue if you have a wheelchair, so go for it! Access onto the boat wasn’t easy, there was a steep ramp and then a bit of a step, as we approached this, my friend Kate and I felt a bit concerned about how we were going to manage. Kate is pretty strong but I didn’t fancy my chances at making it down the ramp/step alive. We needn’t have worried though, there are people there to assist, in fact they lift you and the wheelchair onto the boat without and trouble….I felt as light as a feather…! From there on, it was plain sailing (pardon the pun), each time we had to get on or off the boat we were assisted. In order to make this easier, wheelchair users are placed on the boat first, so again, no queuing. Both Liberty Island and Ellis Island are very accessible, we didn’t go up the lift in the statue as that option wasn’t available on the day we went, but I believe you can almost reach the top using the lifts.
- Times Square and Broadway: On our first day, we decided to join the masses in Times Square and get some tickets for Broadway. We didn’t know too much about how it all worked but we knew that there was a ticket office for on the day tickets. This is very central in Times Square and very well advertised. When we arrived, we were moved straight to the front again, once inside the ticket office we were asked all about my access needs and were given our options for the evening. The people working in the office were very accommodating and helped us to get the easiest seat for my needs. At the theatre itself, access was very easy. Staff were on hand to assist us to our seat, they then took the wheelchair to store and brought it back when I needed it. If an alternative door needs to be used to access the theatre, there are plenty of theatre staff there to sort this out. Times Square itself is what you would expect from a very busy part of the city, most of the shops are easy to gain entry to, but the vast amount of people around does make it difficult to maneuver!
- Central Park: There are many aspects to this part of New York. We decided to take a horse and carriage ride through the park from near Trump Towers. This was very easy with a wheelchair, I was helped on, then the chair was folded up and placed in the carriage with us. Once in the park, it is all tarmacked so easy to get around with a wheelchair. As you would expect, some parts are more hilly then others, but nothing caused us a great issue and it was well worth a visit.
Overall, New York amazed me in terms of access. I have never experienced anywhere like it and they are to be praised for the efforts they have made to make things accessible. It is a big city so it should be easy to get around with a wheelchair, but many other big tourist cities still haven’t come this far. We rarely used public transport, instead Kate pushed me in the wheelchair around the city. This is very much doable, but equally exhausting for the person pushing!