Approaching New York On Two Wheels
One of the chief worries that disabled people have, before heading on their travels, is how wheel-chair friendly their final destination will be.
When travelling to less developed countries, wheelchair users can run into serious accessibility problems.
These worries aren’t completely unfounded, some of the major tourist destinations in the world are still nigh on impossible for wheel-chair users to enjoy. Take Egypt, for example, is home to arguably some of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world, however wheel-chair bound users (who do not have the mobility needed to transfer from chair to seat easily) can be stuck with hiring bespoke vans that can set the hapless tourist back up to $1,000 a day to hire.
In a country, with a population of 82 million people, we can only feel sorry for the disabled population that lives in Egypt. There are other destinations, however, that have put a lot of investment and thought into making the lives of resident wheel-chair users (as well as visiting) a great deal easier. Chief of these, in my humble opinion, is my home city: New York.
The city that never sleeps has only changed imperceptibly (on the surface at the least) over the three decades that I’ve been living here. Our Subway system is affordable, dirty and efficient. Although it has been criticised for not featuring the same accessibility that is boasted in other major cities, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, there are still plenty of stops accessible via lifts and ramps. Where the Subway system fails, the people of New York will always be on hand to help you out, should you need it.
New York was once considered an unfriendly place at one time; the financially fruitful days of the 90s made the city a playground for entitled ‘yuppies’ with six-figure salaries but economically unviable for anyone else. You would think that all of the stresses of the Financial Crashes that have rocked the city over the decades, starting with the Wall Street Crash in 1929, would have left the recumbent population of New York somewhat belligerent. However, the opposite is in fact true. Any New Yorker worth their salt will bend over backwards to help out a visitor in trouble. There are even more bonuses in store for visitors who are using wheelchairs.
It has been the norm now, throughout the United States from Airport Security to Disney World rides, for wheelchair users to skip to the front of the queue. Although this is simply seen as a courtesy now for the majority of the American population, you can’t underestimate the impact that this policy has had on cultural norms. Whereas some countries are still struggling to provide standardised access to basic amenities for disabled people, here in America we look to aid and assist those people as much as possible.
If you don’t fancy taking yourself around the city on the subway system then you can always hail one of the 13,000 or so yellow taxis that are constantly circling the city and its surrounding areas. These cabs are required by law to pick up those with disabilities and are mostly suitable for those who are comfortable transitioning easily from chair to car. For those that prefer to stay in the chair, there’s the alternative option of ordering a cab ahead of schedule directly from the dispatch centre. By calling 311, texting (001 646 400 0789) or using the free ‘Wheels on Wheels‘ app, wheel chair users can order a cab straight to their location, Uber-style.
In short, there’s never been a better time to be a wheel-chair user on vacation in New York. If you’d like more information or need some advice on what’s good to do, feel free to drop me a message!