New York City is known as the city that never sleeps with frantically crowded streets just like in the movies. This may have you wondering how wheelchair accessible the city really is. Thankfully it is very good. Here are 7 top tips for wheelchair users visiting New York City, which will help make your trip easier:
1// Finding a hotel
New York hotel rooms are known for being quite small, but don’t let that put you off booking a trip to this amazing city. They are not all like this and you’ll definitely find one that is suitable. Our accessible room at The New Yorker (A Wyndham Hotel) was large with a decent sized bathroom and there was plenty of space for turning my wheelchair. We also stayed at The Ameritania at Times Square, which also had a spacious bathroom. It’s important to speak to the hotel before booking to confirm accessibility and ask questions. Follow these tips for booking the best wheelchair accessible hotels.
2// Plan your journeys
You’ll want to plan your journey in advance to and from the airport. This will ensure things go a lot smoother, quicker and hassle-free. For our first trip to New York, we arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey where we got the AirTrain. The AirTrain is wheelchair accessible and took us to the NJ Transit/Amtrak station where we bought tickets for NYC Penn Station. The conductor was so helpful giving us directions and remembering to come back to assist us off the train by stopping the crowds and putting a ramp down for my wheelchair. For our second and third trips to NYC, we pre-booked transfers with Super Shuttle, which was also wheelchair accessible.
3// Public transportation
New York City is a big place and depending on the circumstances and your mobility, public transportation is a big factor to consider. Not all subway stations are accessible so it’s important to plan your journey by ensuring each station from start to the end destination are accessible and have working lifts on the day you are planning on using the subway.
If the subway doesn’t work out for you, don’t worry because all New York City buses are wheelchair accessible. They are fitted with ramps/lifts that the driver will deploy for you. You must make sure you are positioned so the bus driver can see you. Once on the bus, the driver will secure your wheelchair for safety and ask what stop you want off at. I found the buses a great way to get around the city if we were going from Midtown to Downtown and vice-versa. It saves wheelchair battery power and gets you out the cold for a little while too if you go in the colder months. For more info on subways and buses click here.
New York City is known for its famous yellow cabs, but unfortunately, they’re not all wheelchair accessible. If you have a manual wheelchair and able to come out of it, you’ll manage to ride the regular yellow cabs as the drivers are not allowed to refuse wheelchair users. However, there are currently 233 wheelchair accessible taxicabs throughout the city and they can be requested from Accessible Dispatch by either calling, texting, booking online or by using the mobile app. We asked our hotel to book an accessible taxicab to take us to Brooklyn so we could explore the area and walk back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.
4// Accessible toilets
One problem we kept coming across in New York was the lack of good accessible toilets. If your travel companion is of the opposite sex and helps you to the toilet you may find yourselves both having to go into either the male or female toilets. Many times my boyfriend had to help me in the female toilets, which attracted quite a few confused and uncomfortable looks from the other women. There are family/companion care restrooms that are a good size and completely separate from male and female toilets. They are not always an option though or you may have to hunt one down. Try newer buildings like the well-known franchise coffee shops etc if you are struggling to find an accessible toilet.
Catching a Broadway show is one of the top things to do in New York City. Unfortunately, not all theatres are wheelchair accessible, so it’s important to check their website and speak to the theatre directly. Most Broadway shows offer discounted tickets to wheelchair users and their companion, which can work out to be a great saving. Always ask! We enjoyed The Lion King and Wicked.
You won’t be stuck for things to do in New York City. In fact, you’ll be wishing you had more time to explore what this amazing city has to offer. Luckily wheelchair access isn’t a problem at any of the main attractions and you may find you are fast-tracked through taking away the need to queue. The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Memorial & Museum and American Museum of Natural History are some of the best wheelchair accessible attractions in New York City.
7// Getting around
New York City is known for its bustling streets and typically rude New Yorkers, but in reality, this is completely untrue. Every time we’ve visited New York we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of New Yorkers. We have been approached many times by people offering to help us across the street or up a curb. Everyone was so friendly and always happy to help. Don’t be put off visiting New York City as a result of how it’s portrayed in movies and TV shows. It’s a wonderful city with so much to do and completely accessible for wheelchair users.
Have you been to NYC? What are your top tips for visiting New York City?