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My Trip to New York City Was Full of Accessibility 'Hits' and 'Misses'

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On August 30, 2015, my husband and I continued our “decade birthday” tradition for our siblings and spouses. This was my brother’s 60th birthday, so he chose the destination. Our flights from Australia and Florida landed all six of us in New York City for five days and a weekend with my brother’s daughter — who flew in from London.

Upon our arrival at LaGuardia airport, my husband and I — who both live with disabilities —appreciated the help of the airport taxi dispatcher and a driver willing to load two scooters into his vehicle. We assured the driver that our family would help him unload at our lodging. This was a better solution than scrambling to find an accessible taxi.

My brother’s wife had asked every conceivable question to ensure that our second-floor Airbnb loft had an elevator and no stairs. We planned to come and go independently like the rest of our crew. However, the booking agent overlooked the three-inch rise from the sidewalk into the building, and the elevator was a far cry from accessible. Still, we were thankful that one scooter at a time could squeak through the narrow door into the small elevator car.

We primarily navigated our way around Manhattan riding accessible city buses and the subway to stops that have elevators. This eliminated any parking problems — unless you count the perturbed parking attendant who did not appreciate my humor when I backed my scooter into a ground level space underneath a car on a second-tier hoist.

My brother’s birthday dinner was fine dining with great décor, toasts, and God’s blessing. His birthday gift from my sister — tickets to the opening night matches of the US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens — proved to be the highlight of the trip.

The accessible seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium gave us an unobstructed view of the tennis court, and they were near the section where Serena Williams’s family and coach were seated. The challenge was getting to our seats. The volunteer elevator usher repeatedly let us out on the wrong level. This was a big deal because of the long wait for an elevator car with room for my scooter.

After enjoying two matches between top-tier tennis players, we exited the stadium and moved with the masses to the subway at about 1:00 a.m. However, we were shocked to exit the train at our stop and find the elevator out of order! Thankfully, both my brother and my brother-in-law carried my scooter up the stairs, and both my sister and my sister-in-law helped me too.

The next day, we learned that the British tourist we met on the train the night before was also confronted by an out-of-order elevator at his station. His power wheelchair was too heavy to lift, so he had to board another train, exit at Grand Central Station, and wheel back to his hotel on city sidewalks in the early hours of the morning. Accessibility in New York City is a mixed bag — and though I’m thankful that some places were accessible, there’s still a long way to go.

Getty image by Jodie Wallis.

Originally published: July 16, 2022
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