The Pittsburgh Grandparents were here visiting this week, so we had to maneuver a little slower than usual, and it was our first time with a wheelchair in the city. Having a wheelchair at a Disney park, is the greatest thing ever. You get to go through a separate line, have a shorter wait, less crowded seating areas, and can ‘accidentally’ hit the back of people’s heels who are being rude. Being in New York was quite a different story.
First, there are the sidewalks and getting around. Yes, every corner may have a ramp, but what’s the point if it leads directly into a pothole? We skipped lots of corners and had to go down many backwards. Even the sidewalks themselves are bad. A couple times grandpa was almost thrown from the chair where the concrete was jutting up.
Once you’ve managed to get down the street, you can’t get that far away. Not all of the subways have elevators. Yes, lots of them do have elevators, but it’s not helpful if they all don’t. If we wanted to use the train by us, we could have to exit as 51st or 125th. The closest being 36 blocks away! So, we ended up taking a lot of taxis. (Yes, there are buses, all of which have wheelchair ramps. But buses take FOREVER. We would never have gotten anywhere).
Then they are the restaurants. Space is already scarce here, so trying to drag a wheelchair through a crowded restaurant is terrible. Once you’ve squeezed yourself around other diners, and knocked a few people with your bags, you have to do it all over again to get to the restrooms… which are all downstairs with no elevators.
Grandma is an artist, so we visited lots and lots of galleries. The fanciest buildings on the lower west side had ramps and elevators (though sometimes we had to take the freight elevator.) But the galleries on Madison Ave all had 1-3 steps to get in. No ramp. How is that even legal?
For us, it worked out because grandpa could get out of his chair, and fold it up. But what about someone by themselves? They can’t eat at that restaurant because of the one tiny step leading into it? I know it sounds like I’m ranting. Because I am. But that sucks for someone in a wheelchair to be so limited in a city that otherwise has endless possibilities. To be fair, where they do have elevators, it is clearly marked and easy to find. If you live here, you can join Access-A-Ride, and for free, be picked up and taken to your destination. New York is a tourist destination though, and it should be easier for someone visiting to get around. They shouldn’t have to do extensive research on whether they can get off a certain exit or enter a museum or gallery.
The shining moment of the wheelchair accessibility was the Amtrak Station. For a regular passenger, the boards don’t announce which train you are on until 10 minutes before departure. At which point, everyone crowds the 2 escalators to scramble downstairs. It’s a madhouse, with everyone pushing and shoving.
But I had arranged to have a wheelchair. We had our own special seating area and 45 minutes before the train left someone came to escort us downstairs. He pushed the wheelchair and both bags of luggage for us, and we all hopped right onto the empty train. They got to pick which seats they wanted, and relax a bit before everyone else got on. They even let my dad and I stay as long as we wanted to say goodbye. It was like being at Disney World, instead of a giant, clothed mouse waving, it’s a giant, naked rat eating trash.
Amtrak gets a Gold Star for their guest service. New York City gets a B- for hospitality. Even so, the grandparents had a great trip, we took them to all our favorite places, fed them until they were sick, and made them walk till they dropped. Come back tomorrow for a guide on where to take your grandparents.