Brenda’s Corner: Accessible New York City
People who know me, who know my family, know we love travelling and adventures. And while not always an easy undertaking for us with Maclain’s mobility needs, we still love it. The events and restrictions of the past few years have put a damper on our ability to travel anywhere outside of our province and our country. We did take advantage of booking some mini adventures that kept us well within our borders, and we had a great time as a family exploring places we may not typically have thought to explore.
But we missed having new stamps on our passports and the rush of visiting a country other than our own, and so the minute we could safely travel again, I started booking. I should clarify that I have been actively booking trips for the last two years, but all of these were ultimately cancelled, including a failed trip to New York City, planned over New Year to show my family my favourite city. But I dried my tears and rescheduled for March Break with fingers crossed it would be safe and permissible to cross that border.
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I have been to NYC more times than I can count on my fingers. It is truly my favourite place, my go-to, and for years I have said I wanted to bring my kids to share in all that the city had to offer. But unlike Disneyworld, cruising, or an all-inclusive resort, the idea of navigating this city from an accessibility perspective was daunting. Almost so much so that I considered not going with the family instead of putting it off until it could be a solo or couple trip. But I knew how much my Marvel loving, movie and pop culture-loving son Maclain would embrace the city and all it had to offer.
I began to plan, anxious and excited to go, but also nervous and not excited about what it would be like to have a child in a wheelchair in a big, very busy city with an antiquated subway system and many older buildings.
So how was it? It was amazing! And accessible! But not without a lot of planning, patience and perseverance. I used this resource https://www.nycgo.com/plan-your-trip/basic-information/accessibility/ which gave me some great advice, tips and ideas.
There are many options for accessible hotel rooms, but they vary in what they offer and what they mean by accessible, and as a result, it took a lot of side research and phone calls to make sure we got exactly what we needed. We also decided to drive this time as well, as we were not yet ready to navigate air travel during just yet, and we found that the majority of parking garages in NYC are more than tall enough to accommodate our accessible van.
We chose not to use the subway at all, as the weather was so great most of our trip, but we did need to use a few yellow cabs. Hailing a cab in NYC can be hard on the best days, so we worried about getting one when required. The good news is that the number of accessible vehicles is impressive. The city mandated that the cab companies have a minimum percentage of accessible cabs in their fleets.
It felt that almost every other cab that went by was wheelchair accessible. We had no problem hailing one the first few times we needed one, and the drivers were patient and kind and made sure Maclain was safe and secure. On the rainy wet day, we decided to go downtown. Getting a cab there and back was a different story. But we also learned that they could be booked in advance if you have mobility issues, so we know this for next time.
Regardless of how old it was or how small it was, every building had an accessible entrance. Sometimes they were around the corner, or you had to come almost through the kitchen, but they made it happen and were more than happy to help us, and we did not encounter one place that we could not enter. I made reservations ahead of time, and for most I indicated that we had an individual in our party in a wheelchair, which helped when we got to the venue.
The museums offered discounted tickets or even complimentary admission for caregivers. They brought us to the front of the line to avoid some of the busy line-ups with people bumping and pushing. There were many other things that we could have done but ran out of time for, like sightseeing tours and Broadway plays, but in my research, I also found that there were many accessible options for those adventures.
As we were leaving the city on our last day, I asked everyone how it was. The 16-year-old said the usual, “It was ok.” My husband smiled and said it was good. Maclain said, “It was awesome. Can we go back next year”? Given the positive experience we had and the surprisingly accessible access to the city I love, my answer was, “of course, we can go back, and we will.” Thank you, NYC, for not being a disappointment and for providing me with the opportunity to take my son there anytime now, especially seeing as he has fallen in love with the city too.
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Thank you for joining us for this edition of Brenda’s Corner and learning about Maclain, and other children with cerebral palsy. Please continue to follow her family journey for advice, insights and education related to parenting and empowering children of all abilities. Any questions? Contact Brenda directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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