The Statue of Liberty

Yankee Stadium

Times Square

Topics Covered:

Hotel, mid-town Manhattan attractions, lower Manhattan attractions, New York city bus accessibility, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, wheelchair taxis, Broadway Shows

By James Glasbergen

My seven-day trip to New York City was an easy and fun trip since New York is very accessible for wheelchairs. We made the 10-hour drive from Canada to New York City and were surprised to find that while New York City was big, it was not nearly as busy and slow moving as we had imagined it would be.

Upon arrival at our hotel near Times Square, we were immediately disappointed to discover that the "wheelchair accessible" room that was promised to me was nothing like the room that we received. When making the reservations, I specifically asked whether the wheelchair accessible rooms had roll-in showers, and I was told that they did have roll-in showers and either two beds, or one bed and a sofa bed. However, upon our arrival, we discovered that the "wheelchair accessible" room had only one bed, and there was a bathtub but NO wheel-in shower. My shower chair couldn't even make it into the bathroom due to a large grab-bar by the toilet. After checking with the manager, we were told that the reservationist must have misunderstood me, that NONE of the rooms had roll-in showers, and that there was no room for either a cot, a roll-away bed, or a sofa bed in the wheelchair accessible rooms. Therefore, we were forced to move to a normal room, which gave us better access than the "accessible" room, although it still had the bathtub. Overall it was just a bad experience as the hotel manager would not do much for is. I probably should have known better because when I was making reservations, I checked with approximately 20 hotels in the Times Square area and none claimed to have roll-in showers—other than this one, which really didn't.

Other than the hotel incident, accessibility in New York was great. We walked all over mid-town Manhattan to the many attractions. Walking the streets of Manhattan is very easy for a wheelchair (especially an electric wheelchair) since there are curb cuts on most corners, although I found some to be a little rough.

We took a number of guided tours. At Rockefeller Center we took the "NBC Experience" tour. The tour gave us a brief history of NBC and took us throughout the building. We saw where the NBC Nightly News is taped and also went on to the sets of Saturday Night Live, Dateline NBC, and The Rosie O'Donnell Show. We also took guided tours of Radio City Music Hall, the United Nations, the Empire State Building, and Madison Square Garden. All were extremely accessible, and some had slight discounts on admission.

We also walked around lower Manhattan, beginning at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where we took a guided tour. Tickets for this tour were free, but they had to be booked a few weeks in advance. The tour was interesting as we were able to go down to the vault to see all of the gold reserves. It wasn't quite as I imagined it would be after watching Die Hard With A Vengeance, but it was still cool.

From there we went over to Wall Street and the NYSE, where we took another tour. It actually wasn't much of a tour. We basically just got free tickets and then waited in line to go to a viewing area overlooking the trading floor where we could stand and watch the trading for a while.

Next, we went on to Battery Park for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. The best part about the Statue of Liberty was that people in wheelchairs got to bypass the long lines for both the ferry and the entrance into the Statue itself (it was the same for the Empire State Building). This probably saved a couple hours. Unfortunately, wheelchairs could not go up to the crown, only to the pedestal. Lastly, we walked over from Battery Park to the World Trade Center where we bought tickets for the observation deck.

The New York City busing system was AMAZING. Every city bus was accessible, even for long guys like me, and you could basically get anywhere you want in New York City for $1.50. We took the bus twice—once from mid-town Manhattan to the Wall St. area, and once in the afternoon from mid-town Manhattan to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx (which forced us to change buses once).

One thing I really wanted to do was to take a Yankee Stadium tour, which was offered at noon on days when the Yankees were not in town. The tour was completely accessible and very interesting. It took us to the press box, Monument Park, and also on the field in front of the dugout. Watching baseball games at both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium was fun. Yankee Stadium has some of the best wheelchair seating I have seen—right behind home plate about 15 or 20 rows up.

Our seats at Shea Stadium were not quite as good. We sat directly behind home plate behind the very last row of the section. The wheelchair section was located on a platform behind the last row and you had to take a little elevator to get to the top of the platform. This was annoying because the elevator only operated with a key, so we had to find someone to help us. In addition, I had to enter the elevator frontwards at the bottom and then make a sharp left at the top to exit onto the platform. The elevator was so tight that my chair could not negotiate the turn, so I had to have the guy struggle to pick up the back end of my chair and do a little shifting to get my chair around the corner. Needless to say, I stayed on the platform for the whole game rather than having to go through the hassle of hunting a guy down for a key and then a big ordeal in the elevator just to go to the washroom or the concession stands. The view from the platform was good and bad. It was close to home plate with a great view of the field, but it was also under the overhang from the next deck which obstructed the view of balls that were hit high in the air.

We had a wheelchair taxi service bring us to and from both games, which was very easy and convenient, although we had to book in advance and it was quite expensive (I think around $60 round-trip from mid-town Manhattan). Surprisingly, New York does not require taxi companies to have any wheelchair accessible cabs in their fleet as is the case in Boston, Los Angeles, or Chicago. Therefore, the main taxi companies did not have any accessible cabs, and there were only a couple companies that had wheelchair accessible vehicles that did pickups. In those cases, you had to book well in advance as no company offered on demand pickups.

We also saw three Broadway shows. Every theater we were at had huge discounts for wheelchairs and their companion. The discounts differed depending on the degree of accessibility in each theater. We found the Majestic and the New Amsterdam Theater to have fairly good wheelchair seating, while the Broadway had bad seating (which explains the $7.50 tickets for a wheelchair and one person).

Overall, we found New York City to be quite accessible and would not hesitate to do it all again.

For additional information on New York City accessibility, see "NEW YORK CITY 2002"


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