The Accessibility of New York City

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Disability Horizons

Back in the summer of 2012, Freddie and his family took a trip down to the Big Apple, New York City. Freddie has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type II and traveled to New York City from the UK in his Balder wheelchair. The hustle and bustle of New York City certainly made for an exciting trip packed with non-stop activities and action. 

Planning around accessibility 

Having an accessible holiday was important for the family of five – from transport to accommodations to attractions. Doing so enabled them to fully enjoy their holiday without many hiccups. They also brought a portable shower chair and a back-up manual chair along with them for the trip. Upon arriving in New York City, they met up with some friends who lent them a portable hoist as well.


young man with SMA in a power wheelchair on the streets of new york city

The family took a flight with British Airways from Heathrow Airport. Terminal 5, where British Airways’ flights to New York operate out of, is “less crowded [and] highly efficient,” Freddie says. Another tip Freddie shares is to ask airport assistance to take you to the front of the immigration queue at JFK Airport to avoid the long waiting time.

They stayed at the Hilton, which is located in a central area within Midtown. This was the ideal location for them because it allowed them to find accessible taxis easily. However, the family continued to book taxis in advance to play it safe. “Don’t leave it to chance,” Freddie advises. Location aside, the hotel did present a few challenges for the family. As they had booked the hotel through a booking agent, they came to find out that this particular hotel itself did not offer the room combination they requested (two interconnecting rooms, one with a roll-in shower). Through this incident, Freddie realises that the best way to ensure you get the room you need is by checking the room details with the individual hotel itself.

Enjoying the major attractions

Apart from the little setback with accommodations, Freddie and his family did enjoy New York City immensely. Because most of the major attractions in New York City are largely accessible, the family managed to visit many notable attractions in New York City. 

The Empire State Building. Skipping all the queues, they marveled at the Manhattan skyline.

5th Avenue. It was extremely crowded and the streets were full of potholes. Despite the madness of the city, Freddie loved every minute of it, soaking up the excitement all the same.

Central Park. A nice change of pace as it was empty and quiet.

Catching a Broadway musical. Tickets were pre-booked by their friend who is a local New Yorker. “A wheelchair accessible ticket had been difficult to book from overseas via the theatre agent,” Freddie explains.

Museum of Modern Art. Freddie found it to be very accessible. 

New York Yankees game. They took a train from Grand Central station to the Yankees Stadium station, which “went without a hitch.” The guard at the train station also assisted them by pulling out a ramp to close the gap between the train and the platform. The experience of the full, exhilarating atmosphere of an American baseball game undoubtedly made this the highlight of their stay in New York City.

All in all, the trip to New York City was certainly jam-packed with fun and adventure, and the kindness they experienced from local New Yorkers also made this trip all the more memorable.

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