New York has come a long way in making life easier for people with disabilities. At most street corners, curb cuts allow wheelchairs to roll along unimpeded. Many restaurants, shops, and movie theaters with step-up entrances have wheelchair ramps. Though some New Yorkers may rush past those in need of assistance, you'll find plenty of people who are more than happy to help you get around.
NYC & Company's website has information on the accessibility of many landmarks and attractions, as well as a downloadable guide. If you need to rent a wheelchair or scooter while in New York, Scootaround will deliver it to your hotel or another location, and reservations can be made up to a year in advance.
NYC & Company. NYC & Company New York, New York, www.nycgo.com/accessibility.
Scootaround. New York, New York, 888/441–7575; www.scootaround.com/rentals/n/newyork.
Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the definition of accessibility seems to differ from hotel to hotel. Some properties may be accessible by ADA standards for people with mobility problems but not for people with hearing or vision impairments, for example.
If you have mobility problems, ask for the lowest floor on which accessible services are available. If you have a hearing impairment, check whether the hotel has devices to alert you visually to the ring of the telephone, a knock at the door, and a fire/emergency alarm. Some hotels provide these devices without charge. Discuss your needs with hotel personnel if this equipment isn't available, so that a staff member can personally alert you in the event of an emergency.
If you're bringing a guide dog, get authorization ahead of time and write down the name of the person with whom you spoke.
Sights and Attractions
Most public facilities in New York City, whether museums, parks, or theaters, are wheelchair-accessible. Some attractions have tours or programs for people with mobility, sight, or hearing impairments.
Although the city is working to retrofit stations to comply with the ADA, not all stations, including many major ones, are accessible and unlikely to be so in the near future. Accessible stations are clearly marked on subway and rail maps. Visitors in wheelchairs have better success with public buses, all of which have wheelchair lifts and "kneelers" at the front to facilitate getting on and off. Bus drivers provide assistance.
Reduced fares are available to disabled passengers; if paying with cash, you need to present a Medicare card or Paratransit card. You may also apply for a Temporary Reduced-Fare MetroCard in advance of your visit. Visitors to the city are also eligible for the same Access-a-Ride program benefits as New York City residents. Drivers with disabilities may use windshield cards from their own state or Canadian province to park in designated handicapped spaces.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division's online publication, New Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability,has advice for travelers with a disability, and outlines basic rights. Visit www.disability.gov for general information.
Information and Complaints
Reduced-Fare Metrocard. New York, New York, 511; www.mta.info/accessibility/transit.htm.
U.S. Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer and Protection. New York, New York, airconsumer.dot.gov/publications/horizons.htm.