Friday, October 09, 2009

No Yoke in New York

We recently returned from a two day visit to New York City, and the access we found there was leagues better than we'd expected, especially their modes transportation, the subject with the most need of improvements in the US.

Our first tour was at Yankee Stadium, where the access goes above and beyond the ADA thanks to a staff well-educated on impeccable customer service. We took Vega Transportation, the premier accessible van service in the area, to get from Newark, where we were on business, up to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Although more pricey than the subway, Vega is way more reliable than any other transportation we found, so if you use a power chair or scooter, need to get to a more specific destination, have a big entourage with you, or the need for a more limo-type service, Vega is definitely the way to get around the city quickly and easily. Once in the stadium, we got a free tour (offered to all PWD who as) to Monument Park, 1st base-line batting practice, the Museum, and a tour of the entire park, as well $5 bleecher seats. Craig, a die-hard Yankee fan since the womb, was brimming with excitement from the moment we entered Gate 2's Yankee Lobby.

On day two we took the train from Craig's sister's flat in Prospect Park in Brooklyn to Times Square, to pick up Gray Line Tours. All of their “hop-on, hop-off” buses have lifts and friendly tour guides, each with their own personal encyclopedia of New York knowledge. This is hands-down the best way to see New York City and learn about the sights; at your own leisure, over a course of two days, with as many knowledgeable tour guides as you can cram in and cheaply. Tours take off from their office on 42nd St., where you can also buy discounted passes to various sights like Liberty Island, the Met, Broadway, Empire State, and more, or get a package deal for a 72-hour bus pass and a dozen other sites included.

Back to the subway topic- while it is true that only a small portion of the NYC subway system have accessible stops, we found it very easy to manage our day around these stops by planning our trip in advance. Visit the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)’s website to find a list of the accessible stops, and plan your trip accordingly. The site is very helpful right down to which elevators are temporarily out of service, which at the time of our trip, there were only three that were. We also found that the “way-finding,” or signage, in the subway system is superb. The elevators and some exits would be hard to find in the maze of this underground system without proper signage, and we give our hats off to MTA for excellent way finding. There are also text-capable payphones at the accessible stations for persons with hearing impairments. In addition, if you are there for an extended period of time, there is a discount pass to the subway system that you can also find on MTA’s link above.

Last, we were short on time to get back to Newark Airport to fly out, and took the subway from Brooklyn to Times Square Station, where $15 Coach USA shuttles to the airport leave every 15 minutes, and are half price to riders with disabilities. To get one with a lift, you have to call 48 hours in advance and know your time of departure; easy enough.

One last resource that we didn’t use is Access-A-Ride, MTA’s additional “paratransit” service for people with disabilities. Because you do have to apply to use this system in advance, and our important subway stops were all accessible, we didn’t do so. But if you know you’re going to need reliable transportation, they're easy to contact and cheap to use Access-A-Ride if you need it.

Don't let daunting NYC keep you from traveling, it's an awe-inspiring city of great access.

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