Facilities for Disabled People in New York
New York is one of the most disability-friendly cities in the world and it has made a big effort in the past few years to become accessible. New Yorkers are very attentive to people with disabilities and they’ll often offer to help you wherever they can. I often get questions about how accessible New York is and I can proudly say: quite! I decided to gather all the info I have to make your trip to the Big Apple easier. Most public buildings, hotels, stores and many restaurants are accessible, which makes this city a perfect place to spend your holidays.
Things to Do
Below you’ll find a list of different attractions and tips on how to best plan your trip to New York.
Many of the top attractions in New York are accessible. You’ll be able to enjoy the views from the Top of the Rock, Empire State Building and One World Observatory without a problem. They are all equipped with lifts, ramps and adapted bathrooms. Central Park is, for the most part, accessible and so is Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides. The only non-accessible part is the staircase that leads you to DUMBO.
You can visit some of the best museums in New York including the 9/11 Museum, MoMA and the Met to name a few. Most museums in New York have been made accessible, but there are some parts of the Intrepid Museum and Frick Collection that are not. Some museums even offer wheelchairs during your visit for free.
Taking a boat tour is a great way to see Manhattan’s skyline. At the time of the booking, please check if the boat tour you are interested in says “accessible”. When filling in your details, leave a note in the box “special requirements” noting that you’re a wheelchair user or that you have a severe mobility problem. The staff will make the necessary arrangements during the tour.
A helicopter flight is a great way to see New York from a different perspective. The friendly staff will help you to get out of your wheelchair (if you are in one) and getting you into the helicopter. You will be seated in the front and will enjoy some amazing views of the city.
Going to a sports event is a great idea during your stay in New York. All stadiums have been made accessible, so get ready to cheer your favourite team!
If you are interested in riding a bike while in New York, the electric bike tour might be a nice option for you. You tour the city on a pedal-assist electric bike, making conquering the hills of Central Park and the streets of Manhattan way easier.
Broadway theatres in New York have been made more accessible in recent years, with an increasing number of services targeted to attendees with some kind of disability. Send me an email at [email protected] if you’d like me to help you find wheelchair-accessible seats at a Broadway show.
- Reduced Mobility
Most venues have at least one wheelchair-accessible entrance/exit, and most newer theatres have lifts, too. Accessible seats are usually located in the orchestra level, in the back of the theatre, so to be sure, contact the theatre beforehand to see if there are adapted seats available.
- Deaf / Hearing Problems
Some of the shows are interpreted in American Sign Language and often there are captions available during the show. In order to know more contact TAP (Theatre Development Fund’s Accessibility Programs) : +1-212-912-9770 ext. 382.
- Visually Impaired and Blind
If you are blind or visually impaired, you can still enjoy a Broadway show. Describe! is a service that helps you follow the show via a special audio device and live commentary. For more information contact HAI: +1-212-284-4100.
You can rent a private car to transfer from the airport to the city. CarmelLimo provides adapted cars to make your transfer to New York as easy as possible. When booking, tick the option “I will need a wheelchair accessible vehicle”. Always book the transfer in advance.
Getting around in New York
Buses are especially wheelchair-friendly and most subway stations are equipped with lifts, but sometimes lifts might be out of order, so the bus is a safer way to travel.
There are 110 accessible subway stations in New York. This means that they are equipped with a lift and that MetroCard vending machines and entry gates are accessible. Keep in mind that smaller stations might not be adapted and that even in an “accessible station”, lifts can break. To have a hassle-free holiday, I would recommend choosing the bus over the metro whenever possible. Here you can download a map with the wheelchair accessible subway stations marked.
For the blind, there are Braille and tactile maps available. For the visually impaired, large print maps can be pre-ordered as well. There is one for each subway line, but they cannot be obtained on the spot. Please contact New York Transit 6-8 weeks before travelling: +1-718-596-8273
Buses in New York are fully accessible, and a good way to get around in the city. All buses have ramps, so anyone with reduced mobility will be able to get in without a problem. Traffic can be quite dense in New York, so buses are rather slow compared to the subway. If you are in a hurry, hail a taxi instead.
Hop on Hop off buses
Hop on hop off buses are one of the best ways to explore the city. Some hop on hop off buses in New York are fully accessible and good value for money, so many people with reduced mobility issues use it as their regular means of transportation while in New York. Even though you won’t be able to get to the top deck, the bottom deck also allows you to see the city.
New York Taxis
Are taxis in New York adapted? Generally speaking, no, but don’t be discouraged! Many taxi drivers will be happy to assist you and help you get in the vehicle. If you are in a wheelchair, your driver will make sure that it is properly stored in the trunk.
Carmel is a reliable transportation service in the city. When making a reservation with them, you can request a wheelchair accessible vehicle. They provide airport transfers, in addition to rides within Manhattan or to and from other boroughs.
If you need to travel to and from New Jersey, you can make use of the PATH-trains. The major stations are accessible including 33rd Street, World Trade Center, Hoboken and Newark.
Wheelchair rental in New York
There are several places in New York where you can rent a wheelchair. You can rent manual and electric wheelchairs, crutches and walking aids at Chelsea Mobility & Medical Equipment. Carnegie Hill Pharmacy Broadway is also a good option for renting a wheelchair. It’s just a stone’s throw from Columbus Circle and even has an international pharmacy on the premises.
If you need a mobility scooter in New York I recommend you to reserve one online in advance. The scooter is delivered to your hotel, fully charged and including a battery charger. You can rent the scooter with a minimum of one day, for up to two weeks.
If you are looking for an accessible room, Hotel Beacon is a good option. This hotel, located in the Upper West Side, has a good number of rooms that are adapted for people with limited mobility. There are also a number of subway stations in the neighbourhood: the close-by 72nd Street Station has a lift to reach the platforms. Hilton Midtown is another hotel with a lot of adjustments, like wheelchair-accessible rooms and the availability of assistive listening devices. See here for an overview of more wheelchair-accessible hotels in New York.
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