Disabilities and Accessibility

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Disabilities and Accessibility

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. And 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. Hospital Audiences maintains a website with information on the accessibility of many landmarks and attractions. Big Apple Greeter's Access Program offers tours of New York City tailored to visitors' personal preferences. If you need to rent a wheelchair while you are in New York, Big Apple Mobility will deliver to your hotel (or other preferred location) for a $20 fee.

Local Resources

Big Apple Greeter (New York, NY. 212/669–8159. www.bigapplegreeter.org.)

NYC & Company (New York, NY. www.nycgo.com/accessibility.)

Scootaround (New York, NY. 888/441–7575. www.scootaround.com/rentals/n/newyork.)

Lodging

Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, 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 offered. 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.

Reservations

When discussing accessibility with an operator or reservations agent, ask hard questions. Are there any stairs, inside or out? Are there grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower/tub? How wide is the doorway to the room? To the bathroom? For the most extensive facilities meeting the latest legal specifications, opt for newer accommodations. If you reserve through a toll-free number, consider also calling the hotel's local number to confirm the information from the central reservations office. Get confirmation in writing when you can.

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.

Transportation

Although the city is working to retrofit stations to comply with the ADA, not all stations are accessible. Accessible stations are clearly marked on subway and rail maps. Visitors in wheelchairs will 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 will provide assistance.

Reduced fares are available to disabled passengers; if you're paying with cash, you will 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 offers advice for travelers with a disability, and outlines basic rights. Visit Disability.gov for general information.

Information and Complaints

Reduced Fare Metrocard (New York, NY. 511. www.mta.info/accessibility/transit.htm.)

U.S. Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division (airconsumer.dot.gov/publications/horizons.htm.)

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