Getting Around New York in a Wheelchair (Still) a Struggle

A transit rider offers a powerful perspective on what it's like to use a wheelchair in New York City.
December 12, 2018, 10am PST | Elana Eden
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Simon Smiler

In the New York Times, New York resident Nolan Ryan Trowe details the difficulty of navigating a famously walkable and transit-rich city using a wheelchair.

On top of near-constant discrimination from strangers, Trowe writes, "I learned quickly that the lack of accessibility in the city's subway system adds to the frustration and humiliation.

Subway station elevators to the train platforms are frequently broken and there are often no accessible stations where I need to go. I am not supposed to walk, but at times I am forced to ask someone to carry my chair down or up the steps, while I make my way tentatively on foot, putting me at risk of further injury and infection … On many days, I wait for two or three trains before finding one that has space for me in the car."

Disability justice activists sued the MTA in May 2017 for practices in station design and maintenance that effectively shut disabled residents out of public transportation. In May 2018, the MTA approved $600 million to improve wheelchair access. Still, Trowe notes, "The city estimates that there are nearly 100,000 wheelchair users in New York City. Fewer than one-quarter of city subway stations are accessible."

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Published on Friday, November 23, 2018 in New York Times
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