Wheelchair Bound in N.Y.C.

This week my friend Mary Lou is sharing her somewhat unorthodox method of seeing New York City. Definitely not what she had planned when she headed off from Melbourne a few weeks ago…..Check it out, and thanks a bunch ML for sharing.


Wheelchair bound in N.Y.C. by Mary Louise O’Brien

After departing the I.S.T.E. conference in San Diego I headed for N.Y.C. for a much needed holiday, however things didn’t quite go according to plan.

On my first day as a tourist in Manhattan I ended up in N.Y.U. Emergency with a torn calf muscle. After 2 days of icing and elevation I was faced with the decision of returning home or struggling on, so I did what any other “nerd” would do, and I “Googled”,  to find out whether staying was really an option.

I looked up wheelchair hire companies only to find you could rent a motorised scooter delivered door to door, for $140 for 5 days…….

I could purchase a walking stick at the pharmacy across the road for $22.

There was a Whole Foods Supermarket in the next block to the apartment (but unfortunately Katie Holmes had moved into the apartment block next door that weekend so I had to battle through the paparazzi in my scooter each day to get there)

Cabs in N.Y.C. are cheap compared to Australia so even my furthest trip would only cost $15.00 or so.

So that is what I did, I experienced Manhattan as a disabled person for a week, and this is what I learnt:

1. Travel Insurance (Covermore) cannot be relied upon to provide Emergency Assistance, even though you pay for it.

2. A curb of 2 inches height was enough to tip me out of my chair!

3. To always look ahead. Whilst transversing 5th Ave I found that not all streets have ramps to the road. Twice on 5th Ave I got all the way across before realising I couldn’t get up on the other side so I was left stranded on the road.

4. People, rather than speaking down to me, spoke to my daughters (17 and 15 yrs old), even when responding to a question I had asked!

5. To be forever grateful this was just a temporary situation. I have always enjoyed travelling in the U.S. as the customer service makes it a joy. On this occasion it was the security guards and doormen who always approached first to advise what options were available (lifts, buttons to automatically trigger a door, ramps etc) for access.

6. Only every 3-4 subway stations had accessibility options for wheelchairs but then the feedback I received was that it wasn’t worth attempting, as when you reach one of these stations often the lifts/elevators are out of service and then you are really stuck.

7. WiFi access is truly invaluable when travelling. My most used app was Tip N Split (fast way of working out tipping rates for Android), although others that were useful wereBeanhunter  to find the good coffee spots which are few and far between. HopStop for the public transport info, Google MapsTrip It which tracked my itinerary and sent reminders to check-in and advise of any schedule changes and finally Facebook, where my friends, colleagues and family back home encouraged me to battle on, whilst I kept them all amused with my videos and the photos of me wearing, a not so glamorous moonboot, with a walking stick and motorised scooter.

8. Scooters cannot outrun motorbikes no matter how hard you try. Coming home from the 4th July fireworks on the Hudson River we were amongst thousands of people walking (or scootering in my case) on the roads, when I found myself next to a guy on a motorbike, we argued who’d lead the way through the crowd but he was faster and taller than me.

9. Having dear friends based overseas (thanks again for all your help Rachel) and even travelling with the kids can be very beneficial.

10. I’m not convinced N.Y.C. is the city for me!

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