Thursday, October 2, 2014

13 more train stops and only two are wheelchair accessible

Sometimes, I notice things I never would have before Max came along. Like on the train the other day, I glanced up at the electronic map.

There were 13 more stops till the end of the line, and only two were wheelchair accessible.

I wondered how people with mobility issues dealt with that and parents of kids in wheelchairs. I thought back to a mini documentary I'd seen a couple of years ago, The Long Wait. In it filmmaker Jason DaSilva, who has multiple sclerosis, details the challenges he had getting around New York. (It inspired him to create AXS Map, a crowd-sourced accessibility map.)

I stared at the electronic map again as the train rumbled on. I thought about how I probably wouldn't noticed the lack of accessibility if I didn't have Max, and that was troubling. I got off the train at a non-accessible stop, climbed a whole lot of stairs and wondered if Max could have handled them if he were there. I looked up information when I got home: Out of 468 subway stations in New York City, only 106 are wheelchair accessible.

As the parent of a child with disabilities, I care so much about getting the world to welcome, embrace and include him and others like him. It's a shock to my system to realize that I used to never think twice about such things. Who was that me I used to be? How could I have been so unaware? 

I carry some guilt about that.   

Thirteen more train stops and only two are wheelchair accessible. 



  1. Don't train stations have to apply with ADA? That's just awful.

  2. I think it is OK that you wouldn't have noticed before Max. No one is perfect. We see the world based on our experiences. To a lesser extent, we also see it based on the experiences of our friends/acquaintances/co-workers. And then there is the media. My hope would be that the ones who do notice such things share the information/observation. Not everyone has the time/energy/passion to work towards a needed change - but somebody will.

    You noticed the lack of accessibly. You wrote about it. The next step is for someone to take action. That might or might not be you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. For about four months my older son was in a wheelchair due to a serious work accident. He couldn't push himself because one of his arms was smashed when he fell. So I was his wheelchair attendant.

    In my travels with my son, I saw that even a small height difference ( a couple of inches) could make it almost impossible for me to push my son forward. (He's six feet tall and I'm not). We encountered pillars, signs, and flowerpots in the middle of sidewalks that meant we had to backtrack and find another way forward. A drop at a curb of six inches was a perilous moment.

    Some of my difficulties probably were due to my inexperience in handling a wheelchair, but I often thought, as we maneuvered our way around, about how frustrating and difficult everyday travel must be for permanent wheelchair users.

    Thanks for raising an important issue.

  4. I second one of the previous commenters -- you shouldn't feel guilt about that. It doesn't mean that you didn't care about people with disabilities prior to's just human nature. We tend to overlook issues that aren't personally relevant to us.

    I've had similar experiences. As a college student with CP who has major balance issues and some problems with depth perception, I know where all the curbs are on campus, and I'm pretty good at locating all of the accessible spots. My friends, meanwhile, are like, "HOW DO YOU DO THAT? HOW DO YOU KNOW WHERE ALL OF THE CURBS ARE?!" Our brains are wired to pay attention to relevant information, and to disregard what doesn't apply to us. Oftentimes, construction workers or other students will park their cars next to the curb flats -- which is illegal, and really complicates my day, but I know it just doesn't occur to them that this might cause trouble for someone with a disability.

    My brothers (same age as me) and my parents are very aware of their environments because my CP has alerted them to it. If we're walking somewhere and there's a step that's kind of hidden, they'll say, "Watch out for that step!" whereas other people will just step over it without even noticing. It's wonderful that my family has this awareness, but I know they wouldn't if it wasn't for my disability, just as you said you probably wouldn't notice these details if it wasn't for Max and his CP.

    My pet peeve is when people say that a building is accessible because it "only has one step." That is NOT accessible, people -- not to people in wheelchairs, and, if there's no railing, not to me.

    Thanks for bringing this's so, so important, and my hope is that with more people like you speaking up, Max will live in a more accessible world someday.

  5. Three years ago my son broke his leg. He was in a wheelchair for about two months. We live in the East Village, which is lucky because there is everything there, so I could take him to the movie, different restaurants, ice-cream shops etc. We missed Central Park so much though. And he had to be driven to and back from school, because there was NO WAY we could get the subway, all the stops between home and school were not wheelchair accessible. It was a two months nightmare, but it taught us an important lesson, for which I am grateful, as we saw what life feels like from a different perspective. I felt so guilty I had never tried to figure it out before.

  6. Trains are widely used, so they should be more accessible! Barriers like these are barriers to people's minds.

  7. I've done NYC with Buddy. Fortunately, he was still fairly small, but we had to carry his stroller up and down the narrow stairwells for the subway. It wasn't fun. It would be more interesting now, with his wheelchair and extra gear.

  8. This can be the result of:
    1. An ableist architect
    2. A lack of planning and forethought
    3. Low to no accessibility standards

  9. I hear you about all of the things that we don't notice until we have kids with special needs. I wouldn't have noticed the number of stops that are wheelchair accessible, either. Now, I notice long lines and heat and things I'd never have thought about before... I guess noticing is the first part of changing?


Thanks for sharing!

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