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New York City, I Love You But I Have a Disability

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Kelly Dawson in New York

I wish I could say New York City is the best place in the world. My mind remembers the perfect moment when everything and everyone was made to shine with potential, so it’s no wonder the famous Frank Sinatra song still gets nerve-wracking. I cemented my friendship in New York City. I was up all night in New York City. I fell in love in New York.

But New York City sucks.

I’m not saying this as someone who grew up in Los Angeles. And I know what an outsider feels like – cough, new york, cough — when you come to my hometown and have, say, a decent taco and highway experience, you suddenly feel entitled to share an opinion.I want love this place Because this place is trying to love me in so many ways. But as a woman with cerebral palsy, New York City is at odds with my disability.

Years ago, on a day alone in Manhattan, I decided to spend the morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then head to the Plaza. Before leaving, I negotiated the pros and cons in my head as I stared at my phone for directions. You can walk around unassisted for about 30 minutes and then rest. This is about the same amount of time this trek takes and I thought I could always relax once I got to the hotel. It’s just down 5th Avenue and I was saving up a lot of money for taxis and rideshares so I decided to walk.

I hadn’t taken into account that it was 18 degrees outside. My feeble California muscles were as stiff as a three-day-old slice of pizza, and every step I took with my scissors made me shiver with pain. There were no benches to rest on, no ledges to lean on. For a moment I wondered what would happen if I fell to the side of the building.

Then I heard the loud voice of a man standing a few steps away. “Blue coat! Blue coat!” he said, his hand over his mouth, his voice echoing down the pavement.

“Yes?” I replied.

“What do you think of what you’re doing? Come in here! He’s a doorman in a skyscraper that looks like a wedding cake, and the lobby is made of marble and it’s so ornate that it could have been a plaza.” “Let me make you some tea. Sit there,” he said, pointing to the leather chair on which I sat. The woman in the chair next to me was furry and had a small dog in her lap. She looked worried. “He said he saw you from a distance. Why didn’t you hail a taxi?”

I could have taken a taxi. In the end the doorman insisted I take a taxi. I’ve learned to just take a cab forever. I am used to walking and resting and walking and resting again. I’ve walked up and down subway stairs dozens of times, and I’m always grateful when someone gives me a seat while I’m trudging along the tracks. I’ve negotiated with my body countless times, adjusting my limits and remembering injuries from pushing myself too hard. Sometimes strangers politely intervene and help. This will make your time in the city take place in split screen. On the other hand, I try to live in the moment, soaking up the fall foliage of Park Slope, the summer ice cream of the West Village, and the winter skating rink of Rockefeller Center. But on the other hand, these environments regularly show me how different I am, forcing me to work on the details of my life that require on-call ingenuity.

New York City was not built for people with disabilities to feel like equal members of the crowd. In small ways, such as a step to a store, or in big ways, such as the widely inaccessible subway system, the city provokes my body to defend itself. “Good luck how the subway stairs translate into his 30-minute walking limit,” he sneers. “Of course, don’t go out on the street and hail a taxi,” jeers. I have a hard time dealing with these challenges, but they can also be exhausting. The next hurdle is always near, so better be prepared.

I have watched in awe as strangers sprint to catch a departing train, or carry bagels down the steps of a bodega with simple movements. I wish I could take Bill Cunningham-esque shots of commuters in heels I can’t wear, disappearing behind a yellow cab. I marvel at the bodies here that can move freely, but are unaware of all the things that make it difficult. But I don’t want to disrespect my body in the process and imagine that it may never be so.

In Los Angeles, it was easy to get around by car, and when I lived in London, it was nice because most of London had elevators and escalators to the subway. I was not surprised that Japanese railways, which are notoriously efficient, lived up to the hype for short layovers. And it made me want to go again.But actually I cried while riding Public transport in ViennaIn , all metro stops are wheelchair accessible, and nearly all buses and trams are also wheelchair accessible. It means that every body can step seamlessly from a subway to a platform and then take a wide elevator out onto the street, requiring the mental arithmetic and physical exertion it would otherwise do. and not meant. I wish the MTA would do the same. For over 30 years it did not fully meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. even if you try and recently appointed a person to oversee it. If you follow this law, you can benefit everyone: strollers, groceries, people with broken legs. Sometimes you don’t need a big reason. Maybe he simply didn’t want to climb the stairs that day.

I wish I could say that the answer to access is simple, or that visiting New York City with a disability isn’t difficult in countless other ways my body is excluded. . I hope the vulgar solutions of “then don’t come here” or “stay home” don’t hurt. I wish I could somehow feel the majesty of the Brooklyn Bridge from my bed. I wish I didn’t have to explain the idea of ​​”Yes, this city can be tough on everyone, but this is another level.”or the access a ride It didn’t work like a consolation prize.i wish it wasn’t different is very expensive, it’s so exhausting to navigate and reconcile what’s happening to the body that shouldn’t happen in the city. I hope more people understand that we are all losing battles with our knees.

Many New Yorkers are trying to make these wishes come true and are available to attend. elevator action group For example, urgently promote transport accessibility or Brooklyn Center for Disability Independence. Can report failures or power outages. MTA’s Accessibility TeamOr tell Mayor Eric Adams that you want a system as comprehensive as Vienna. send him a message.

Among the many things I’ve wished for here, I wish the accessibility of the world’s greatest city was better. Then maybe it deserves a title.

battery park

Kelly Dawson I am a writer, editor and marketing consultant based in Los Angeles. In her Cup of Jo, she writes about making friends with people without disabilities and what it’s like to be a mother with a disability.follow her InstagramIf you don’t mind.

PS How do I travel as a queer fat black woman and what are my top travel tips?

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