The following is part one a first-hand account of an able bodied person spending two days and nights in New York City with a disabled woman. * Names have been changed to protect the identity of anyone involved.
New York City is not easy. You know that going in. A town famous for its toughness and rudeness, Manhattan stands as a cold reminder of how rough this world can be. It’s hard enough for an able bodied person to tackle the traffic, shoving, stairs, subways and crowding not to mention someone using a wheelchair. I watch Pam* being lifted from a black SUV in midtown and gently lowered into her wheelchair. She was invited to New York as part of a promotion for the TV show, Push Girls, which she is on and is being put up in a well-known hotel by the network. However, no one at the network fully understands what it’s like to be disabled in the city and this is evident right from the start.
“It’s OK, I’m used to this” Pam says as she adjusts herself in her wheelchair. She frowns for a moment as she toggles with the chair wheels. On the flight from Los Angeles a brake was damaged during baggage handling. Pam is no stranger to chair malfunctions and says she’ll take a look at it when she gets to her room. She is used to having to “repair” her chair after flights. “If your chair is your only mode of transportation, you can’t afford to wait for the airlines to fix it,” she explained when I asked her why she did not have the airline fix it.