We don’t live in a big city. Getting around for us means driving to the store, the doctor, the movies, wherever, parking and walking into that establishment. Even if we are attending a concert or going to a more touristy location, our local transportation is direct and pretty easy. When my son is using his wheelchair or power scooter, we can generally work out how to get around. Our son, however, is currently attending the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and he is set up with an apartment just off campus. This makes it easy for him to get to and from classes, and thankfully he can find most basic needs within a block or two of his building. Challenges arise, though, when we come to visit and want to venture out. Philadelphia has subway trains which travel east to west and north to south, and at many stops there are elevators to get up to the street. The real mess occurs when you want to transfer between the East-West and North-South lines where they meet. There is no elevator access from one train to the other. We figured out that, if my son got on the East-West line, he would have to stop at least one station short of the junction, go up to street level, and walk or use his scooter to get to the nearest accessible northbound station. This makes no sense. The vast majority of stations are accessible if all you want to do is get on and off the East-West train. Why, if you’re going to invest in accessibility at all, wouldn’t you prioritize this crucial junction-point?
Our experience in New York was even better. I will concede, there was never a station that said it was handicapped-accessible where we could not get on a train. But it seemed that accessible stations were much fewer and farther between than in Philadelphia. On top of that, it was a downright mystery, from day to day, how to get to the train going in the direction we needed. Just as we thought we had figured out the system’s schedule, it changed. I also really enjoyed the fact that elevators in the New York subway seem to double as public restrooms. Other fun obstacles included gaps between trains and their (marked accessible) platforms that sometimes rivaled an Evel Knievel jump. The train could be up to six inches higher than the platform and about the same distance away. We tried various methods of entry, including my wife helping our son walk onto the train while I ran myself and others over with the scooter. Even when we managed all that, the nearest station we could use to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art still required a forty-five-minute walk through Central Park.
Still, our vacation was fun, even if my fitness watch said I walked fifteen miles a day. I guess all that is necessary if we want to have adventures together. Overall, a few bruises on my legs and some sore feet are not too severe. We have to continue to push ourselves beyond what’s comfortable for us; that’s the only way anything ever changes. It can be scary. We may have to improvise or change our plans entirely. But if we don't try, we never get to have beautiful experiences and learn just how much we really can accomplish.