Barrier-free travel NYC

Exploring New York City in a Wheelchair

Upon request by one of our lovingnewyork readers, we dived a little deeper into this important topic. Getting around New York City in a wheelchair: is that even possible? How barrier-free is New York really? We checked out the city’s sights and attractions to find out if it is actually possible to tour New York in a wheelchair.

At first glance, a city like New York seems to have insurmountable obstacles for someone in a wheelchair. Uneven sidewalks, hordes of people, staircases, lots of traffic. But I talked to several individuals in wheelchairs and the general consensus was: “Yeah, totally doable”.

Willingness to help and compassion

Traveling in a city like New York with a disability is quite an experience – my personal observations indicate that the vast majority of people treat people with disabilities with compassion and demonstrate a willingness to help whenever necessary. Seemingly insurmountable hurdles can be conquered with the help of a bystander, and individuals in wheelchairs can often bypass long lines at attractions as personnel will often be willing to help.

Wheelchair ramps have made many shops only reachable via stairs accessible as well. New York City according to ur findings is generally well-equipped to handle the disabled. People who deal with wheelchair-bound individuals are properly trained and most New Yorkers show compassion for people with disabilities.

Of course, I am sure that not every experience is positive. Our reader Nicole found an appropriate comment on this subject: “Everyone of us should realize that there are limitations when one is limited by a disability and requires extra assistance. But that should not be a reason to forgo traveling. It is a little slice of heaven that should be enjoyed.”

wheelchair user on the streets

Flying to New York: Barrier-free travel NYC

Travellers planning on a New York trip in a wheelchair should contact the airline in advance. All major airlines provide barrier-free flying but you need to make arrangements prior to travel. Please notify the airline of the circumstances at the time of booking, or at the latest, 48 hours prior to departure. British Airways, for example, provides a variety of extra services to make the flight as comfortable as possible for travelers with limited mobility. After landing, additional assistance is also available so that a long wait at immigration in New York City can be avoided.

Getting to your hotel in a wheelchair

After a long flight, it’s finally time to get to your hotel. The most comfortable option is taking a taxi. “Wheelchair Cabs” are also available at the airport to assist you in your travels. The taxi stand at the airport has an attendant managing the flow of traffic. Simply state your request to get a wheelchair-accessible taxi and one will be provided to you. If you have booked a package trip, hotel transfers are generally included. Please notify the provider of your needs.

Taking the subway all the way to Manhattan is another alternative. Information regarding connections and options can be found here:

Wheelchair-accessible hotel rooms

Be sure to contact the hotel directly when making a reservation for a wheelchair-accessible room. Several travelers report that not confirming a wheelchair-accessible room at the time of booking can lead to difficulties at check-in. In order to avoid any kinds of complications, send an e-mail or make a quick phone call to confirm that you indeed have a wheelchair-accessible room reserved for you upon your arrival.

Sightseeing in New York: barrier-free attractions

All the major attractions, museums, and parks in New York City are wheelchair accessible. Touring New York City in a wheelchair is not an obstacle. You can even get to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Cruises are no problem and even helicopter tour is an option. Hop-on Hop-off busses also have ramps that make getting on and off easier.

Experiences of our readers show that travelers in wheelchairs get preferential treatment in wait lines. Many wheelchair-bound individuals can bypass the wait line altogether. Is it worth getting a New York pass for tourists in a wheelchair? You bet it is!

List of attractions that are wheelchair accessible (excerpt)

Name Wheelchair Accessible? Details regarding attraction
One World Observatory Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Museum of Modern Art Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Empire State Building Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Statue of Liberty Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Statue of Liberty – crown not included  more information
Helicopter Flight Barrier-free travel NYC Review available tours
Boat cruises around Manhattan Barrier-free travel NYC Review available tours
High Line Park Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Ground Zero / 911 Memorial Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Metropolitan Museum of Art Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Top of the Rock Barrier-free travel NYC more information
Whitney Museum Barrier-free travel NYC more information

Getting around New York in a wheelchair: public transportation

I have received mixed reviews on this subject: while many state that getting from A to B in a wheelchair in New York is not a problem, they also acknowledge that it can be difficult. The most important part is knowing what your options are and which ones are the least complicated.

Here are a few tips for a day of smooth exploring in New York in a wheelchair:

Use the bus to get around in the city

MTA busses in New York have extendable ramps that the driver can lower at every bus station. Many wheelchair-bound individuals describe this mode of public transportation as the least complicated. While traveling by bus takes longer than taking the subway, you also get to see a lot more!

mta bus with a ramp for wheelchairs

Can you take a taxi if you are in a wheelchair?

This option is also very popular among wheelchair users, however, it does not make sense to queue up at the curb to hail a regular taxi. Bee sure to contact New York Accessible Dispatch as regular taxis cannot accommodate wheelchairs. The barrier-free Yellow Cabs are exclusively designed for wheelchair accessibility. There is a 24-hour hotline (646-599-9999) you can call to request that a wheelchair-accessible taxi be sent to your location. You can also do it online. To see how it works, click here.

A tip from a lovingnewyork reader: have the hotel arrange the taxi for you. This allows you to save on phone charges and any possible miscommunication due to language barriers.


barrier-free taxi with a wheelchair user

3. Negotiating the subway in a wheelchair: problematic?

If you are in a wheelchair, taking the subway is a difficult undertaking. While many subway stations have lifts, changing trains at stations can be an obstacle because train platforms are often only connected via stairs. This may still be the case even if the station bears the “wheelchair accessible” sign. Our recommendation: take the subway only if you know for sure that you are traveling between two barrier-free stations. Changing trains should be avoided. Rush hour can be extremely busy and hectic on the subway (7:00am-9:00am & 3:00pm-7:00pm). Try to avoid using the subway at these peak hours. Here is a detailed map indicating which stations are wheelchair accessible.

wheelchair accessable sign at continental station

New York nightlife in a wheelchair

New York City is particularly exciting at night. The best musicals, such as Lion King, or Aladdin are performed nightly on Broadway – rooftop bars are an enticing place to have a party, and fabulous restaurants abound.

All current Broadway Shows provide wheelchair accessible spots in the auditorium. These spots are often located in the lower portion of the theater, either in the very front or in the back. When getting your ticket, please pay particular attention to the seating chart.

All rooftop bars that opened after 1992 must be ADA compliant (American Disabilities Act). My recommendation is 230 Fifth Avenue. It is one of the most popular and one of the biggest rooftop bars in the city. It also offers some of the best views of the Empire State Building – plus it’s completely barrier free! If you are unsure about the wheelchair accessibility of a particular bar, check on the website or give them a quick call to make sure you won’t run into any obstacles.

New York boasts numerous excellent restaurants and the selection is virtually unlimited. But are they wheelchair accessible? ADA compliance also applies to restaurants. If you are unsure about wheelchair accessibility, check the website or give them a quick call. Reserving a table is usually a good idea anyway.

Is a New York pass a good idea for tourists in a wheelchair?

Up to 80 attractions and tours are included in the New York sightseeing passes. Almost all of them are wheelchair accessible. Learn more about the passes here:

New York Pass 180px Explorer Pass CityPASS 180px

Compare Passes Now

Profilbild Steffen Kneist
About the author

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 25 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!

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