October 11th, 2014
It is 9 pm and my mom and I are on our way home when we pass by “our” subway station.
I suggest we go somewhere else instead of going back “home.” Anywhere. Well, anywhere we can go. She’s in and a few seconds later we are in the elevator going down to Broadway-Lafayette station. Less than 25% of NYC subway stations are accessible, but as someone who is new in the city and will not stay here very long, I tend to look at the bright side. My experience of NYC is not the same as if I was moving here for good. This is only temporary.
My apartment is very well located. Wheeling to NYU, where I will be conducting many interviews, takes me less than 15 minutes.
There is so much to see and to do in NYC that I can choose what I want to do based on how close it is to accessible transportation without feeling like I am missing out on something.
I still haven’t figured out how to use the so-called accessible door at the entrance of Broadway-Lafayette station. I insert my card in the machine next to the door. The machine tells me to “Use the turnstiles.”
The turnstiles are not accessible. Why is there a wheelchair logo on that door with a machine to swipe a Metrocard? Maybe it used to work. I’ve been in NYC for almost two weeks and this seems to be a normal occurrence at this station.
My mom opens the emergency door aka the “accessible door” for me. The alarm goes off. The alarm is loud. And yet, nobody cares. It is part of the everyday soundscape here.
A mother with a baby in her stroller tells us that this happens every day. She has to go through the regular turnstiles and leave her baby behind. She then comes back for her baby, through the emergency door. She says she is scared every time she has to do that.
I know which elevator to take. No need to double-check. But I still look at the subway map on my phone at least twice before getting on a train. Tonight, we’re taking the D or the F uptown. The map is now easier to understand but my brain seems to be short on RAM. Or maybe I keep double-checking because I still can’t believe I got off at an inaccessible station on my first subway ride a week ago.
I now know where I should go to wait for the train. It took me a while to realize that a part of the platform is slightly elevated to close up the gap between the platform and the train. These few centimeters make all the difference in the world. Really. Apparently the Société de Transport de Montréal intends to do the same thing at the 7 wheelchair-accessible métro stations, a project that will cost about $6 million dollars. This seems unreal but apparently this is real life too.
The train arrives and we are on our way to… somewhere.
This action – deciding to go somewhere without planning ahead – is not something I take for granted.
A few minutes later, the train stops at West 4 Street station. The driver makes an announcement. The only thing we understand is that he is apologizing. I guess we’re going to be stuck here for a little while.
The F train arrives on the other side of the platform and a few passengers leave our train to get on it. Maybe we should do the same thing. We don’t have much time to decide. I tell my mom to follow me and we rush to the other train. We make it just in time.
It may seem ridiculous, but this makes me feel alive. Having the possibility to make such a choice is a luxury. This is something I can’t afford most of the time. My wheels and the ableist architecture rarely have time to have fun together.