Welcome to New York: All About that JFK

Arrival

When Daman and Kyann arrived at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, Daman was told that his wheelchair had yet to be brought up from under the plane. Daman knew that we were to wait at the gate for his wheelchair; however, one of the people assisting us began pushing Daman toward baggage claim. Daman continued to explain to the person pushing him that we did not need to go to baggage. He repeatedly told him that we needed to wait at the gate for his wheelchair. Finally, after multiple attempts, the person pushing Daman turned around. However, the second person who was helping us–who insisted on pushing Daman and Kyann’s luggage—continued on his way toward baggage claim making Daman and Kyann lose sight of their luggage. After not being listened to, Daman and Kyann were finally reunited with their luggage and Daman with his chair.

Upon arrival of Daman’s chair, he noticed that the joystick of his chair was bent at a 90-degree angle; it is supposed to be 180 degrees, flush with the armrest. When this was pointed out, the person who brought Daman his chair quickly bent it back into place. It was discussed whether an accident report should be filled out, but the chair was working and it was 1:00 AM so it was decided not to spend the exorbitant amount of time necessary to fill out a report on damaged goods. Fortunately, no electrical wires were damaged (but this is not always the case).

 

The Bathroom

Kyann did not check out the accessibility of the women’s bathroom as she took all of their luggage into the family bathroom. However, Daman did check out the men’s restroom. The accessible stall was not usable due to feces being spread all over the stall, so he waited for Kyann and then used the family bathroom as well. Kyann reports the family bathroom was accessible, minus the extremely heavy door and the slippery floor.

 

Taxi Trek

The adventure to find an accessible source of transportation began before Daman and Kyann’s trip began. Kyann researched that a taxi or Uber would be the best way to travel from JFK to the hotel; Kyann settled on a taxi as Uber does not provide accessible transportation. Kyann called Yellow Cab over twenty-four hours prior to leaving for NYC, but Yellow Cab explained to her that to reserve an accessible taxi, she should have called more than forty-eight hours in advance. So, she called two more car services who could not accommodate hers nor Daman’s needs at all. Finally, Kyann called Accessible Dispatch who reassured her that there are accessible taxis at JFK Airport–the concierge will help upon arrival.  

Guess what? There are accessible cabs in NYC and there are many just waiting at the airport; however, they are not located with the rest of the car services.

The next mission was to actually find the accessible taxis. Daman and Kyann left their gate, traveled past the baggage claim, and then down an elevator. This is where they found the inaccessible car services. They were then informed to cross the terminal area that they were currently in and go up a different elevator than the one they just came down. They would then find a sky-bridge that would lead them to the accessible cabs.

Daman and Kyann found the sky-bridge which was around 200 meters long and had two sets of “human conveyor belts” to whisk people along. They reached their third elevator and descended to the street level. There they traveled through a maze of ramps to get to the taxis! After about a 15-minute walk (from the time they found the inaccessible taxis), they found the taxis that they could access.

 

Accessible = Flat Rate

When traveling through NYC via Yellow Cab taking an accessible cab means a $52.00 flat rate–plus tolls–no matter the distance. Just the taxi fares alone make transportation in NYC inaccessible for people with disabilities.

 

Cement Playground

After a long day of travel, Daman and Kyann made it to their hotel. Stay tuned for part two of their adventure through the cement playground also known as NYC.

 

Departure

Daman and Kyann had a fabulous experience at the No Barriers Summit; they both are planning to attend the next summit in June in Lake Tahoe; Kyann will return to NYC but Daman probably will not (unless business requires it).

Every adventure must come to an end. After a whirlwind of fun and barriers, Daman and Kyann tiredly arrived at the airport to depart via plane–Kyann going home to Washington State, Daman going to have more fun in the other Washington (DC).

Upon arrival at JFK, Daman and Kyann faced another of many barriers. The first accessible door that they came to was broken. Fortunately, there was another accessible door with the next revolving door about 25 feet away.

Kyann really dislikes revolving doors—even when there are separate accessible doors–her point is just that, the accessible doors are separate, she is segregated.

When they came to the second accessible door, an airport personnel pushed a cart of chairs right in the pathway of the “accessible” entrance. They were fortunate again to be traveling with Kyann’s mom who moved the barrier for them. They would have had to ask a random person to move the cart if they were traveling alone. If Kyann, who is legally blind, saw the person push the cart in front of the door and leave it, this probably means they could see her too. After two barriers, they made it inside the airport!

 

Another Bathroom

The family bathroom (JetBlue; gates 1-8) that Kyann used when departing was much cleaner and not slippery! Thank goodness.

 

Baggage personnel:

The JetBlue baggage personnel were obsessed with trying to fold wheelchairs. The personnel who loaded Daman’s chair wanted to fold down the back of his POWER chair; this is not a typical function of a power chair. Daman’s flight was delayed 30 mins due to the baggage personnel trying to figure out how to get his wheelchair onboard. There should be a better solution.

When Kyann got to her gate, they also wanted to fold her rigid manual chair as well as the rigid manual chair that belonged to another person who was also on the same flight as Kyann. Fortunately, all three of the chairs made it to their destinations just fine (which is not typically the case).

                                                                                       

Flying with a Wheelchair

Flying with a wheelchair can be extremely stressful and prevents many people with disabilities from flying; it is not the use of the wheelchair that deters them, but the treatment of themselves as well as their chair. The overall experience of flying with a disability is not worth it to many and the travel market is doing an injustice to both themselves as well as those with disabilities. As our population ages, the disability population will grow, and this population group holds 70% of our nation’s spendable wealth. If the market is not prepared by being accessible to everyone, it will suffer.

 

FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018

The FAA Reauthorization Act that passed on October 4, 2018, will hopefully begin an improvement of the treatment and overall experience of those with disabilities when flying. The FAA Reauthorization Act requires equal access and that persons with disabilities must be treated with dignity and respect. This act also has set up provision on how to better record and compile information when a person reports that they have been injured or their mobility aid has been damaged.

Another exciting piece of this legislation requires that in the next two years, testing will be conducted to determine whether it is safe to bring power wheelchairs into the cabin. This would be incredible as it would lower the risk of the powerchair being broken, which would reduce expenses for airlines and anxiety of travelers, as well as reduce the health risk that many wheelchair users face when seated in alternate seating for long periods of time.

Both Daman and Kyann love traveling–even with all the existing barriers. Hopefully, the passing of the FAA Reauthorization Act will improve their overall enjoyment of travel and the experience for others with disabilities as well!