Festivals, celebrations, and parades are more than simple parties; they often have significant historic and cultural roots, which maintain our connection to important triumphs and traditions. Incidentally, it is this connection that serves to grow a burgeoning global heritage. Thus, each festival brings together millions of people annually to celebrate an increasingly diverse and inclusive community, as a testament to the indomitable human spirit.
Steeped in history and focused on community, below is the 3rd of 5 of the world’s largest accessible celebrations (see the others here):
Saint Patrick’s Day Parade: New York City, New York
Saint Patrick’s Day, recognized annually on March 17th, has been a day of celebration for over 1,000 years. Incidentally, the first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City in 1762 by Irish soldiers serving in the English army. Today, the New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade attracts 150,000 participants and 3 million spectators to 5th Avenue along Central Park. Although the celebration has historically been a recognition of Ireland’s Saint Patrick and his bringing Christianity to Ireland, the holiday quickly became a way of building community in foreign lands. Irish immigrants to America and those of Irish heritage elsewhere used the celebration to connect with each other and share their culture with others. The same is true today as millions of people worldwide celebrate their heritage and ever growing community at Saint Patrick’s Parade.
Getting to New York
By Plane: JFK International Airport is the most likely destination for those flying into New York City. The airport is highly accessible, featuring accessible drinking fountains as well as accessible restrooms in each terminal. In addition, accessible services between gates as well as to and from planes are offered through the Autolink and Planemate programs. However, travelers should contact their air carrier about both manual and motorized wheelchair policies, if needed.
By Train: Amtrak provides 17 direct routes to New York City; more are available from the west coast via a transfer. The Amtrak trains provide onboard accessible accommodations, including seating and bathrooms. In addition, access to or from the trains is provided via ramps or platform lifts. Furthermore, Amtrak offers a 15% discount, called a companion fare, to those traveling with a disabled passenger. However, the accessibility of train stations varies from station to station. Therefore, it is recommended that travelers call the station along their route to confirm the presence accessible accommodations. See Amtrak’s website for more information.
Getting Around in New York
Subways: The subway network in New York City is extensive; however, the accessibility of this network is not. This is due to the New York City subway system being largely constructed prior to the establishment of the ADA. However, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) does offer a list of accessible stations and platforms, as well as suggestions for connecting routes on their website. MTA efforts are ongoing to increase accessibility throughout the subway network.
City Buses: New York City buses are widely accessible and equipped with ramps and lowered floors, while many provide a powered lift.
Taxis: New York City is host to a large number of taxi cabs, many of which are accessible. However, if an accessible cab is not immediately available, wait times for ordered cabs can be excessive. As such, it is recommended to call a cab in advance in order to ensure a timely ride. Incidentally, wheelchairtravel.org has a wonderful and in-depth article about accessible taxis in New York City.
On Your Own
Streets and Sidewalks: The streets and sidewalks in New York City are well maintained; however, the traffic and crowds pose some difficulty in navigating the city. Despite the congestion, crowds on sidewalks are highly aware and make room for anyone, while those driving in traffic and through intersections are also accustomed to accommodating pedestrians. When in doubt, go with the crowd.
Grandstands: During the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, grandstands are erected for spectators. While there is no designated section for disabled persons in the grandstands, accommodations are readily available for those wishing to view the parade. Those attending the parade and wising to make use of the grandstands should speak with the ushers at the grandstands for a reasonable accommodation.
*For additional accessible travel tips, John Morris’s website wheelchairtravel.org is a terrific resource for those traveling with disabilities.
Next stop, Access Carnival: Venice, Italy!
* Wheelchairlift.com would like to thank author John Morris and recognize his website wheelchairtravel.org for informing much of this post. John is a world traveler with an extensive knowledge of how to travel the accessible way. Follow John on Twitter. In addition, wheelchairlift.com would like to also recognize the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as the John F. Kennedy International Airport websites.