How I Make Accessible Trips from New Jersey to the Big Cities

Disability and the City

Those of us living in New Jersey are lucky enough to have easy travel access to two of America’s greatest cities: New York City and Philadelphia. However, having a disability can make these trips tricky to manage. Hi, my name is William Volkmann and I have Cerebral Palsy. When I was younger I could walk down city streets and hop into cabs, although it was demanding. Now that I’m older, I see now how much harder it is to get the same experience, but I don’t discourage anyone from making it happen. You just need to plan, research, map it out and most importantly have fun! I mostly get around by driving and using a walker, but when I hit the city streets, I use a wheelchair. It makes sense for me and is the easiest decision I have to make when planning a visit to these cities.


Accessible Trips
Wheelchair Users St Pauli Disability Hamburg


Access and Travel – How to Have Both

For instance, to go to New York City, it is hard to drive in the city and parking is super expensive. So, while for most people without a disability, taking a train to the city is easy and fast, this is not the case for me or others using wheelchairs. First off, to get on and off the train, you need a ramp. To get a ramp, you have to wave down a conductor to put down the ramp for you. You also have to hope they remember you when you arrive in the city so they can put the ramp down for you to exit. Now you are off the train, you have to make sure the platform’s elevator is working. If it isn’t… you may find yourself stuck way underground. Luckily, they work most of the time. When you finally get to the main area in Penn Station, there are only two elevators to bring you up to ground level, and they are hidden. Best bet? Ask someone to show you where they are or you could be cruising around the station for an hour trying to find them.

Once you get to street level, you’ve got three options:

  1. CAB: If you want a wheelchair accessible cab, be prepared to wait a while. They are fewer in number and you will have to wait for everyone else anyways.
  2. ROLL THE STREETS: I mostly just roll down the streets, you might think this is easy, but New York City isn’t the most accessible place. Not every street has curb cutouts, so sometimes I feel I’m on an island with no way to cross the street unless I backtrack. I end up hoping there’s a clear way in a different direction that is also headed in the direction of where I want to go. More often than not, there is, but sometimes I am stuck and can’t go where I want to go. To learn what works and what doesn’t may take some trial and error.
  3. SUBWAY: You might be thinking “why doesn’t he take the subway?” Well, only 93 out of 425 subway stations have elevators (this is counting all the five boroughs) and a recent study shows 75% of them are not working most of the time. So I don’t even bother with this route.

Take MYSELF Out to the Ballgame

Accessible Trips the the CityUntil this year, the Long Island Railroad didn’t have an elevator at Citi Field, which I was bummed about because I wanted to go watch a game. To get there, I had to take NJ Transit to Penn Station, hop on the LIRR, get off one stop BEFORE Citi Field, and THEN had to go on the subway for one stop, JUST so I could use that elevator there get to the ballpark. Very frustrating. Mind you, you need to look all this up on the internet beforehand if you don’t want to get stuck. For everything else, I recommend apps like Wheelsmap to learn where there are accessible bathrooms, restaurants, etc. but they don’t help much with street routes.

In Philadelphia, it is a bit different, I drive there in my wheelchair van. The most difficult thing is finding a disabled wheelchair spot. Even if I do, most of the time I can’t get my wheelchair lift out of the side because the spaces are so narrow. I found the city streets not as hard to get around as in New York City. There are more ramps and curb cuts so therefore you will be less likely to have to reroute your journey. Still, I recommend using the internet and the app I mentioned to plan out your routes ahead of time to save you time and the inevitable headache.

I still have fun in the cities, but it comes with the pressure of having to map everything out and you still might hit a snag or two. Whether it’s your wheelchair being low on power or construction alters your direction. The best way to look at it is as a mini adventure and you must be prepared at all times. You’re foraging into the concrete jungle to discover new things and overcome obstacles. In the end, the struggle will make the reward that much more enjoyable. Have fun and I hope this post helped you prepare for your next city excursion.

About the Author:

Bill Volkmann is a New Jersey resident with Cerebral Palsy and a guest blogger for Easterseals New Jersey. He previously lived in Texas where he helped a local politician develop a platform that addressed the needs of people with disabilities throughout the state. Now he is lending his writing skills to Easterseals and wants to share the following message:

“Through the blog, I want to help start a public discussion about the things the disabled community is concerned about. How to volunteer, get a job, get an education, overcome social barriers,  find transportation, deal with physical obstacles, and the other challenges we face every day. I look forward to helping Easterseals, to inspire, encourage, and listen and to help young adults with these challenges and more. I hope you come on this journey with me as we try to make it easier for people with disabilities integrate into society for this generation and the next.”


Tech & Disability: The Future of Access

Future of Access

The Future is Now!

Brain-Controlled_Prosthetic_ArmWithin the past few decades, technology has advanced to a point where science fiction has become science fact. From the internet to smartphones, we have seen a dramatic change in the way technology has affected our daily lives. This is perhaps most apparent when you look at the multitude of ways technology is helping increase accessibility options afforded to people with disabilities and special needs.

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Disability, Life, and Moments That Matter

Quote of Teddy R "Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort"


Moments pass, life changes, we move on.

There are those times however, that stick out as significant and universal. Maybe it’s when you graduated high school? Or got your driver’s license? Or the first time you tied your own shoes? These moments are milestones. We use them as indicators of a life fully lived. All people, whether they have a disability or not, are entitled to

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6 Helpful Tips For Caregivers During National Family Caregivers Month

Thank you to all family caregivers!

Easter Seals New Jersey recognizes the various struggles that many caregivers sometimes face when they are caring for a loved one.  Often times, these same individuals neglect to care for themselves.  For all of you that do not know, November is National Family Caregivers Month, and to honor all of you caregivers out there who work hard all day, every day, to care for your loved ones, this post is for you.

In the most recent studies on Caregivers in the US there was an estimated:

  • More than 65 million caregivers nationwide
  • 52 million caregivers caring for adults with an illness or disability
  • Caregivers spend on average 20-35 hours per week providing care
  • 17% feel their personal health suffers due to caregiving
  • 40%-70% of caregivers show significant signs of depression
  • Only 12% of caregivers report using respite services
  • 78% report needing more help and information about caregiving
  • 35% of caregivers report having difficulty finding time for themselves,
  • 29% report trouble balancing work and family responsibilities


As most of you know, being a caregiver can be extremely stressful, not giving yourself enough time in the day to worry about your own needs because you are always concerned about someone else’s.  When you do focus on your needs, it may feel selfish and unnatural.  It is important to understand that an essential part of being a caregiver is to make sure you put yourself first at times.  While you may think it will compromise the care of your loved one, you have to understand that it will not.  Both your life, and the life of your loved one, depends on your well-being.

With that being said, here are 6 helpful tips on how to manage caregiver stress and the busy lifestyle that comes with it.

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