I enjoyed reading a series of posts by blogger Blindbeader about a recent visit to New York City so much that I asked her to write a guest post for us with her NYC recommendations. I’ve never met the author of the Blindbeader blog personally, but I’ve come to know her by reading her posts there — she works for a software developer on their computer helpdesk, and lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband, three cats and guide dog Jenny.
New York City — Goin’ in blind
I was 16 years old the first time anyone I knew had ever been to New York City, and since hearing my friends describe their trip (admittedly constrained by high school rules), I’ve dreamed about going myself. An opportunity presented itself last month, so my sighted husband and I packed up our big duffel bag and my guide dog, Jenny, and flew from Edmonton to New York over the Christmas holidays. We had a fabulous time, and I’m delighted to share some of my top New York City tips with you Safe & Sound blog readers.
- Purchase the New York Pass. I urge anyone who is spending more than three days in new York to get this rather than go on a theme bus tour where you spend 90% of your time on the bus and the rest just taking pictures. Most major museums and sights are included on the New York Pass, as well as unique and awesome walking tours — it doesn’t take long to save money and do some pretty nifty things.
- Ask licensed tour guides for pointers on places to eat (terrific food!) or apps that might help you get cheap Broadway tickets (something that is a must-do in New York).
- Walk quickly. If you have a guide dog, the dog will try and guide you around the massive crowds of people on city sidewalks; if you have a cane, you are pretty much at their mercy, living on a hope and a prayer that three people in ten feet won’t trip over it and break it (always carry a spare!).
- Don’t believe what you’ve heard about New Yorkers being rude. People there were incredibly friendly! I took the Subway by myself and walk from W 40 St and 8 Avenue to E 38 St and Park Avenue (about 8 blocks) with my guide dog and GPS. People in the Subway were helpful with directions to the closest exit to where I wanted to go, and confirmed that I was going the right way. It was an incredibly empowering trip for my guide dog and me,, and you can read more about that journey here.
- Cross streets when most other pedestrians are crossing.. Traffic is nuts! I ran into situations where I had to cross against the light (cars were blocking the intersections), and there were very few audible traffic signals, at least where we traveled. Just breathe deeply and walk quickly.
- Take a walking tour. Walking tours are a terrific way to see the city! My personal favorites were the Food on Foot Tour (who could say no to food?) and the NYC Gospel Music Tour provided by Inside Out Tours. No one seemed to bat an eye at our party of two humans and one dog, and 98% of all the walking tours we did were described so well that it didn’t matter if you could see or not.
- Take a water taxi ride. The New York Water Taxi tour tour guide was descriptive enough that I could picture the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Ellis Island.
- Visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. This museum offers an accessible guide book that we picked up at the information booth, and I was totally blown away! With the tactile/braille maps and the accompanying talking pen (you could scan the pen along the pages and it would tell you where you were, plus it read the information placards for each exhibit directly) that came with the book I could have navigated the Intrepid entirely on my own. It was honestly the coolest accessible booklet I have ever seen.
- Set up a special tour with the Museum of Modern Art in advance. MoMa allows people with visual impairments to set up either individual or group tours through their exhibits. I booked a two-hour tour and was able to do a combination touch tour of sculptures and descriptive tour of the Matisse cutouts that were on exhibit at the time. The guide was a pro, both describing things well and letting me deal with other museum-goers who were taking pictures of Jenny, not the sculptures. Note: these special tours need to be booked at least 4 weeks in advance.
If you travel with a guide dog to New York City, be forewarned: NYC is an incredibly “doggie” city. If your guide dog is in any way dog-distracted, keep alert. That being said, almost all the dogs we came across were incredibly well-behaved, and Jenny herself did her best to not let other dogs distract her from her work.
Overall, I loved New York City — the vibe, the food, the people — I will most certainly be back!