9 tips from a blind New York City tourist

January 28, 2015 • Posted in blindness, Blogroll, Braille, careers/jobs for people who are blind, guest blog, guide dogs, technology for people who are blind, travel, Uncategorized by

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

Blogger Blindbeader and guide dog Jenny waiting for a water taxi in NYC.

Blogger Blindbeader and guide dog Jenny waiting for a water taxi in NYC.

by Blindbeader

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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!).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!

Tracy Carcione On January 28, 2015 at 9:35 am

That’s interesting. There is one bit I disagree with, however. I work in NYC, and my rule is *never* go with other pedestrians unless my ears confirm it’s safe to do so. New Yorkers will walk in front of a bus, no kidding.

blindbeader On January 28, 2015 at 9:41 am

Enter your comment here…Thanks for the feedback! I did notice that during my trip to NYC, but unfortunately traffic and pedestrians did not always agree; I even ran into instances where traffic patterns said it was safe to go, pedestrians were going, and the light was still red…

Pam Berman On January 28, 2015 at 9:44 am

Wow! Thank you for posting this Beth. For the past 5 years I’ve been vacationing with my guide dog to Oral Hull Adventure camp in Sandy Oregon. It’s always an awesome time, but I’m looking to do something different &a trip to NYC just might be in order. I especially love the idea of doing a trip with my guide that would be empowering for us as a team!

Thanks again for the great tips!

blindbeader On January 29, 2015 at 9:57 am

The pleasure was mine! It was truly an unforgetable trip, and great for Jenny and I; I have even had people tell me that they’ve noticed that she’s grown up

Brad On January 28, 2015 at 11:21 am

Nice guest blog, Beth. 8 of these tips would be helpful to anyone visiting New York, blind or not.

bethfinke On January 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

Which of course begs the question: which one wouldn’t? Bringing a spare white cane along….?


Brad On January 28, 2015 at 2:04 pm

No, the special tour for those with visual impairment. I might have use of a white cane to ward off annoying people.

bethfinke On January 29, 2015 at 8:41 am

I can tell you I sure do scare folks when I wield that white cane of mine —


Hank On January 28, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Great blog post. Having grown up in NYC, I always say “NY is a great place to be from.” Blindbeader, you actually make me want to go back, for a visit only, of course.

bethfinke On January 29, 2015 at 8:40 am

You wouldn’t want to live there?


blindbeader On January 29, 2015 at 10:02 am

Awesome! I have never eaten so well in my life, and wore out my shoes from all the walking. I loved every minute of it!

One little thing that surprised me was how cold Jenny got when laying on the floor in restaurants; no one seems to weatherstrip the bottoms of their doors there, so cold air just goes right underneath, along the floor; Jenn lived in her jacket!

Vancouver, where I am from, is wet and relatively warm compared to many places in Canada; I often get asked two questions:
1) Why would you move from there to Edmonton? (think moving from Seattle to Montana)
2) Why would you not want to move back>

IMHO, there are two types of people: those who love their home town and use it as an anchor, or those who love to be FROM their home town…

Meagan On January 29, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Love this! I’m fortunate enough to know BlindBeader personally, and while I know firsthand how competent she is, I’m still blown away by how she and Jenny mastered NYC. I can’t wait to read about her further adventures!

bethfinke On January 29, 2015 at 6:16 pm

I have not yet had the good fortune to meet BlindBeater face-to-face, but glad to hear I’m not the only one who is blown away by how she and Jenny mastered NYC! Like you, I look forward to reading about her further adventures via http://www.blindbeater.wordpress.com


blindbeader On January 30, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Thanks, Meagan and Beth! Meagan knows the struggle of my first year – particularly my first six months – with Jenny; she is my first dog, and I think she will always have a special place in my heart as the must stubborn dog on the planet!
If you had told me a year ago that Jenny would within 48 hours of landing guide me safely through a crowded Times Square, I would have told you that you were an idiot. I owe a man from Portland (a fellow Seeing Eye grad) an incredible debt for encouraging me this time last year; without him, I don’t know that Jenny and I would be where we are today.

blindbeader On January 30, 2015 at 12:17 am

Reblogged this on Life Unscripted and commented:
I loved Beth Finke’s memoir “Long Time, No See”. When we started corresponding through our blogs, she asked me to write a summary post on my tips as a blind NYC traveler. For those who want a brief synopsis of my trip, or who want to read the invigorating chat that resulted, check this out!

Hava On January 30, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Reminds me of when I was blind in NYC. I won the item “spend a day with Seeing Eye instructors” in the Seeing Eye’s auction. Being a hick Iowegian, they thought it would be interesting for me if they did that day in NYC. It wouldn’t have mattered really. I was blindfolded and worked with several guide dogs the whole day. Didn’t see much at all of NYC, but had a thoroughly wonderful time. Blindbeader is right. New Yorkers are very friendly and helpful. When i was not properly following my dog, I bumped into several of them ..& they apologized to me!

blindbeader On January 30, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Hahaha that’s awesome, Hava!
Such behavior is a common Canadian courtesy; my British friends in particular think it’s hilarious!

No one ever apologized to me in NYC, but I often heard “That’s such a beautiful dauwg!” (I can’t get speech synthesis any closer than that, but it still makes hubby and I laugh!)

Is your husband blind, too? | Safe & Sound blog On February 22, 2015 at 10:14 am

[…] writer who lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband, three cats and guide dog Jenny. She wrote a guest post for our Safe & Sound blog last month with recommendations for visiting New York City, and when I contacted her this week to […]

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