Mayor Bloomberg, I applaud your efforts to make New York a better city. I ask you to take a look at a new area -- accessibility. If you need help, I am in your debt. Literally.
Last week, I was a tourist in New York City. I carried no gun and did not buy an over-sized soda. I did break the law.
My crime? Being 3 feet 9 inches tall.
I received a parking ticket outside the restaurant my son and I stopped in to have a hamburger. We were in the upper west side of Manhattan in one of my favorite places -- McAleer's. The food is good and the urinals go to the floor -- it's the little things that make me happy.
We parked on the street outside. There is no "disabled parking space" labeled as in other cities, so we parked. There were no meters, but one of the new kiosks for parking. Well, I cannot reach these but it's Saturday so they won't be ticketing right? Wrong.
All of a sudden in the middle of a bite of my hamburger, I see a NYC official parking patrol person at my windshield of my truck. I run outside and say I cannot reach the kiosk. They already processed the ticket -- sorry.
A $60 ticket. That made my $80 meal -- $140. I could have had a parking space and burger in Albany for $30. I could have parked two blocks away for $50. I could have my son stand on my shoulders to reach the kiosk. I could have avoided New York City. I am a tourist and want to experience the city just like my able-bodied peers.
People with Disability tourism is a growing opportunity for businesses.
- There are currently 54 million people with disabilities and 23 million parents of children with disabilities
- This group accounts for $220 billion in discretionary spending power
- They spend $13.6 billion on 31.7 million trips each year
- The number of leisure trips and hotel stays among people with disabilities has increased by 50 percent since 2002
- 71 percent eat in restaurants at least once per week
According to a major study conducted by the Travel Industry of America, 21 million Americans with disabilities traveled in the years 2004 and 2005 alone, nearly double from one decade before. And according to a study conducted by the Harris Interactive Poll and the Open Doors Institute, the number of leisure trips and hotel stays made by people with disabilities rose 50 percent between 2002 and 2005 (Hospitalitynet.org 2005).
It is obvious when cities, towns, tourism areas are not welcoming to people who are differently abled. We know when we are not welcome. There have been times when I have avoided tourism opportunities when I know it cannot be accessible. I know not to visit everywhere on the decks of the USS Constitution in Boston. I know enough not to climb the stairs of the Blarney Castle in Ireland. But, sometimes I want to be included. Parking in New York City should be -- can be -- easy to fix.
Mayor Bloomberg, I am here to help. If you do not want my help, I understand. But, I ask you to look at your city through accessible eyes. There are $220 billion reasons to do so.