Is Brooklyn Wheelchair Accessible?
Seven years ago, the filmmaker Jason DaSilva lost the use of his legs, a result of the multiple sclerosis a doctor had diagnosed just a few months before. To make sense of the disease and its personal effects, the 33-year-old made the documentary When I Walk, which opened at the IFC Center in October (and will soon be available through VOD, plus screen next year on the PBS series POV). The director, who uses a wheelchair, lives in Williamsburg. “I actually love it,” he tells us, “but getting a wheelchair-accessible taxi in Brooklyn is really difficult, and my subway station is not wheelchair-accessible, either.”
Compared to other major American cities, like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, “New York City and all of the boroughs in general are pretty terrible for accessibility,” DaSilva says. As for Brooklyn, “It depends on what part of Brooklyn. Williamsburg is slightly better than Park Slope or Fort Greene because it has warehouse-style and new buildings that are much more wheelchair-friendly. In Park Slope, the sidewalks are really bumpy because of the tree roots.”
Two measures could drastically improve accessibility: if businesses installed small ramps to their entrances, and if the MTA put elevators in the subway system. (“People like to cite cost as a problem,” DaSilva says, “but they’re putting WiFi in some stations; why not elevators? They were invented in Roman times.”) In the meantime, DaSilva created a website and app called AXS Map, which crowdsources the wheelchair accessibility of business and other public spaces. We ask DaSilva how that project’s going. “Splendidly!” he says.