Four years ago, I purchased a condo in Florida. As a native New Yorker, I spend the majority of my time at my parent’s house upstate and my weekends in Manhattan. I have always been blessed to be able to experience the craziness of NYC and the relaxing quiet environment upstate New York offers in my Edge 3 with iLevel. During spring and summer, the weather in New York is great. As someone who has muscular dystrophy, I noticed how much the colder weather affected my muscles. They would become stiff and if I went out in cold weather and it would take me hours to get warm. I had a talk with my parents and 4 years ago I decided to purchase my first condo in Florida. I would like to share how wheelchair life is different in New York compared to Florida.
I will start in my home state of New York. I grew up 45 minutes north of Manhattan in the suburbs. When I’m upstate, I need to use my personal accessible vehicle to get around. Accessible transportation is only available if you have an emergency or need to go to the hospital. Thanks to the ADA, a majority of restaurants and businesses are handicap accessible. I occasionally still run into non-accessible places upstate. It is very rural up there. As a safety precaution, I always have to keep my phone by my side just in case I need help with something. If I want to see friends or family or take the train to the city, I have to get in my vehicle and drive.
When I Arrive in Manhattan, I take my Edge 3 motorized wheelchair with iLevel everywhere. The only time I use an accessible cab in the city is if it is raining out or if I have a long ride ahead of me in my chair. Personally, I prefer taking my wheelchair places. I just put my headphones on, turn up the music and off I go. The city is very accessible. If you are familiar with New York City. I’m sure you have noticed how accessible the city is. Sometimes, with older buildings, I run into doors not being wide enough when visiting friends. Or occasionally, a restaurant has the bathroom in the basement. When this happens, I just pick another restaurant, there are plenty to choose from! My social circle is also much more vibrant in New York. the pace of the city keeps me going!
When I’m in Florida, I feel like the vibe is completely different. My condo is located in a very small town with seven thousand residents. People know who you are. According to the condo board of directors, I’m the youngest in my building. Everyone seems very laid back and relaxed. There are more nice days in Florida than New York which allows me to take my chair out for morning strolls and grab a cup of tea at the local cafe. I also spend a lot of time in the pool exercising.
While I get asked about my wheelchair a lot in both New York and Florida, I have noticed in Florida that when people are curious about my wheelchair, most of them are actively looking for a mobility product to help them. In terms of transportation, I can get accessible taxi cabs to and from the airport if I need it. I can also take my power wheelchair everywhere in my town. The grocery store is one mile from my condo, so I take my chair. The sidewalks and roads are so much smoother due to the weather in Florida. I have also noticed my local community has more literature and information available for the disabled and programs for those who qualify. I was able to find information on accessibility and disabled services in my county online and received pamphlets when I moved in. The biggest thing for me is the weather difference. My body feels better in warmer climates. This allows me to be more independent in my daily activities, allowing me to take my chair outside. Eventually, I would like to move to Florida and live there full time. The day I make the move will be hard for me. But I know long term, the warm weather and greater independence hopefully will bring me a longer life.
About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.