My aunt would smite me, my grandma would disown me, my great uncle would have me disembowled, and that’s just on my dad’s side. Gaffneys are Manhattan through-and-through, but oh my LORD, Washington DC Metro understands accessibility.
Hey, y’all! I’m Gaffney, I founded Activism On the Road, do funds for National Die In, design protest gear, and I’m a little disabled queer girl who just wants to ride trains and pet dogs. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to make money doing that yet, so instead I volunteer everywhere, giving me excuses to ride trains between bouts of hardcore sales of my design and photo services. Every time I travel somewhere new, I always check out the metro transit. The way a city moves is the way a city breathes. And New York…. just doesn’t breathe like our nation’s capital.
In NYC, disabled riders take a photo ID card to the ticketing booth and purchase a single round-trip ticket for the cost of one regular ride fare–this being the “reduced fare” program–or on a bus, must use exact change for the reduced fare. It’s a pain in the ass but I guess I do it for the city I love and I’m grateful for pseudo-accessible transit. Of course, it’s only accessible to independent/semi-neuronormative disabled folks with decent mobility and fine motor functions. On my bad days, I wouldn’t dream of dropping coins into a pay slot on the bus–I’m lucky if I don’t end up with a toothbrush in my nose. I’m not worried about the ways New York is notoriously wild when you get below-ground. I’m not even worried about being mugged. I just can’t physically tolerate the level of involvement that riding the NYC Metro as a disabled person takes. It’s something abled people will never be able to relate to. As humans, we think we know how to Human pretty well, we think we understand how to do things. But there is no way to make an abled person comprehend task management as a disabled person.
Visiting DC is a breath of fresh air. To reduce paper and resource waste, WMATA instituted these cute little green and blue reusable fare cards that are simply swiped at the entrance. To accommodate reduced fares, there are Yellow Cards, which can be applied for and refilled just like regular rider cards. No need to pay in cash, no need to carry a special photo ID with all of your information right there on the front, no need to feel awkward paying in exact change on a public bus, let alone request Transfer services. The use of the Metro app in conjunction with the Yellow Card is maybe the best thing to ever happen to me as a disabled Metro user.
Don’t get me wrong, MTA holds a special place in my heart. But even the transit museum was difficult to visit. It’s underground too, and when we couldn’t find the accessible entrance, the rest of our party went in while my mother and I waited on the curb for upwards of fifteen minutes before a single employee came up a back staircase that to my memory had no signage for the museum, and operated a wheelchair lift down said stairs at the world’s slowest pace. We entered the museum from the middle, and weren’t able to visit the multiple levels of exhibits that were only stair-accessible. How did that even happen? How is a whole museum built and designed without someone asking hey, how are the old folks and disabled kids gonna get in, anyway? I just had to shake my head and try to shrug it off.
Trains and transit are my Special Something that I love and will always love. I just wish that the whole population, not the common denominator, was considered more in planning. We have technology capable of so much. I would love to see MTA establish the first Mobile Wallet fare cards. Maybe we can make that happen together.
Until then, how many times will I ride the Metro when I’m in DC for the AOTR Swap Meet next week? More than my little heart can count!