East Side – West Side

Speaking of inclusion, the folks from the Big Apple Greeter (BAG) dropped me a note last week to remind me that the “Big Apple Greeter is the only non-profit tourist welcome initiative that intentionally serves travelers with disabilities: not exclusively but inclusively.”

For those of you not familiar with this New York City-based program, it’s billed as a way to match visitors with New Yorkers, who then give the visitors a personalized tour of the city they love.

Here’s how it works.

Once you’ve decided to visit New York City and have made your transportation arrangements, just go to www.bigapplegreeter.org and fill out a “visit request form.” The form just asks for basic information including the days of your visit, number of people in your party and local contact information. After your request is received (a minimum of 3-4 weeks prior to your visit is recommended) you are matched with a volunteer greeter, who will plan a fun day outing for you. All BAG visits are individualized and they vary depending on each visitor’s tastes and interests.

And yes BAG can plan accessible greeter visits; in fact, they have an access department. The BAG has recruited nearly 50 volunteers with disabilities and they have welcomed over 60,000 visitors (of which 2,000 were travelers with a disability). Those are impressive numbers from where I stand.

Oh and the best thing about this service, is that it’s free. BAG volunteers are even prohibited from accepting tips.

I’ve never done a BAG visit personally, but I have done tours like this in other cities, and I have to say it’s a great way to experience a destination. There’s nothing like talking to a local about their hometown.

So, if a trip to the Big Apple is in your future, make sure and contact the BAG to schedule a tour. It’s a great (and very accessible) way to get to know New York City.