As New York Transit Museum Special Education and Access Coordinator, Meredith Martin, puts it, "New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with the subway." Though NYC transit offers the opportunity to travel to every corner of the five boroughs 24 hours a day, it presents an endless supply of challenges, inconveniences, and confusion. For no one is this truer than a child with autism. The District 75 school system, which caters to students with autism and other physical and developmental challenges, works to empower high school aged students to use public transit through an intensive, comprehensive, specially designed Travel Training program.
Housed underground in a decommissioned subway station, The New York Transit Museum provides D75 participants with the perfect setting for quiet, controlled practice using actual turnstiles, platforms, and trains. High schoolers already enrolled in a D75 Travel Training program or middle schoolers in need of an introduction, take part in two sessions at the museum where they practice tracing routes, buying and swiping their MetroCard, navigating their way to the platform, locating the conductor board, boarding the train, finding a seat, and getting off at the right stop. In addition, students utilize role-playing to address daunting social situations inevitable when riding the subway such as crowded cars, panhandling, and performances as well as etiquette and safety concerns. Together, through hands-on practice and dedicated instruction, Travel Training and the New York Transit Museum aim to direct students to the ultimate destination: independence.