Zach Anner is a comedian, actor, and writer with cerebral palsy. The New York native was first discovered when he sent a video in to Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star in 2011. That same year, he launched his own TV show, “Rollin’ With Zach.” The show was canceled after only six episodes, but Zach went on to continue raising awareness about cerebral palsy.
Every year, more than 200,000 babies develop cerebral palsy due to abnormal brain development or complications of birth. Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects the muscles, causing problems with muscle tone, exaggerated reflexes, lack of coordination, and speech problems. Because of this, the majority of people with cerebral palsy are wheelchair-bound for most of their lives.
Like many others with cerebral palsy, Zach requires a motorized wheelchair for mobility. And even though his TV show was canceled, he is finding creative ways to continue advocating for wheelchair accessibility. One recent video, titled “Zach Anner & The Quest for the Rainbow Bagel.” In the video, Zach films his journey across New York City to buy the incredibly popular rainbow bagel from The Bagel Store in Brooklyn.
Zach immediately encountered problems. Only one elevator in his hotel could be accessed without using stairs. Because so many able-bodied people were using the elevator, Zach was unable to use it. When he made it outside, he had to find his own way to his destination. Accessibility barriers were nearly everywhere. Five hours later, when Zach finally reached his destination, he was greeted with yet another step that prevented him from actually entering the bagel store.
What’s most surprising about this is that New York City is considered one of the most accessible cities in the entire United States. Some of the most common measures of a city’s accessibility include barrier-free access to public transportation, the availability of taxis with wheelchair ramps, the quality of sidewalks with curb cuts and slopes, the ease of access to the city’s top attractions, and the number of hotels with rooms and bathrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.
Unfortunately, the reality of wheelchair accessibility is a lot harder to gauge when you aren’t the person in the wheelchair. A trip that should have taken 30 minutes by public transit ended up taking Zach over five hours. Zach’s charming humor and determination present the problem in a way that shows how important it is for cities to invest in accessibility measures.