Edith Prentiss: Hell on Wheels


One step.

A physical step can mean the difference between inclusion and exclusion for people with wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. That one step serves as a barrier for entrance into places we all use, from restaurants, stores, buildings, subways, and offices and becomes a poignant reminder that a large population of New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds are excluded.

“Excuse me. Excuse me!”

The voice of Edith Prentiss resonates throughout the city as New York City’s most well-known and well-versed advocate on issues facing people with physical and other disabilities. Forced to use a wheelchair for the last 25 years, she serves as the voice for people with disabilities and puts the rest of us on notice of how inaccessible New York City really is and what we can do about it.

Edith Prentiss: Hell on Wheels examines the life and advocacy of this feared, fierce, and fair advocate who, ironically, is a very private person. This documentary takes a look at her life through as former social worker that, after a series of medical issues, was forced to navigate the city and her life using a cane, then a manual wheelchair, and now a power wheelchair. Her day to day is filled with telephone calls, people seeking advice on how to find an apartment or schools for their children, emails, doctor’s visits, meetings, and events within a schedule that would be daunting for most other people. And in her travels, Edith will reprimand a bus driver for not moving closer to the curb and people who often shove past her to get into elevators. Edith is smart and funny and sassy but also has her moments where she says, “you go home and cry. And then you move on.”

Edith’s story is such an important one to be told, to illuminate how our city succeeds and fails those with disabilities and how Edith, who describes herself as a “bitch on wheels” fights mightily for those who are often invisible or seen as insignificant.