You’ve got some Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket, you’ve read up on my tips for overcoming your fear of traveling with your wheelchair, and you’re ready to hit the road (or take to the skies) in 2017. Then check out my list below of some of the world’s most wheelchair-friendly destinations, and let the new year travel planning begin!
1. Sydney, Australia
It’s tough to beat Sydney in the wheelchair accessibility department. All major museums and attractions are easy to get into and around, the streets downtown are well-maintained with mostly gently-sloped curb cuts, and restaurants and stores in and near the city have a flat entry. Sydney’s transportation system is very easy to use, and separate public bathrooms just for wheelchair users are everywhere. You can also quickly hail an accessible taxi using a dedicated service called Zero200.
2. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver rates a very close second to Sydney when it comes to accessibility. I never had to wait more than ten minutes for an accessible taxi, and shopping and eating around the city were very easy. When reserving a hotel room for my stay, I did have trouble finding hotels that had roll-in showers, as opposed to accessible tubs. Online searches were challenging and required a lot of phone calls to hotels. However, the trouble was well worth it.
3. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is a modern, charming Nordic city on the southwest edge of a country with some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see. The major sights in town, like museums, the Harpa concert hall, the Hallgrimskirkja church, and larger restaurants, are accessible, but you will have major challenges getting into small shops and cafés; virtually all of them have at least one step to get in. But Reykjavik itself isn’t nearly as big a draw as the landscape surrounding it, which you can explore with specialty tour operators like Iceland Unlimited that cater to disabled travelers. Moreover, the world-famous Blue Lagoon has a pool lift!
4. Las Vegas, USA
Ah, the allure of Sin City. It is absolutely for everyone, and definitely doesn’t discriminate! With millions of visitors of all kinds from every corner of the world, Las Vegas has made it a mission to make sure everyone feels welcome, from the hotels and restaurants to the show venues and nightclubs. Make sure you have a fully charged battery before venturing out onto The Strip because there is a lot to see! Many of the shows are owned and operated by the same few companies, and accessible seats in many cases can be reserved online without having to call.
5. Berlin, Germany
After the devastation of World War II, much of Berlin has to be reconstructed, so you’ll find a more modern European city than you might expect in Germany. Berlin was recently named one of the world’s 20 most accessible cities, and this is reflected in the availability of wheelchair-friendly hotel rooms, public transportation, and ease of entry into restaurants, stores, and sights. Much of Germany as a whole is wheelchair accessible, and using Eurail and Railjet for day trips between cities is easy.
This island city-state easily wins the prize for the most wheelchair accessible location in Asia. Singapore is a very modern city, and public transportation like the MTA trains is quite accessible. Most hotel rooms have wheelchair-friendly rooms, and accessible taxis are increasingly available. The attitude towards visitors with disabilities is considerably more positive than in other parts of Asia, and getting assistance from strangers shouldn’t be difficult if necessary. Major tourist sights are wheelchair friendly.
7. Dublin, Ireland
I used to think that Europe was off-limits to me now that I can’t walk. So I was pleasantly surprised to find Dublin on many lists of the world’s accessible cities. Plenty of hotels have rooms with roll-in showers, tourist sights like the Guinness Brewery and the Trinity Library are accessible, and the vast majority of sidewalks have dropped curbs. The government is currently only issuing new taxi licenses to drivers who have wheelchair accessible vehicles, and public transportation is very easy to use. While many pubs, restaurants, and stores have flat entry, you will still have to negotiate some cobblestones and steps in places.
8. Orlando, USA
Welcome to the House of the Mouse! Situated in central Florida, Orlando is the gateway to America’s major theme parks and a business convention mecca due to its warmer climate and proximity to both Atlantic and Gulf Coast beaches. Accessibility at tourist locations and the airport is outstanding, and it’s easier to ask for accessible taxis in these areas. Customer service for people with disabilities at places like Disney and Universal Studios is second to none. However, the city itself is very large and spread out, so wheelchair friendliness of sidewalks and businesses will vary based on the age of the neighborhood. Downtown Orlando is also easy to negotiate, although the city’s public transportation system leaves much to be desired.
9. Oslo, Norway
Oslo is a wonderful mix of Scandinavian modernity and ancient Viking heritage that is easy to explore by wheelchair, largely due to the city’s relatively compact size. The public transportation system is very accessible, and wheelchair taxis are also available. Major tourist attractions like the Munch museum, Vigeland park, and opera house – including its iconic sloped roof – are wheelchair friendly, as are many ferries that provide local fjord tours in the bay. Hotel rooms with roll-in showers are widely available.
10. Warsaw, Poland
I would have never considered visiting Poland had I not come across a random article somewhere talking about how accessible both Warsaw and Krakow – only a 2-hour train ride away – are. Warsaw is a large and spread-out city, but modern, and many hotels can be found with accessible rooms and roll-in showers. Public transportation is a breeze, and for a more formal introduction to the city, you can contact Accessible Poland for tour options. Krakow has a less industrial and more of an Old World historical feel, and is as wheelchair friendly as Warsaw – definitely worth a 2- or 3-day peek.
Half of these cities I’ve visited myself, and the other half I will have visited by the end of the year. Do you have any highly wheelchair-friendly cities you’d like to add to this list? I hope my suggestions give you some great ideas for wheelchair accessible travel in 2017!