There is a song called “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” and my best friend Erin and I definitely experienced a lot of Irish smiles and happiness during our week in Dublin! It is a very wheelchair friendly city filled with beautiful architecture, fascinating (and often amusing) history, and some of the loveliest people you will ever come across. These were our experiences in the city with my electric scooter.
Dublin is Ireland’s capital city, and it is packed with both locals and tourists alike. The sidewalks in the city center and tourist areas are wide and smooth, and there are also several pedestrian-only areas that are a joy to roll through. However, Dublin is very busy with fast moving people. You will have to negotiate through crowds of people on the sidewalks who won’t give you much leeway just because you’re in a wheelchair. Also, crosswalk lights are merely a suggestion. It’s okay to cross against the light, but I would recommend doing it with a group of people. We saw many wheelchair users in Dublin, which means Dubliners are used to our presence and understanding how we move.
Curb cuts are everywhere on the main thoroughfares, and even though there is a LOT of ongoing construction downtown (the tram lines are being ripped up and replaced), city planners have taken wheelchair users into account at street crossings with construction. A word of caution: in the medieval area in and around Temple Bar, you will encounter some rough cobblestones and higher curb drops. You also won’t find as many curb drops along side streets away from the main thoroughfares, and the sidewalks themselves will be narrower in various states of (dis)repair. But stick to the main roads and you should have no problem.
As for getting around the city, Erin and I just walked/rolled everywhere. Almost all the major sights are in a relatively compact area, so I would recommend picking a section of the city to explore each day; for example, the National Galleries, Trinity College, and Merrion Square in one day, and perhaps St Patrick’s Cathedral, Temple Bar, and the medieval area in another. Only half of the tram lines are currently operating; however, the buses are wheelchair accessible, and there are a number of taxi companies in Dublin that offer vehicles for wheelchair users. If you’re in a folding manual chair and can transfer into a sedan, you can also use Uber or a regular taxi service in Dublin.
As for shops and restaurants, I would estimate that roughly 40-50 percent of them have a flat entry, and more so in the pedestrian areas. Many restaurants also have outdoor seating for warmer days. However, not all restaurants with accessible entry have accessible bathrooms. I would keep an eye out for larger hotels with flat entries along your route, which will likely have bathrooms you can use. Also, the accessible museums and sites will generally have good bathrooms for wheelchair users.
I would recommend checking on a museum’s accessibility before your visit because not all are the same. For example, of the four National Galleries of Ireland, only the art and archaeology museums have a good degree of access. The top level of the natural history museum is inaccessible, as is the decorative arts museum. Some of the cathedrals have side entries with ramps, but not all. We were able to attend Palm Sunday Mass at a smaller church tucked into a side street, but not all churches (because of their age) are accessible. However, we had no problems at all at places like the Guinness Brewery and Irish Whiskey Museum. A quick Google search should help you determine the accessibility level of each place you wish to visit.
Most importantly, Dubliners are fun, friendly, and extremely helpful. They are used to locals and visitors in wheelchairs, so in restaurants they were already pulling chairs away for me at tables before I even had to ask. If they didn’t have an in-house accessible bathroom, they would point out neighboring businesses that did have them and wouldn’t mind if we had to use them. Feeling welcomed in a foreign city is just as important to me as the quality of the sights, and Erin and I definitely felt at home in Dublin. Hopefully the Irish will get you smiling as well!