With the advancement of mobility aids and the increase in access laws, it is now easier than ever to travel with a wheelchair. Of course, there may still be some challenges to face in some cities, but with careful planning and forethought, you can avoid as much mobility stress as possible.
Older cities with less development in the way of disabled access such as Rome or Paris are beautiful, but not as accessible as others in Europe and the US. This article will look at the top ten disability-friendly cities, to make for a stress-free vacation.
Disability-Friendly Cities in the United States and Europe
1. Washington DC, USA
‘The whole metro network is wheelchair accessible. There are lifts at every station. A wheelchair-bound person in DC can travel around with the same level of ease as an able-bodied person.’ In regards to travelling, this blog claims it is as easy to travel around the city as an able-bodied person. They also have a company, ScootAround, that offers wheelchairs and scooters for those with mobility issues. There is a real push for accessible tourist attractions, and all have their own easy-access features.
2. Berlin, Germany
Winners of the 2013 EU City Access Award, having made efforts to make the city more accessible for people with disabilities, both mobility and otherwise. They were especially praised for their efforts to remove any barriers on the streets that made it harder to move around. A press release announcing their victory said of Berlin: “Berlin was selected… for its strategic and inclusive disability policy… The jury highlighted Berlin’s transport system and investment in accessibility for disabled people in reconstruction projects. Berlin's comprehensive approach to accessibility is fully embedded in the city’s policies and broadly supported by its decision-makers.”
3. Salzburg, Austria
Another winner of the EU City Access Awards (2012, this city ‘has put in place a range of measures to make life easier for disabled people and elderly people by making the city accessible to all. Changes include making public transport barrier free through the use of extendable ramps and floor lowering technology and information systems designed for the visually impaired.” Visiting the beautiful baroque culture is easier than ever now in this historic city, whether your disability means you have mobility issues or vision problems.
4. Denver, CO, USA
Although not always considered, this city is one of the best for wheelchair access. It ‘offers a multitude of services and conveniences, a fully accessible mainline metro transportation system and exceptionally strong advocacy.’ For those with mobility issues, having a fully accessible transportation system is invaluable. Toursit attractions such as the Children’s Museum of Denver and their Downtown Aquarium both all have access routes for visitors.
5. Helsinki, Finland
In regards to travelling, Helsinki has made pushes to develop its “public transport...is very largely accessible with 100% of the Metro and 99% of buses already meeting access standards. Work is in progress on trains and trams to bring them up to standard.” Attractions such as Helsinki Zoo, although have no option to rent a wheelchair, are largely accessible.
6. Scottsdale, USA
Scottsdale works hard to ensure it’s disabled inhabitants and visitors can traverse the city without any problems. By developing codes of practice, they ensure their buildings and sidewalks are to an appropriate standard for disabled bypassers. Tourist attractions, including the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Kierland Commons both offer wheelchairs for use on their fully accessible properties.
7. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest has received praise for its work on their transportation logistics system. Their urban development concept has been designed with a focus on social equality in the city in mind. Since 2006 there have been many developments and significant improvements to the quality of roads and public space. The Hungarian National Museum has provisions in place for a variety of disabilities to ensure they can still enjoy the attraction.
8. Stockholm, Sweden
This large medieval city center ‘has a long-standing commitment to accessibility and has been running extensive accessibility programmes since 1999. It was the first city in Sweden to acquire a Disability Ombudsman in 2002. It also has a Vice-Mayor for accessibility.’ It was a finalist in the EU Access City Awards (2013) and it is this kind of commitment to ensuring the equality of the city’s spaces for both disabled and non-disabled people that makes Stockholm a great city for disabled tourists.
9. Milan, Italy
This city is the 2016 winner of the EU Access City Awards and for good reason! This historic city retains much of its cobbled streets and culture, yet strives to remove barriers for the disabled and elderly population. The ‘Accessible Milan’ has aimed to improve their transportation system, remove architectural and sensory barriers and develop a commitment to full engagement with their disabled inhabitants. Whether a mobility disability or learning disability, they are working hard to create an inclusive atmosphere for all.
10. London, England
Britain has made headway in creating new access laws, especially for museums and other tourist destinations, which require adequate wheelchair access. Cabs and buses now offer wheelchair access, although some tube stations do not offer lift services due to their age. Much is being done to provide older buildings with more access, however all new tourist locations offer full access routes, such as The London Eye and London Aquarium.
Thinking about traveling soon? Read some tips for planning a vacation after a spinal cord injury.