Foot-loose and fancy-free is not so easy if you have a disability. Which countries take better care of travelers with physical limits, and how? Any practical tips for those dreaming of travel but concerned about mobility?
A lightweight mobility scooter
I want to say that for the past six years, I have been using a foldable scooter for mobility. It is called a Lexis Light, and is available online. It's my personal opinion only as I have used other kinds which work well also, but this one is the smallest, and can fit in the trunk of a car. I still can't lift the parts, so I do need help with that. Hope my experience can help someone enjoy travel as much as I have in Europe as well as here.
Seattle, WA USA Sun 12/16/2012
Re Paris accessibility: curb cuts A, buses D, Metro F-, of the major sites some are A's, some are F's. Having been to Paris before by myself, I thoughtlessly chose a far out B&B for our recent week there because there is always a Metro stop nearby. Oops, I had forgotten about the looooong Metro stairways, unmanageable for me carrying my companion's lightweight scooter. So we took the bus everywhere: though time consuming, not too bad because you're back there with the local strollers and wheeled shopping carts, very very "Back Door," plus you see more from the bus. We didn't need the few kneeling buses, but we observed that they didn't always park square to the sidewalk. Lots and lots of curb cuts. The Arc de Triomphe has under-the-street stairsways, no elevators. The Louvre is good. Bonus: you go to the head of even the longest line! Liz and Dorothy, San Jose CA
Liz and Dorothy
San Jose, CA USA Fri 09/28/2012
I get along pretty well with a cane and haven't missed much. I didn't expect a problem going to the roof of the Duomo on the elevator. Except you are not actually on the roof when you get off. You walk along a narrow walkway with people ahead of you and behind as well as walking back to the elevator. There are narrow archways and stairs. People are carrying babies, backpacks, strollers. It is congested and it is difficult to walk at your own pace. As I got to what I thought was the final steep staircase, a woman coming down told me that there was a spiral staircase yet to come. Since I couldn't imagine the descent in those circumstances, I had to bail. I was there in April in cool weather; can't imagine what the summer would be like.
Larchmont, NY USA Tue 05/01/2012
Italy in a wheelchair
I found a blog that lists wheelchair accessibility in Florence, and they are starting with other cities. http://naturalitaly.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/italy-in-a-wheelchair/
Phoenix, AZ USA Thu 12/22/2011
London Accessibility 2011
I recently returned from an accessibility site visit in London for my company, TravelinWheels, that produces accessibility guides. While not perfect, I was thrilled to see the improvements made in light of the recent anti-discrimination legislation and London 2012 movement. Many hotels now have lovely accessible rooms (especially Holiday Inns), and some even have built in Hoyer lifts! Bathrooms were great, and I was able to find many, even in Central London. While the Tube is still difficult, improvements have been made in several sections of London to be step-free. If you would like to read more, I have a blog with lots of details at: http://www.travelinwheels.com/bgtest.aspx?uid=131
Schaumburg, IL USA Thu 12/01/2011
Wheelmap.org, outlines the wheelchair accessibility of countless places around the globe. Originating in Germany, there is alot of info about Europe.
Grafenwoehr, Bayern Germany Mon 10/24/2011
Rail travel with a wheelchair
When traveling by rail with a wheelchair in Europe, be aware that most railroads require at least 24 hours notice to accommodate you. In France they require 48 hours. Most countries now have a dedicated phone number for disabled travelers to arrange their trips. Some have websites. If you don't speak the language well enough to talk on the phone, you may need some help. In France they set up a client account for you on the first call, which takes some time. After that they take GREAT care of you.
Kirkland, WA USA Tue 12/14/2010
For those of you who have, like me, dreamed of exploring the Acropolis, don't despair, it is handicap assessable!! My husband discovered online that they have installed a small elevator on the back of the Acropolis that is not visible when you approach it from the front. I am disabled and use a small travel scooter when we travel. The elevator is small, only enough room for me on my scooter, my husband and the lift operator and it is slow, but it worked! I never thought that now that I am disabled that I would be able to see more than just a street level view Acropolis!! It was wonderful!!
Sutter Creek, CA USA Fri 11/05/2010
Don't be afraid to ask to use the elevators.
My very arthritic knee went really wonky while recently traveling in Germany. I ended up needing to wear a brace and use a walking stick. I found that most places were very accommodating when we expressed the need for an elevator; even at Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau and Herrenchiemsee Castles. A personal guide will take you to the elevator. I took the horse drawn wagons, too – yes, there is a little extra cost.
Seattle, WA USA Tue 10/26/2010
Great Blind Spots!
My husband is blind and I am sighted. We have found many European museums and art galleries have hands on sections - Musee D'Orsay in Paris, and the Vatican in Rome are most notable - and entry is often free. Also, we have begun to slow down a little and stay in a city for a week or more at the same hotel. The sense of familiarity deepens the experience. And we always use a white cane as it lets everyone know we are coming and are proud!
Valerie and Vangelis
Ottawa, Ont Canada Sun 09/12/2010
Visually Impaired Tourism
I am sighted and my husband has almost no vision. We love traveling in Europe. We even took his guide dog along with us one year. Unfortunately we found it to be very stressful for his dog and decided to leave the pup at home for any future overseas trips.
Our site-seeing is different from those who are sighted. We plan one or two activities a day and do them extremely well. We use our Rick Steves' guidebooks and do our own walking tours at our own pace. Guided tours are simply too fast for us. I describe anything that I think my husband will find interesting. I also read Rick's guide book descriptions aloud to him. Many of the museums have audio guides available that are also very helpful.
Think of choosing only one church to visit that is of interest to you. Sit quietly and listen to the echoes of footsteps and soft voices. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to hear the organist practicing for the Sunday service. Slow down and really absorb the spirituality and atmosphere of the church. Put yourself in the place of the pilgrims from hundreds of years ago who stood where you stand today.
We take our time, listen to the local languages, interact with the locals, eat and drink the regional cuisine, and most of all enjoy absorbing everything that each region has to offer us. We have found that the Europeans are gracious, and helpful, and as interested in us as we are in them.
Give yourself plenty of time to make train connections, etc. Ask for help if you need it. You can arrange for help from the DB train people ahead of time if you need assistance at any of the stations.
As far as any "must see" tourism...anything that you are interested in is a "must see". Just don't try to do too much in any one day. Again, take your time and use all of your senses to enjoy your trip and the people you meet along the way.
Don't be afraid to enjoy European travel...with or without disabilities!
Phoenix, AZ USA Sun 08/08/2010
Great accessible hotel in Amsterdam
The Crowne Plaza hotel in Amsterdam was renovated in 2009 and now has three very w/c-accessible rooms, including roll-in showers. The only downsides are that it is pricey and the front entrance ramp is steep.
Portland, OR USA Thu 07/01/2010
Disabled travel in Eurpe
First of all I would say the high point for me was being able to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I am a history buff so I enjoyed the museums very much. I had an Ipod touch that had apps that helped me navigate the public transit very easly
Littleton, Colora USA Thu 06/10/2010
Rick, thanks for your comment -- it's encouraging to know that you can get by while traveling with low vision.
I've just been diagnosed as legally blind and I'm planning a big Europe trip to see as much as I can before the rest of my sight goes. That said, two questions: 1) What would you recommend as a must-see, and 2) Can anyone suggest any travel gadgets for those with low vision?
Salem, MA USA Mon 06/07/2010
Blind in London and Paris
I am a legally blind person who traveled to London and Paris in November of 09 without any real problems. While I do not have any mobility issues I do have a hard time reading signs. I used public transportation in both cities without any trouble. I even rode the Eurostar on my own. The only time I ever rode anything other the public transit was on the way to CDG. I would recommend the travel experience to anyone who has the will to do so and play to go back to Europe this year.
Littleton, CO USA Tue 03/30/2010
Just FYI, I am in a wheelchair and was able to visit London without any major issues in December. Nearly all the busses are accessible and Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and the Cabinet War Rooms were all wheelchair accessible. I found a lot of useful information at http://www.sagetraveling.com that helped me out before the trip.
Baton Rouge, LA USA Mon 03/08/2010
Kyiv, Minsk, St. Petersburg and Moscow metros - almost no access
The metros of Eastern Europe, particularly in countries that were once part of the USSR, are inacessible to mobility-limited passengers. It is already apparent with the heavy doors that can swing in and out, and require a bit of strength to keep open. They have "hold the doors" signs. From there, there can be several steps to the ticket counter. Some stations don't have escalators, especially those in the outskirts. Minsk's metro is shallow compared to Kyiv, St. Petersburg and Moscow. It will therefore have almost only steps at Ploshchad Lenina and Oktyabrskaya. Other metros will have line transfers called perekhod in Russian and perekhid in Ukranian, that will require the use of stairs. They can get extremely crowded. The metros of Eastern Europe just aren't meant for those with mobility impairments, from what I observed.
Plano, TX USA Fri 10/23/2009
Senior with limited mobility
I've travelled to France & England several times with my Mom who has limited mobility. Most recently, she used a 4-wheel walker (one with a seat), and was able to get around quite easily. We've found that while many of the buildings are not easily accessible, the people are very nice and ready to help when they see someone with a disability. She's 86 now and we're planning another trip for next fall. We did have a problem at Heathrow. They checked her walker at check-in, rather than at the gate. Several times we were asked if she can "do stairs." They were vague on how many, but we said yes, then when we got out to the gate (transported by electric cart), we discovered a long, very steep ramp down to a shuttle out to the plane, and stairs from the tarmac to get into the 747! Next time the answer to that question will be "no." Mom knows that she may not be able to get into all the places she might like to see, but she enjoys those that she can get into and doesn't miss out on very much. We try not to pack too much into the day, and leave a few days for rest & relaxation.
Seattle, WA USA Thu 10/15/2009
getting on Helpline
I tried to get on the Travelers Helpline but could not figure out the part about the internet server. I use gmail in the USA
NYC, NY USA Tue 09/15/2009
For Rick or someone on his staff, Thank you for providing this space but I'd like information from someone.... anyone with limited mobility who has had a good experience. This is an area where we need help. Like most people we don't expect a remodling of historic places and I'm willing to climb stares with the best of 'em, but if I have to walk a mile and a half to get past the ramparts or over a bridge before starting I simply can't. I think all we're (many of us) looking for is a tram, bus or cart to the cite before we do. Could we please get a list? Thank you
Sacramento, CA USA Sat 08/01/2009
HOTEL AUTOMOBILE ACCESS
We had planned our trip to the Provence for months. Shortly before we were scheduled to leave my hip becamed inflamed and I could barely walk. Cancellation of our trip was considered but we decided to go ahead regardless. Our first reservation was at Chambres Clerissy in Moustiers-Ste-Mariie. After driving around looking for Clerissy for an hour without success. my wife set out on foot and finally found it only to discover that there was no auto access to Clerissy to unload luggage. We simply could not stay there. Sophie was very helpful and found us the Hotel Columbien which was very nice and with easy access. It would be helpful if Rick Steve's Provence Guidbook Indicated those accommodation which do not have Auto access to deliver luggage.
Huntington, NY USA Sat 06/13/2009
Neuschwanstein Castle, Fuessen, Germany
We traveled to Fuessen to see Neuschwanstein. Prior to departure when I consulted the website, it showed that "handicapped tours" were available on on Weds afternoons. I contacted the information site, asked about accessibility for those w/trouble walking, and after several e-mails in English, was assured they could accommodate us. We called ahead the day before and were told to arrive in the early AM.On the day of our visit, I reported to the main information office in the courtyard of the castle, was told our 2 struggling walkers needed to report to the exit of the tour, at the bottom of the tower, which meant they had to walk back down the hill. There is a new elevator which took them to the top where they joined the previous tour-in Japanese- so they were give the audio tour handsets. They still had to come down the stairs even though I thought they might have access to the elevator down as well. It was better than cancelling and going to another castle.
Lake Tapps, WA USA Thu 04/02/2009
Wheel adventures website
Wheeladventures website. I just checked this website and it looks like the forum has been taken over by spammers. The website is still great, but do not go into the forum.
Frankfurt, Germany Wed 12/17/2008
Disabled accomodations in Scotland
Be careful when making reservations at B&B's that are labelled as Handicapped Accessible, even 3 or 4 stars in the UK. I walk with forearm crutches. In 2001 we stayed at a B&B in Southern Scotland labelled as disabled accessible. Since a lot of time has passed, I won't mention the establishment. The bathroom facilities consisted of a shower with a seat. I had to hoist my self up onto the seat with my crutches, and when I closed the shower door it was difficult to move around. If someone more disabled then me, (wheelchair) had tried to use it, it would've been near impossible. I give the UK credit for trying to meet needs, but we are really blessed in the US for accessability, and the rest of the world hasn't caught up yet.
Bothell, WA USA Fri 11/14/2008
Here is a great new website for travelers on wheels. It has videos, photos, and lots of really detailed information about getting around the different cities, their airports, train stations, public transportation, and hotels and restaurants. http://www.wheeladventure.com/
Frankfurt, Germany Tue 11/11/2008
Attitudes in Europe
I know that accessibility is an extremely important issue, but I'm also interested the attitudes that you have encountered as a disabled person in Europe. Some would argue that the level of accessibility in a country reflects the culture's general attitudes towards the disabled, but I have found that to not always be true. Can people please discuss how you were treated as a disabled person in Europe? Are some countries more accepting than others? What countries did you feel the most comfortable in? Which societies made you feel unwelcome?
KY USA Wed 10/15/2008
Handicapped toilets in England & Wales
While the UK came to ADA regulations later than the US, they are even more serious. The true wheelchair user will have every handicapped toilet include its own wash basin conveniently located right at the W/C.
Ellen from Seattle
Seattle, WA USA Sat 09/06/2008
MOBILITY SCOOTERS ON BRITISH RAIL FORBIDDEN
Mobilty Scooters on trains in UK are forbidden. If you are traveling with one, you will find that it has to be able to fold up small enough to stow in the small luggage area of the trains. They are not ready to allow the use of a medium sized scooter due to horrible accidents having recently occurring. One lady drove in one access door and immediately out the opposite door- out onto the tracks of an on-coming train! Brit Rail is now horrified at the possibility of it happening again. RECOMMENDATION: rent a scooter in London for that part of your trip and then turn it in. The Brit Rail service for wheelchair assist is excellent for transit between cities. You might check into the bus system as their stowage areas are larger - but they don't guarantee service either.
Ellen from Seattle
Seattle, WA USA Sat 09/06/2008
Mobility Scooters for Hire in London
Direct Mobility in north London will deliver a mobility Scooter directly to your hotel and pick it up. Extremely friendly and prompt service. Be sure to book early. They swapped a defective scooter within hours on the same day. Love Frank & John. website: http://www.directmobility.co.uk/
The other "Hire Mobility Scooters" websites didn't even return my email requests for info. Highly recommend Direct Mobility. Really made my 5 days in London packed full of places visited. Much better than my husband pushing me in a wheelchair.
Ellen from Seattle
Seattle, WA USA Sat 09/06/2008
Premier Inn London County Hall for Disability access to London
Loved Rick's book Easy Access Europe which recommended a list of hotels. In London, The Premier Inn London County Hall has highest recommendations. The staff is young as this is a budget hotel. The rooms are huge with equally large handicappe accessible bathrooms. We reserved the Disability room early and had more than we expected. The staff was extremely motivated and helpful. A bit musty smell was one knock on it, but an open window for a few hours took care of that. The LOCATION even surprised my British friend! It is around the corner from the London Eye and across from Big Ben. What Rick doesn't mention is that everything is so close, that we were able to view the entire south side of the River from Westminster Bridge (home) to Tower Bridge on the far east. Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern. The Golden Hind, Hay's Market and Borough Market are extremely accessible from this site. Easy to press on to the Anchor Bankside Pub and further on to the Tower Bridge and cross to the Tower of London. The mobility Scooter made this extremely easy. North of the River, we transited to Trafalgar Square via the Horse Guards and on to Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus. Pressed on to Buckingham Palace and back via St. James Park. All within easy walking or scootering of the Premier Inn London County Hall
Ellen from Seattle
Seattle, WA USA Sat 09/06/2008
BLANCO'S HOTEL IN PORT TALBOT WALES
Blanco's Hotel in Port Talbot Wales is a very comfortable hotel for the disability customer. The location is odd or "grotty" in an industrial area, but the hotel features very upscale fresh, local organic cuisine. Much better food than most hotel restaurants with excellent attention to my disability needs. The physical layout is perfect and the access to the M4 is easy. A quick ride to Swansea or Neath.
Ellen from Seattle
Seattle, WA USA Sat 09/06/2008
Travel in Barcelona and Valencia
In this site we can quickly find interesting discounts in restaurants in Barcelona and Valencia, also offers up to date maps. http://www.connectclub.com
Paraguay Thu 09/04/2008
The wonderful medieval cities of Florence and Rome offer special challenges if walking and stairs are an issue for you! Also, navigating reservations or waiting lines for special sites is intimidating! But you can't miss these experiences! Guided tours are worth every penny and Rick has great recommendations in his Italy tourbook! We hired the lovely, articulate and accommodating Paola Migliorni of Tuscany Tours for a tour of Florence. She picked us up at our villa in Tuscany and faciliated the most wonderful day,with a perfect balance of walking and driving. It was a pleasure to hear her speak in Italian and English (she speaks other languages as well) and she offers wonderful insights on history, architecture and art. She made our reservations and expedited our time at the Academie.
We also hired the handsome, warm and helpful Conzezio Monti "Ezio" of Montitours for a full day of Rome. He picked us up at our hotel and tailored the day to our wishes, including a fantastic lunch! What a great tour of the city with wonderful stops! He is a true gentleman and offers so much in information and experience. If you want to maximize your time and energy, guided tours are exceptional!
Lawrence, Kansas USA Wed 05/28/2008
good time for you all, my name is Michelle and I`m a germany based touroperator for people, using a wheelchair. I`d like to invite you visiting our European countries, wether the high North, with Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finlande, St.Petersburg, Sverige or the middle and southern european Regions of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and many more - I travelled all of them along WITH an electric powered WHEELCHAIR - and I found much more than 1000 barriere-free self catering vacation homes, houseboats, river-cruise ships and hotels out, that should be fantastic places to stay for you and your dear loves. If you once decided to come over here will you of course beeing well supported - by me - Michelle, and by my very comprehensive and multilanguage staffs of accessible-van drivers or personal care assistants. We`ll like to accompain you to europe`s most romantic places like the Loire Valley Castles, the Danube, Mosel and Rhine River Valleys, the Castle of Mad King Ludwig 2nd and many more. You `ll see important historical places of 2nd WW e.g. the Eagles Nest in Bavaria or the Invasion landing Beaches Gold, Juno, Omaha and Yutah in the French Normandy. You may participate an Audience with his Holyness Pope Benedikt at Rome, a Rail Tour across Switzerland by Glacier Express, a guided tour around Granada`s Alhambra or Gaudi`s famous church Sacrada Familia in Barcelone - Spain. If you`d like visiting european Museums, such as Louvre, Rijksmuseum, Museum Island Berlin or the Uffici at Florence, they`re fantastic wheelchair accessible, and some of europe`s museums even provide tactile elements for those who cannot see. Cross the Baltic Sea on an accessible cruiseliner, visit the famous Eremitage in St.Petersburg - Russia, which is also called "Venice of the North" step over to Helsinki , Finland`s Capitol and, and, and .. this list should be endless But be sure - IT´S ALL wheelchair accessible. If you do have now any question about the accessibility of any european place - can you call me at ++49 160 258 4789 I `ll provide you with all needed information regarding accessibilities.
Meerfeld, RLP USA Wed 02/20/2008