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wheelchair friendly cities. where are they?

wheelchair friendly cities. where are they?

Old Jun 28th, 2006, 05:25 PM
  #1  
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wheelchair friendly cities. where are they?

after seeing the bit on "best walkable ciies", i wonder if there is a study on best ones for those with walking DIFFICULTIES? Those needing mechanical assistance?

i will add that Valladolid, Spain, impressed me with its very WIDE, flat sidewalks and blocks of "pedestrian only" areas.

I was really enjoying the "feeling" i was getting for this town, and realized that it very much due to how calming it was to be so separated from the traffic, which in Spain is quite unusual.

Any other suggestions? might help out some travellers this summer!

we can defintely keep Toledo, Spain off THIS list!!!!

lincasanova is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2006, 05:44 PM
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I don't know if there is a study about that..I don't think so. I, as a person with walking difficulties but no wheelchair, absolutely hate pedestrian only areas, because I need most of the time to be taken by car. When you are a tourist is plain easy..you can hire a wheelchair. But I cannot sit in a wheelchair everyday or I will lose forever my walking ability. So the difficulties are very personal, it's not easy to find places adapted for every need I think the worst problem so far here in Spain is public transport and bus drivers. Bus drivers NEVER wait for you to sit, and I know first hand what's like to be down on the bus floor. We have very wide sidewalks and almost all the city center is pedestrian here in Castellon. A different thing is the acess to buildings....but I think I better shut up my mouth or I will got too sad for a travel forum
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 07:20 PM
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Definitely not Venice.

But I saw few wheelchairs making difficult trek across those numerous bridge steps with helps.

One was a woman, helped by what looked like her husband and her strong son. Did they know there would be so many steps to cross? I presume they did; looking at loving expressions of this family as they struggle to help her cross the bridge. As I looked them for the last time, I imagined a loving family -- perhaps to make her wish of visiting Venice come true in spite of her disability.
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 07:58 PM
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I believe Rick Steves has written about this subject. My impression is that those of us who don't use wheelchairs or have mobility problems sometimes *think* a city is accessible, when it really isn't -- so I'm leery of inviting the general public to give advice.

For instance, I tend to think of Milano as accessible, because I certainly find it easier to roll my wheeled suitcase around its wide, flat sidewalks -- in contrast to say, Roma. But I've never really noticed if someone in a wheelchair can easily get into its major tourist sites, or use its subways, etc.
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 08:19 PM
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This is so random, but I used to do blind wheelchair tests for an organization. Basically, I was given a wheelchair and told to do a series of tasks and to report back on how hard or easy they were.

Anyways, since then I have been really aware of this and I can say that most of Europe is out. Barcelona is pretty easy to get around as long as you don't want to use the metro (there are few elevators and they are often out of service). Very few of the buses are equipped for wheelchairs, and if they are, some drivers are not too keen on spending the time if the bus is full.

I remember thinking that if I were in a wheelchair, I would like to live in Málaga. There are very few hills, and the pedestrian streets are wide and there are a bunch of them. With few reasons to go upstairs anywhere, the lack of elevators is not a problem, and the people are very nice.

Lin- I agree about Valladolid. What a city, no?
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 08:22 PM
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Once upon a time, I had to use crutches through a very bad winter in America's midwest followed by a business trip to western Europe. In neither place was I ever at ease. In both I found the same challenges. These included getting on or off a bus, through a revolving door, and using an escalator. Yes, there were special seats for the handicapped on European subways. But the stairs at the stations were a big hurdle. This was especially true, I found, in Paris. Up, down, up, down between transfer connections. London was no better. I found Munich's subways especially good -- escalators galore. Wide ones, too. Those stone sidewalks in London were especially tricky -- when they became coated with slush, ice, or snow. I came away with a new appreciation for anything that made getting around for the handicapped just a little bit easier.
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 10:38 PM
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Most every European cities I've been in are pretty wheel chair un-friendly. One slight advantage to London and other UK cities are the cabs which are so roomy and easy to get in/out of. Folding chairs easily fit inside and still leave room for 3 or 4 passengers.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 03:06 AM
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i agree with janis...europe has a lot to learn when it comes to accessibility.

over the weekend, friends dragged me to a noodle chain restaurant in london (the one that tends to be far overrated on this board). i saw someone in a wheelchair actually turned away as the restaurant could not accommodate (fixed bench seating). appalling.

that said, many european cities are well equipped for blind people with audio cues and varying pavement textures to warn of, for example, the edge of a rail platform and transition onto roadways.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 03:15 AM
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Here are several links with access info:

http://tinyurl.com/ek8al
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 03:18 AM
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Good thought,lin.

IIRC, Paris now has wheelchair ramps on the streetcorners, elevators in the metro stations and major tourist sites, but not much beyond that.

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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 03:24 AM
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Offhand, I would say Vienna is not too bad, at least in comparison to other large European cities. The center core is mostly flat and sidewalks are wide in many parts. U-bahn stations (although perhaps not all of them) have escalators (and elevators). The new, Porsche designed trams allow wheelchair access (I think). I don't believe the old ones do, however.
Its inner core is a pedestrian zone (the Karntnerstrasse and the Graben).
Some of its major sites (but not all) have elevators. I'm pretty sure there are elevators in the Kunsthistorische and Liechenstein museums. Can't remember about the Belvedere.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 03:40 AM
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Well , at least in London buses are accesible and drivers are helpful people , and as janis said, cabs are good for wheelchair users I haven't visited nordic countries which are said to be the best adapted and most accesible in Europe, but of the ones I know..London is the first of the list.
Italy is something like Spain, some efforts are made but certainly, is not enough. In some places, like Venice, very few things can be done because of the special conditions of the city. In others, there's just no will.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 04:01 AM
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I have first hand experience with this topic and have to say that while Paris walkways are surprisingly accesible, the public transport/metro system is very limited. Invariably taxi drivers were very helpful and found many, many hotels with wheelchair accesible facilities. Also surprisingly, Scandinavian countries are not as wheelchair-friendly as you might think. The Vatican area is very accesible, with limited areas in some obvious areas. Nice, France is comfortably accesible, with the added advantage of outdoor restaurants that accomodate wheelchairs very easy.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 05:12 AM
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Slightly off post since this isn't about a city, but for those who are wheelchair dependent and visiting Prague,the Hotel Kampa Garden's room 110 fully complies with ADA requirements. Further it has its own wheelchair lift up the few stairs from the front door. The Hotel is fully non-smoking as well. Kampa Island itself is well located and easily accessible without having to use the steps from the Charles Bridge.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 09:07 AM
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The Netherlands always looked like it was wc friendly. But I wouldn't swear to it.There's more to being wc friendly than just flat walkways. You need wc accessible bathrooms, lifts for subway access or in hotels. We saw someone in a wc turned away from a museum in Lyon because it did not have an elevator. So many bathrooms in restaurants inEurope are located down steep stairs, that it would be difficult to access if you have mobility limitations.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 09:20 AM
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Good question, lincasanova.
The sections in travel books on accessibility for the handicapped always seems dismally limiting in its information. Perhaps a book idea is blossoming?

My 21 year old daughter relies on a wheelchair. It is, in fact, very large (she's not, just the chair due to its customized features). We are very limited in where we are able to go. It's not just about if sidewalks are wide enough, or if ramps are available. Once you enter an establishment, is there space to maneuver the wheelchair? I eyeball restaurants (without DD)and frequently ask myself, would this restaurant work for DD? or in a retail store - is the merchandise placed with enough space between for a wheelchair? Would other patrons be inconvenienced? More often than note, the answer is that it would be difficult, if not impossible. The size of hotel rooms, particularly in Europe, tend to be on the small side, thus creating another layer of obstacles. Museums in our community work well because they, by their very nature, have large galleries with plenty of space. Anyway, when I travel I often contemplate the same questions.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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I think it IS a great book idea. I know that some folks have done a book about Disneyworld with disabilities.

Here's my question about Venice...don't you think that 500 or so years ago, it would have dawned on someone to make the bridges ramps, instead of stairs? Would they just be too steep? Seems like ramps would be easier for everyone.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 10:07 AM
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dorkforcemom, I nominate you to start writing the guidebook!

I also hear ya about retail stores. Even when I was just pushing kids around in stollers, there were some areas of stores I couldn't get to.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 10:08 AM
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I think that ramps on venice's bridges will be too steep so, not a big advantage over the stairs. There's no place to make the ramps longer.. I suppose the only thing they can do is to have useful transport by the canals.
Really accesible vaporettos, traghettos and water taxis. And maybe with a discount, for a wheelchair user or people with walking difficulties is not a luxury to use a water taxi.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 10:13 AM
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To add to my previous personal experience; St. Petersburg was a nightmare. The Hermitage "claims" wheelchair accesibility, but NOBODY could find the key to work the special lift. It was pretty evident that nobody cared either. I have been compiling personal notes for an article on a travel magz, including hotel, restaurants, sights, and tips on touring several European cities for wheelchair-bound travelers. The most accesible city so far? Paris. The most caring locals? The French. Very grateful from the bottom of my heart of many helpful, caring, courteous locals. The most indifferent, unhelpful? The Scandinavians. It came as a shock to me.
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