5 U.S. Cities Leading the Way with Wheelchair-Accessible Travel

Written by DDS Wireless

February 21, 2019

The United States offers a wide range of travel opportunities for both residents and tourists. For most of us that means getting in a car, bus or train and heading out. For people living with a disability, spontaneous travel is much more difficult: going to a new place requires substantial planning, research and advanced booking. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates accessible transit for all passengers, some cities are doing better than others at implementing these services. Here are five U.S. cities putting the needs of paratransit travellers at the top of their priority list.

1. Seattle, WA

First on the list is Seattle, a city known for its transit evolution. When it comes to accessible travel, Seattle is not being left behind: to help travellers in wheelchairs avoid the city’s many hills, visitor can use AccessMap to plot out steep inclines and other accessibility barriers. When hills can’t be avoided, Seattle’s bus, train, ferry and water taxi systems are fully accessible. And for visitors looking for entertainment, the city has ensured that all major attractions are in compliance with ADA standards.

2. Washington, D.C.

It’s not surprising that the nation’s capital—and the place where the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted—is highly rated when it comes to accessible travel. D.C.’s Metrorail system is the best way to travel for those with mobility issues: all 91 stations are fully accessible with elevators and priority seating, and buses in the Metrobus system are also wheelchair-friendly. The result? Travellers in Washington should be able to get where they need to go without encountering undue hurdles.

3. Orlando, FL

Orlando, Florida is home to many attractions, but the most famous is likely the Walt Disney World theme park. While it is a private entity, the park itself has prioritized the experiences of people living with disabilities, and cities and transit providers should take note. A full list of attractions, organized by accessibility rating, is available on the park’s website, and Disney has provided accessible transit options between rides within the grounds. Guests also have the option to rent wheelchairs or scooters from various locations once they arrive. Other attractions in the city—including Universal Studios—have followed Disney’s example and made information and support available for guests with disabilities, while Orlando features a variety of wheelchair-accessible hotels and exhibits. With a bit of planning, Orlando can truly offer a magical experience to all visitors.

4. Denver, CO

For travellers living with disabilities, getting access to the outdoors is often a challenge. Not so in Denver, where the city boasts ample options for those who want to get outside. Within the city, all buses and rail vehicles are entirely accessible to wheelchairs and other mobility aids, and bus and rail operators are specially trained to assist travellers with disabilities in boarding and exiting vehicles.

5. San Francisco, CA

Another city known for being accessible is San Francisco. Despite its notorious topography, a robust and accessible transit system means travellers living with disabilities should have little trouble getting around. The city’s network of trains, buses and even several of their streetcar lines are wheelchair-accessible, and visitors can prepare for their trip with this handy guide to getting around. For travellers hoping to soak up some sun, the San Francisco Bay Area has numerous accessible beaches, some of which rent out beach wheelchairs.

U.S. cities have much to offer passengers living with disabilities, and one of the key components of the most successful cities is a universally-accessible transit system. Yet even with the ADA mandates in place, there is still work to be done to ensure equal opportunities for all visitors as cities continue to evolve. Through training, well-designed vehicles and clear communication, transit agencies should monitor their systems and service offerings to ensure that travel experiences are accessible for all passengers, whether local or guest.

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 Image Credits: Shutterstock / Arina P Habich

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