Though the United States as a whole is generally one of the leading countries in terms of accessibility, it’s no secret that some cities are much more wheelchair friendly than others. So, which are the most wheelchair accessible cities in America?
Whether you’re looking for a place to vacation, a place to move, or looking for a model to follow to make your city more accessible, here are the 10 most wheelchair accessible cities in America.
Washington, DC[caption id="attachment_36321" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] A city famous for its monuments and its cherry blossoms. Photo by Ron Cogswell CC BY[/caption]
Quite fittingly, our nation’s capital takes the cake! Despite its historical buildings and dated infrastructure like the metro rail system, DC has done a lot in recent years to improve its accessibility. With wide, normally not-too-crowded sidewalks and a flat downtown, it’s ideal for rolling around. The city’s numerous attractions – including Washington’s famous museums and the Washington Nationals stadium (now one of the nation’s most accessible) are wheelchair friendly as well. Each stop on the metro rail has an elevator, and if it’s not working, a van can transport wheelchair riders further down the line. Aside from accessible public transportation on both buses and the metro rail system, DC is working toward making 100% of its taxis accessible, and a large number of taxi drivers have recently received disability sensitivity training.
Seattle, WA[caption id="attachment_36148" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Unsplash.[/caption]
Seattle’s mild weather and high safety rating make it a friendly place for wheelchair users. The county’s bus system has been fully accessible for over 20 years, so even though parts of the city are quite hilly, you can still use public transport to get where you want to go. Even the ferries are friendly to those with wheels. If public transport’s not your thing, fear not – Seattle also boasts one of the largest accessible taxi fleets – including taxis with wheelchair ramps – in the country! And if that’s not enough, all the city’s major attractions, including the Space Needle, zoo, and aquarium, are all wheelchair friendly too.
Portland, OR[caption id="attachment_36152" align="aligncenter" width="551"] Photo courtesy of Unsplash.[/caption]
Ahh, Portland. It turns out everyone’s favorite hipster city is ahead of the curve when it comes to accessibility as well as overall trendiness! The entire public transport system – consisting of buses, streetcars and trains – can accommodate wheelchair users, but that’s not all. You can also take a car or minibus provided by the lift service run by the TriMet transportation system around town. This city is known for its comfortable weather and fantastic outdoors, and those with wheels can experience this as well, as Portland offers numerous accessible trails.
Las Vegas, NV[caption id="attachment_36251" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo by Bob Dass CC BY[/caption]
So-called “Sin City” is one of the best places in the country for wheelchair users. All the major attractions on the renowned Strip – including shows, casinos, and even a zip-line – are all pleasantly accessible, so get ready to gamble and be amazed. The sidewalks are wide, the city is flat, and the weather is fantastic, which only adds to the experience. Buses are kneeling and elevators are common in Las Vegas. With an abundance of accessible taxis and wheelchairs welcome on all forms of public transport (which include bus, monorail, and trolleys), getting around in Vegas really can’t be beat.
Los Angeles, CA
The home of Hollywood has enviable weather year-round, which is the first welcoming sign. All metrobuses are equipped with automatic wheelchair lifts and all metro rail stations are accessible as well. The city’s notable attractions – including Dodger Stadium, Universal Studios and the iconic Venice Boardwalk – are also celebrated for their accessibility. Additionally, a convenient and economical seven-days-a-week ride share service is provided via the Consolidated Transportation Services Agency.
Orlando, FL[caption id="attachment_36252" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo by Christian Benseler CC BY[/caption]
Orlando’s climate is perfect for those of us who roll. Okay… it’s actually perfect for pretty much everyone, but that’s not all this central Florida city has going for it. Orlando offers a completely wheelchair accessible bus system to get around, and nearly all public establishments in the city are required to be accessible. In addition, the major nearby attractions, like Disney World and Universal Studios, are also famously accommodating to wheelchair users.
Chicago, IL[caption id="attachment_36150" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Unsplash.[/caption]
The Windy City might not have the nicest weather all the time, but it has good options for wheelchair users. Most of its railway stations are ADA compliant, but if you’re heading to a stop where the station isn’t, just use the bus system instead. Or better yet, take a taxi, as Chicago is known for its wheelchair friendly Pace Taxi Access Program and ADA paratransport service, which is open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. To top it all off, how many other cities can say that they have an accessible ferris wheel?
San Francisco, CA[caption id="attachment_36155" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Unsplash.[/caption]
In spite of its status as the hilliest city in the country, San Francisco is making strides in it wheelchair accessibility. While not all sidewalks are made for wheelchairs, wheelchair users can be assured that all the city’s three main public transport systems – Caltrain, BART, and MUNI – are very accessible. Bus drivers are also trained to secure wheelchairs – something important with hills as steep as San Francisco’s! Like Seattle, even the ferries in San Fran welcome wheelchairs. Quite uniquely, nearby Berkeley even offers emergency help in fixing your wheelchair if it suddenly and unfortunately breaks down – what a neat service!
Albuquerque, NM[caption id="attachment_36253" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo by teofilo CC BY[/caption]
Though it’s a smaller city, there’s no way I could exclude Albuquerque from the list. Its terrain is exceptionally easy to navigate (the city is flat and sidewalks have ample curb cuts) and its weather is always nice, setting the stage for a very accessible place. The city’s ABQ Ride bus system is 100% ADA compliant, making it easy to get around on public transport. Local fun – including sporting events and the rodeo – is also largely accessible.
Denver, CO[caption id="attachment_36257" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo by Melissa Johnson CC BY[/caption]
Many people have no idea that the Mile High City, with its characteristic cold and inclement weather, is so accessible. Denver’s metro transport system is 100% accessible and handicapped passengers receive priority seating as well as a service which takes wheelchair users anywhere within ¾ of a mile from the transit system. The city even boasts a seven-days-a-week, unlimited rides, door-to-door paratransport service which runs 23 hours a day. And despite its reputation for extreme sports like skiing and rock climbing, Denver has plenty of wheelchair friendly activities including its various theaters and Coors Stadium – one of the nation’s most accessible.
So, there you have it – 10 of America’s most accessible cities in all their glory. For the sake of accessible cities, part of me hopes that this list becomes outdated soon as other cities step up their game and these top ten push each other to take accessibility initiatives even further. Regardless, enjoy any upcoming trips or moves that you may have, especially if they involve heading to one of these wheelchair-friendly-wonders!