10 of the World's Most Wheelchair Friendly Cities

Jun 30, 2022Mindy Drexler

Many of the most wheelchair friendly cities in the world are right here in the United States. That's a good thing to know if you have recently started using a chair and want to move to a good wheelchair city. It is also important if you are looking for job opportunities in disability friendly cities or even, perhaps, as somewhere to go on vacation. Of course, all places are more wheelchair friendly when you have a lightweight model like those found in the award-winning STRONGBACK range. Before we progress to the top 10, however, it is probably worth thinking about what a wheelchair friendly city really is.

What Does Accessibility for Disabled People in Cities Really Mean?

Firstly, disability friendly cities are not just focused on the needs of wheelchair users. They will also cater to people with visual impairments, people who use walking sticks to get around, and even offer assistance in the urban realm for those who suffer from hearing loss. Public programs in many US cities – and those in Europe, too – often mean that there is an integrated approach to public realm spaces.

For example, wheelchair friendly cities will often feature a dropped curbside at a crossing intersection. Wheelchair accessible lifts may be an offer where ramps would be too steep. Furthermore, any good wheelchair city will provide public transport that can accommodate step-free access. It is also important to note that no two cities are the same. What they have in common, however, is a commitment to making public spaces accessible to all, including wheelchair users. You might also consider the quality of the air, the employment rate among wheelchair users and other factors, such as how often it rains or snows.

Bearing all of this in mind, which are the most wheelchair friendly cities in the US?

1. Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. is rightly regarded as one of the best cities to visit in a wheelchair. All three airports serving the capital are easy to get through using a wheelchair. What's more, the public museums on the National Mall all have elevators. The city's metro system is also simple to get around by wheelchair.

2. Seattle, Washington

Sound Transit's bus and light rail lines are all wheelchair accessible which makes Seattle a very friendly place to explore whether you're on your own or in a group. The public transport system here has been geared up for wheelchair users for over four decades and there's even a rideshare program if you don't happen to be close to a transportation hub.

3. Albuquerque, New Mexico

The ABQ Ride bus network, as well as bus rapid transit services, in Albuquerque are all compliant with the American Disability Act of 1990. This is one city that would be hard to beat anywhere in the world for wheelchair use. However, you will want a light and maneuverable wheelchair such as the STRONGBACK 8 or 12 because the city has a high elevation in some places, so you might get tired in heavier models.

4. Reno, Nevada

One of the things that makes Reno such a pleasant city to move around in by wheelchair is that it sees very little rainfall each year. Even better, the city offers reduced fares to all wheelchair users on its public transportation system. Of course, this city is known for its casinos so it is good to know that it is very good for people on vacation using a wheelchair.

5. Portland, Oregon

Getting around the city is relatively easy thanks to Portland's buses and MAX light rail trains which accommodate wheelchairs easily. You can also utilize the streetcar network if you are a wheelchair user. However, the public transportation network won't get you into every corner of Portland. Thankfully, TriMet offers a lift service with hundreds of vehicles that can be booked for wheelchair accessible travel, too.

6. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is one of those wheelchair friendly cities that does things so well you end up thinking this is what every city should be like! Train travel from the city's two airports is possible. If you want to go anywhere downtown, then you can use the elevated train network which offers accessibility at most stations. For other places, book a wheelchair taxi. In Illinois, these offer side entry from the sidewalk, a neat touch that makes you feel safer.

7. Denver, Colorado

Wheelchair users get automatic priority anywhere on Denver's public transportation network. The RTD Light Rail system is easy to access. All trains and stations are fully accessible to wheelchair users, for example. Accessible taxis run throughout the city, too, but it is best to book these in advance to avoid delays.

8. San Francisco, California

Known for its steep hills, you might not think that San Francisco is one of the most accessible cities around. Certainly, you'll want an ultra-lightweight model for moving around by hand. At other times, use the fully accessible BART Train network which serves the whole bay area. Wheelchair users can use the MUNI City Bus and Trolley Bus network, too, as well as the MUNI Metro Train which offers step-free access.

9. Las Vegas, Nevada

Visiting casinos, going on guided tours and accessing hotel facilities is all possible in this rather flat city that almost feels as though it was designed with wheelchair users in mind. The lack of snow and other poor weather instances also makes it a city worthy of its top-ten place. The monorail system and the city's buses offer wheelchair ramps while the sidewalk accessibility is first-rate.

10. Orlando, Florida

Finally, Orlando enjoys several world-class tourist attractions that are fully accessible. Many hotel rooms can be booked that cater to a wide range of disability needs. Public buses in the city are equipped with hydraulic lifts and restraining belts for accommodating wheelchairs, too.

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