The World’s Most-Wheelchair Accessible Cities
With nearly 15% of the global population – around 1 billion people – living with a disability, highlighting accessibility is more important than ever. July is Disability Pride Month, but it's imperative that we keep the conversation going year-round.
Luckily, authorities cities and countries around the world are making strides to be more accommodating and accessible to both citizens and visitors that require special assistance. There is still a long way to go, of course, but some destinations serve as excellent examples of how to do accessibility right.
Read on for some of the most wheelchair-accessible cities around the world.
The Most Wheelchair-Accessible Cities in the World
Singapore is the most accessible city in Asia and a leader across the globe. Singapore's code on barrier-free accessibility has been in place for 30 years. It's revised on a regular basis and mandates improvements on accessibility to older buildings, better access for escalators and elevators, and accessible restrooms on the main floor of all buildings, among other criteria.
Singapore's subway stations have priority elevators, visual and audible indicators on elevators and platforms, wheelchair-accessible toilets, and more. Public bus stops are barrier-free; buses were set to be wheelchair-accessible by last year. Taxi services are also wheelchair-accessible, with apps like Grab offering additional assistance to wheelchair users.
Tourist attractions in Singapore are wheelchair-accessible. The Gardens by the Bay complex provides free shuttles for wheelchair users as well as wheelchair rentals.
Other resources for travelers with access needs can check Visit Singapore or the Disabled People's Association of Singapore. Both are excellent tools that include links to local organizations and accessibility for tourists.
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The Mile-High City is one of the most wheelchair-accessible in the U.S. Known for its high quality of life, adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and variety of activities for people with disabilities, Denver is an excellent option for accessibility.
Its airport is even equipped to welcome service animals; dedicated restrooms are available on each of the airport's concourses. Public transport is highly accessible: people with disabilities receive a 50% on fares. For passengers that cannot use the RTD light rail or buses, the Access-a-Ride program provides door-to-door transportation every day of the week, 23 hours a day. Denver's sidewalks are wheelchair-accessible, in good shape and relatively flat.
Denver's tourist attractions are highly accessible, from the city's public gardens to its museums, performing arts centers, and sports arenas. Each of Denver's five stadiums are wheelchair-accessible, with universal seating. However, the standout aspect of Denver's accessibility is that it's home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled, a pioneer in providing adapted outdoor experiences for over half a century.
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Spain is one of the world's top tourist destinations and has prioritized wheelchair-accessible travel in recent years. Barcelona, in particular, focuses on accessible transit and attractions. By 2024, 100% of the city's metro stations are set to be wheelchair-accessible; the city streets are in general flat and in good condition. Barcelona's famous La Rambla and Boquería market are all located along flat, even, and open walkways.
At iconic tourist spots like La Sagrada Familia, people with disabilities are allowed to move to the front of the line; companions typically enter for free, as well. What's more, Barcelona's beaches are wheelchair-accessible, and lifeguards are available to provide assistance if needed.
For more information, Turisme de Barcelona is a multilingual website dedicated to accessible travel with loads of helpful information. Additionally, check out Tur4all, a recently launched accessible tourism platform with different accessibility filters and criteria.
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Warsaw was named the 2020 winner of the Access City Award, organized by the European Commission and the European Disability Forum. Just two years prior, the Polish capital launched a comprehensive nationwide "Programme Accessibility Plus" with the goal of improving quality of life for folks with disabilities and the eldery. This also includes reinforcing compliance with accessibility rules and requirements across a variety of spaces and arenas.
Visitors that arrive to Warsaw's international airport will notice that it's 100% barrier-free, with details like tactile maps that display the airport in its entirety. Train and metro stations across the city are wheelchair-accessible, are are most bus stops and buses. In lieu of cobblestones, flat street surfaces make it easier for wheelchair users and other people with disabilities to get around. Tactile paving and pedestrian crossings – equipped with both Braille and audio indicators – are other markers of this accessible city.
Another impressive rollout that benefits the blind and visually impaired is bringing technology to the next level. Beacon technology, equipped with next-generation Bluetooth, has been deployed at hundreds of thousands of points across Warsaw. This aids the visually impaired in moving around independently, receiving assistance from their smartphones.
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Las Vegas, Nevada
Sin City may be known for its all-night casinos and revelry, but it's also one of the most wheelchair-accessible cities in the U.S. Las Vegas has more ADA-accessible hotel rooms than any other city in the country, and that's the just the tip of the iceberg. Public transportation is equipped with wheelchair-accessible ramps, and ADA-compliant taxis are also available. The sidewalks of Las vegas are flat, smooth, and in good condition, making it easy for wheelchair users or people with other disabilities to get around and enjoy the sights. Elevated walkways are built with elevators and are completely wheelchair-accessible.
When it comes to entertainment and activities, Las Vegas offers many wheelchair-accessible options, from the Fremont Street Experience to the SlotZilla Zip Line and the High Roller Ferris Wheel.
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Since 2018, U.S. airlines have lost or damaged over 15,000 wheelchairs. That amounts to about 29 a day. There is still much work to be done to provide safe, dignified, and respectful travel experiences for people of all needs.