Often the question comes up, “Can you travel Europe while in a wheelchair?” The short answer is: yes. The longer answer is still yes, with some assistance, perseverance, and a plan. All of Europe is older than the concept of wheelchair accessibility, but a lot of advancement has been made to accommodate those willing to travel. You will encounter a lot of difficult things, but what you gain from visiting these gems far outweighs the struggles.
Although I am fortunate to not have a child dependent upon a wheelchair, our middle son shattered his right foot our first night in Rome. He broke it so severely that he was not able to walk on it for 6 weeks. Six weeks across six European countries with a wheelchair! In some instances, this accident changed my travel plans completely, but on the other hand, it forced me to see the larger world through the eyes of someone with a disability.
What Can and Can’t You Do
The good news about traveling in Europe is that your transportation options are incredibly accessible. Riding on trains with wheelchairs is a wonderful experience for many reasons. Across Europe, you will struggle to roll over curbs and cobblestones, but roll you will. Visiting monuments, because of their age, will be the largest struggle. Many European treasures have made their first floors and entrances wheelchair accessible, but making tiny towers and upper levels accessible is difficult and rare.
The great news is that almost all museums and the grounds surrounding the most famous monuments are all wheelchair accessible! Some of them you can even go up to the top in now! The countries that I found to be the most accessible in our European travels were:
The least accessible, by far, were:
You may be disappointed to hear that Italy and Greece are not super accessible to those in a wheelchair, especially since they are two countries that top most people’s lists. But you can still visit; you just need a little extra planning and patience. These two countries are just not as easy to navigate in a wheelchair because of the narrowness of sidewalks, roads, and entrances. The lack of elevators
European Resources For Tourists
I was offered assistance in every single train station throughout Europe. Each country has its own accessibility program within their railway systems. You can book the handicap seat online, which allows for a lot more room to fit the wheelchair. If you locate the accessibility office within the major city railway hubs then they can schedule assistance at all of your stops to help get you and the wheelchair off the train AND will hold the next train to load you on! This was such a huge help!
If for some reason you cannot book the handicap seat online then they can help you change your general seat to the handicap seat at this office as well. Truly a wonderful resource. These offices are usually very busy places so give yourself ample amounts of time to fully utilize everything they have to offer!
A website that was particularly helpful when our plans abruptly changed was Sage Traveling. This wonderful site is a little difficult to navigate, but will help you learn about the accessibility of specific sites, monuments, cities, restaurants, and other local resources and tours that cater to the accessibility audience! Before you even start planning your trip to Europe you need to spend some time exploring the resources that Sage Traveling has to offer.
Making Travel a Priority
Travel is not only for the physically sound tourist. There are resources out there and help everywhere to achieve your travel goals. Make a list of places you want to see. Prioritize that list and begin researching how to make it happen. You can do it: from sightseeing alone with a child in a wheelchair like I did to hiring an accessibility savvy tour guide. Anything is possible if you take a chance on the capabilities of yourself and hidden helpers throughout the world. Get out there.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on How to do European Public Transporation with Kids
Photo Credit: Lydia Bradbury