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Most Wheelchair Accessible Cities in the World

 Posted on: October 30th, 2022

Now that the world has started opening up, many of us are turning our interests back to the travel that we might have had to put on hold over the past few years. Traveling can be an exhilarating and illuminating experience, but it can certainly present its challenges—particularly for those of us who use wheelchairs or have other accessibility issues in our daily lives.

Many cities around the world have yet to update ancient infrastructure to better accommodate wheelchairs, while others truly excel in this regard. To help people make informed choices on the latter we’ve pulled together a brief list of some of the most wheelchair accessible cities in the world.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain
Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona

Spain is well-known for its festivals, its late dinnertimes, and its incredible dining, and the capital of Catalonia is no exception. Spain has been regarded as a leader in disability and access rights for generations, and those efforts have paid a number of dividends that modern visitors can enjoy at their leisure.

It’s easy to move medium and longer distances over the city, with a metro system that can compete with any in Europe. About 80% of these stations are currently accessible, and the city promises that all will be by the year 2024—as all Barcelona buses currently are as well.

Furthermore, the old town doesn’t contain many of the cobblestones and other mobility hazards that are so typical in many European cities. Wheelchair users can freely access most of Barcelona’s sights without worrying about the ease of getting to and fro.

Old market in Warsaw, Poland
The old market in Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw

Poland is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, and with good reason. It’s an extremely inexpensive country, and its medieval cities can rival any in Europe (even though many had to be reconstructed after the devastation wrought by World War II). To help burnish this growing reputation as a tourism hotspot, Warsaw has put its accessibility efforts into overdrive. The city has put remarkable effort behind enhancing access for all while also making a much more concerted effort to crack down on violations of these regulations.

The city is largely built to accommodate tourists of all mobility levels, which means the inclusion of both tactile maps as well as the beacon technology that’s become a hallmark of the modern smart city. Read more about Warsaw's handicap-accessible travel options and tourist spots.

Melbourne skyline
Melbourne skyline

Melbourne

Australia can be a long plane ride for Americans, but the trip is almost always well worth it. Wheelchair users will be pleased to see that almost the entire transit system is set up to accommodate folks with mobility issues, but the system’s efforts don’t stop there. The Public Transport Victoria app includes a feature where visitors can sort routes by wheelchair accessibility, providing them with a clear map to their destination that takes all of their needs into account. Victoria has a comprehensive breakdown of handicap-accessible travel options and tourist attractions.

The city also works hard at pedestrian and road safety—curb cuts abound, and tactile paving lets the visually impaired also enjoy the city in a safe manner. There are also a number of beacons like in Warsaw in addition to audible indicators at all street crosswalks. Sydney might be the most well-known Australian city, but Melbourne could make a case for being the most wheelchair-friendly.

Oslo Norway Harbor & Fjord
Oslo Norway Harbor & Fjord

Oslo

Scandinavian countries have a well-earned reputation for being some of the most progressive on Earth, and Norway is no exception. Oslo is a town that leaned heavily into the idea of universal design—the notion that any built environment should be accessible to all without modification. Universal design means that any building or other structure is meant to be accessible by everyone from day one, oftentimes by incorporating subtle and unnoticeable design elements that work to the advantage of every user.

This means that the parks, beaches, transit system, and government buildings of Oslo are all easily accessed by everyone, including wheelchair users. There is still some progress to be made, as many wheelchair users comment on how curb cuts can be a bit treacherous, but all in all Oslo represents an example of how a city can excel at accessibility if it becomes part of its planning process from day one.

WheelchairTravel.org offers a comprehensive look at traveling and visiting this gorgeous city.


Finally, there are some domestic options as well that have emerged as recognized global leaders in this area. Denver, Scottsdale, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Washington, DC, and Berkeley have all proven to be livable cities (although at varying degrees of cost) that offer a great standard of living and a high degree of accessibility for wheelchair users of all ages.