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handicapped tavelers?

Are any of Rick's trips appropriate for handicapped travelers? I use a rollator walker or a whelchair,

Posted by
21202 posts

Unfortunately most of Europe is not friendly to walkers and wheelchairs.

Posted by
2466 posts

These tours are not designed for folks with severe mobility issues.

Posted by
908 posts

ghaslam,
Most of the regular Rick Steves tours involve a lot of walking and standing. Many of the hotels have stairs. Accessibility within Europe is a whole additional issue above and beyond the tours themselves. With all that said. you could look at one of the My Way tours because once you arrive at each destination you chart your own itinerary. As suggested, though, even for My Way tours you would want to talk to the tour office to see what hotels are used and what the bus situation would be like. Much depends on how comfortable you are with stairs and whether you would need assistance. The tour guides and drivers aren't really set up to provide personal, physical assistance.

Posted by
1062 posts

You might instead look into river cruises. I took one with Grand Circle a few years ago which was pretty nice. The written material indicated that anyone with mobility issues requiring a walker or wheelchair had to travel with a companion who would always be available to assist. There was one woman in a wheelchair who was traveling with her son and it seemed to work pretty well for her.
The ship had an elevator and ramps for exits. There were walking tours at each port but they seemed to manage just about everything, as I recall.
The guides were not at the level of RS guides but they did offer some information and were friendly and enthusiastic. And there were a few good local guides.
Viking and AMA also get good reviews although I have not personally tried them.

Posted by
529 posts

When making a hotel reservation or booking with a tour, I suggest being very specific about your needs. Many hotels in Europe don't have an elevator or have steps to connect buildings on the same floor. For example, our hotel in Copenhagen had an elevator , but then we had to go down 4 steps to actually get to our room.

Posted by
529 posts

When making a hotel reservation or booking with a tour, I suggest being very specific about your needs. Many hotels in Europe don't have an elevator or have steps to connect buildings on the same floor. For example, our hotel in Copenhagen had an elevator , but then we had to go down 4 steps to actually get to our room.

Posted by
60 posts

Really sorry you are not getting much encouraging feedback on this topic, but I'm in agreement with most of what's been said here. Traveling in Europe with ANY kind of mobility issue would be very difficult. Tiny or non-existent elevators, uneven surfaces and stairs everywhere would make getting around a nightmare. Even if you found an American hotel chain that might accommodate you inside the hotel you would still be faced with many obstacles outside the door. Honestly, I just wouldn't do it.

Posted by
342 posts

While the activity level for a Rick Steves tour may be too challenging, do not be discouraged from going to Europe. Please do research where you want to go and inquire with hotels about accessibility. Hotels rather than B&Bs may be better suited for your needs. Hotels can put you in a room on the ground floor instead of stairs. If traveling by train you can ask for assistance ahead of time. Some trains have handicap accessible cars so it is easier to get from the platform to the car. Many museums have free admission for the disabled and their attendant. Some museums also have special tours for the disabled. Information can be found on the individual museum's website.

There are laws in the various countries so hotels, restaurants, museums and transportation are inclusive of the disabled. It is challenging though to make buildings accessible when they were built hundreds of years ago. Europe is trying to make more buildings and historical sites available to those with mobility challenges. By being out there you show the efforts to be accessible are needed and appreciated by you.

I am sensitive to this topic since my father was in a wheelchair long before the ADA and my husband used a guide dog for the Blind. I do a lot of research to know what is possible to do and what may not be appropriate.

The suggestion of a My Way tour is an excellent one. For example, we did the Alps tour and with the help of the tour manager did hikes that were appropriate for a visually impaired person. He was able to describe the terrain so we can decide if it was doable. Recently in Italy we hired a private guide for the Colosseum so she could tailor the tour and where best to walk for my husband's needs.

So don't stay home but get out there and be an example for others. That is how change in the world occurs.

Posted by
2466 posts

So, encouragement is nice but you need to really think through a trip to Europe. You really want to be a trailblazer? There is no comparable ADA as far as I know. You may be able to book an accesable hotel room, but then find there is no ramp to enter the hotel, there are steps to the breakfast room, that sort of thing. Many streets are cobblestone making wheelchair navigation extremely difficult. Some sidewalks can just disappear at the end of a block. Ramps at crosswalks are becoming more common as streets are repaved, but are not nearly as common as in the US. We had to deal with this firsthand this summer. Our grown daughter has mild cerebral palsy. She walks with a limp but has been on many RS tours so no worry. Then she sprains an ankle getting off a plane. She goes from a gait impairment to being unable to walk. We were in Lisbon. The hotel had a wheelchair and they were very kind to let us use it the entire stay. But, they had to install and pull down ramps like you see on trucks that deliver cars each time we went in or out of the hotel. Wheeling the chair once we got out was extremely difficult as sidewalks and streets are all cobbles. We'd get to a restaurant only to find the rest rooms were up or down a flight of narrow stairs. If you can think of an obstacle to mobility we found it. And these were the rule, not exceptions. You can do this, but not a RS tour which requires good mobility. On your own you'll need to research down to the finest detail. The idea of linking up with a company that specializes in tours for folks with a disability is solid. I would do that.

Posted by
5 posts

[I hope i won't be considered a troll; I offer my sincerely-meant comment to facilitate this discussion.]

This topic makes me sad. I traveled pretty extensively in college while an exchange student and knew, in almost any town, the hostel was likely located on the top of a nearby mountain. Ten dollars a day sounded extravagant to us, and we walked for miles if we couldn't get someplace with a rail pass.

Fast forward to now: I sometimes use a walker but can manage stairs. I have traveled to London and Scandinavia, and participated in a Road Scholar program. We have been longtime supporters and consumers of Rick's books and television programs. The idea that the company prefered to host travelers who could walk a few blocks and climb stairs hadn't been lost on me. When I politely asked a staff member at one of Rick's personal appearances last year which of the programs would she recommend for a person who sometimes used a walker. She flatly responded, "None of them. You can't do any of them." I expressed my surprise that a company doing business in the U.S.could ignore the provisions of the ADA that required reasonable acommodation. She snapped back that they were operating in Europe, not the U.S, and they had no plans to change a successful program (all this while I was buying several books.) I was surprised and dumbfounded at the vehemence of her answer and moved away without saying more, mostly out of shock. In another environment, I would have disputed her conclusion, but I was
surprised that a company that has always seemed to support meeting locals-- all kinds of locals-- wouldn't be willing to host any of their fellow Americans--even those with challenges. Putting aside the issue of whether they are "required" to make reasonable accommodations, I would think a business of conscience would comply with the ADA because it is the right thing to do. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that the company has an obligation to eliminate every hill, stair and cobblestone in Europe; there are exceptions for historical buildings here and I would expect the same in Europe.

With a little thought, many accommodations are not complicated or expensive. I sometimes move more slowly than you probably do; If I get tired, I will happily wait in the bus or in a cafe while you climb a mountain path. (We all experience travel in our own way, anyway.) My experience is that most people are willing to help or show you an acessible route. A post on Trip Advisor got me detailed information on using the London Tube system from Londoners, for example, but what helped just as much was the quick assistance offered by staff who opened the "pram" gate at nearly every station or other travelers who just held an elevator. Obviously, people with physical challenges live and co-exist in every corner of Europe.

My wish would be that a small number of the Rick Steves tours be planned to include travelers with mild disabilities, perhaps spelling out in detail the potential obstacles. We are equally eager to participate as fully-able travelers are and even contribute to our spouse's/friend's/ family's enjoyment of travel. And again....it's the right thing to do.

I will continue to follow Rick with the hope that the company is able to be more inclusive, someday.

Posted by
11613 posts

I have seen many changes to make places more accessible over the years in Europe. Museums have lifts, archeological zones have a series of permanent ramps, curbs are cut for wheelchair width. Not everywhere, but the situation of mobility access is improving steadily.

You won't need to blaze a trail, but you will need to plan carefully. I know Italy best, and at many large train stations there are elevators (smaller stations are installing them as well). You can arrange for assistance in boarding. Buses have more and more chair-accessible entrance/exit doors, and have disability-accessible symbols on the buses.

Some places will be inaccessible, but you can have a wonderful trip with mobility issues.

Posted by
342 posts

Lisa, thank you for your articulate response and for showing how one can still enjoy traveling with a mobility issue. The response by the staff person is unfortunate.

When we travel with my husband's guide dog, most places in Europe have been very accommodating. I always carry a copy of the accessibility law of the country we are visiting for the rare occasion a hotel is uninformed on the law. For those on the forum who are unfamiliar with disability issues, there are similar laws to the ADA in Europe and the EU is working on making the laws in the different member countries to be consistent.

Your suggestion of setting aside some RS tours for the disabled is a great idea. I hope it happens in the near future.

Posted by
8889 posts

I think many of the above posts are over pessimistic.
Yes, buildings often have stairs up to them, that was how all buildings were built until a few decades ago.
Toilets are often downstairs and too small for a wheelchair, there is no room on the ground floor.

What is one supposed to do about these steps, pull down a cathedral and re-build it: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/image_data/file/53339/StPauls2.jpg
They can't exactly rebuild a whole city in a few years.

But, Footpaths are flat, kerb ramps are the norm. Many places have had ramps added as a side entrance. You need to look for signs or check the website-
Public transport is usually wheelchair friendly, but you often have to book beforehand, to make sure someone is ready with a ramp.

London Transport has a good section on wheelchair access, see here: https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/
and here: https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/wheelchair-access-and-avoiding-stairs

Posted by
3409 posts

Rick Steves US office in Edmonds is completely ADA accessible. I think that the Rick Steves business model of a large volume of set tours has worked well for the company. I've never taken one of his tours, but I've read several of the descriptions and feel they make a concerted effort to communicate what the physical expectations are for tour members.

I think it is possible to travel to and through Europe with limited mobility. Careful planning is needed.