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Tips & ideas for handicap or wheelchair bound people.

I wish you would include tips & ideas for handicap or wheelchair bound people. My wheelchair bound son & I spent a month in Europe. We started in Rome then Milan then Paris to Amsterdam & finally Reykjavik, Iceland. We experienced very little that caused any problems except the first night in Paris. But our visits to various sites were "hit or miss" as to how he would get around. The Roman Colosseum was difficult, at the Eiffel and the Anne Frank house he could only go to the first level. It would really be helpful if you gave some advice to people that travel that may have some type of disability. Thanks for your many other great and helpful ideas and tips.

Posted by
3580 posts

What did you learn about traveling with disabilities? Were there problems that you solved while traveling with your son?

Posted by
8293 posts

If perchance you and your son take another trip to Europe, there is a lot of info available on the net if you search using "travelling in Europe with disabilities" or some such search title. The slowtravel.com site is one that may be useful.

Posted by
27713 posts

searching in Europe and the UK for handicap will yield fewer results than disabled, as the term isn't commonly used on this side of the pond - many disabled aware this side of the water don't like the term.

Perhaps a staffer will see this, but this forum is a forum of peers - not staffers.

If you want to be sure that your comments get seen by Rick Steves staffers, JD, use the Contact US button on the bottom of the page.

Posted by
5 posts

We were able to overcome every problem we encountered. I can't count the number of steps or stairs and hills I helped him up and down. LOL. But loved every minute. My concern was that we didn't have any idea what we would find along the way. A little heads-up information would have made the trip more relaxing and less stressful. I hope we get to see Paris again. Thanks for the replies.
Jim

Posted by
5697 posts

Jim, since this IS a forum for sharing information, what advice could you give to someone traveling with a wheelchair? Any special tips / places to avoid / excellent accessibility locations ?

Posted by
4371 posts

Rick Steves' "Easy Access Europe" has been out-of-print for a few years now, but this link allows you to download the entire book.

You've posted under 'Rick Steves Tours'; did you travel on one? If so, which one?

I'd guess that Rick's book was only around for a few years due to the ever-changing plethora of good information online. Even his 'EAE' book only covers a few cities because of the difficulty of covering everything. And his regular guidebooks are getting so large, so he has to be brutal about what makes the cut. He can't include all there is to know about 'easy access', food allergies, etc., or you wouldn't be able to carry those guidebooks around!

From my personal experience traveling in Europe, I've witnessed people with disabilities (especially using wheelchairs) having every accommodation possible made for them, which is wonderful to see. Still, there are places that one with a disability just can't get to. It sounds like you made the best of those situations and had a great trip!

Posted by
5 posts

The first problem arose when we landed in Rome. My sons wheelchair had been stored with the luggage & had been misplaced. The airline offered the use of one of their chairs but it was obvious that I was inadequate. I had never realized the extent of his dependance on his chair until he told them "I'm not going anywhere without my legs." I still get emotional recalling that exchange. After some considerable time they finally found his chair. In the future if we fly out of the country I will attach a GPS devise to the chair. Milan train station was the only place where he either couldn't get on by himself or with my help. Had to use a forklift to get him on but they were use to the situation and readily provided assistance. The most difficult time was our first night in Paris. We arrived after midnight (love the movie "Midnight in Paris"). Although we had made reservations the night clerk was not made aware of our needs & gave us a room on the 3rd floor. Like most hotel elevators in Europe they are very, very, very small. It would only accommodate him after we had removed the feet rest & I was left carrying all our luggage up three flights of stairs then help him out of the elevator. The hallway was very narrow & I had to force him through the door. The room was very small and narrow but he was able to adjust. But small rooms are the norm in Europe unless you stay at the more expensive hotels. My primary concern was how to exit in case of an emergency. I was 68 & he was 36. I could not have carried him & his chair so he would have had to crawl to get out. Not an ideal situation. The next day we were moved to the 1st floor and we always made sure we were only on the 1st floor during the rest of trip. I thought our trip to Sacre Coeur in Paris would be a little daunting but there is an elevated rail car to take you to the top. Actually had an interesting & nervous trip down when we decided to walk & roll down. The high speed train to Amsterdam was modern, easy & very conformable. And in Amsterdam everything was incredibly smooth & easy. All the sites, stores, museums were a breeze except for the Anne Frank house. But since the spaces were so confined and multilevel it was to be expected. I was just disappointed he couldn't share the experience with me. Except for the train station in Milan all the trains, buses & taxi in Europe were easily assessable. And except in Rome we were always given the right of way unless the intersection was controlled by lights & sighs. Cars and cabs would yield but it was always a little dicey with busses yielding. As an aside note: In Rome do not try to help the cab drivers with your luggage. They are insistant on doing it themselves. I found out the hard way and had a very angry cabbie. We stayed at least 20 miles outside of Rome, central Paris & Amsterdam and had no problem taking trains or busses back into the cities proper. The sidewalks outside of Paris & Amsterdam were very good but the sidewalks outside of Rome were more hit or miss. They seemed to alternate every few blocks from one side to the other and at times very rough or not at all. I guess we had to most minor problems in Italy but overall it was a fantastic & great experience & wonderful trip. Gotta do it again !

Posted by
5 posts

Oh, by the way, we did not travel with a tour. My son made all of the travel arrangements & did a super job. But everywhere we travel he the travel arranger and guide. My kudos to him.

Posted by
9686 posts

Thanks for the extra information! The GPS device on the w/c sounds like a brilliant idea. I know your comments will be helpful to folks in the future. Plus it sounds like you had a wonderful time!

Posted by
16883 posts

Thanks for your report! Your positive attitude was surely key to making the trip work, despite obstacles. As Eileen mentioned above, Rick's Easy Access Europe guidebook is out of print, but available online. That book was partly researched by "outside" resources who were qualified to evaluate access for slow walkers and wheelchair users. But after two editions, either Rick or the publisher decided that the project was not sustainable. Organizations that focus on these issues full-time are likely to be better resources for future travels: http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/travelers-with-disabilities.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the great response, ideas and tips but eagerly await any others anyone may have. Especially if you have traveled with someone using a wheelchair. Even if the travel was in the U.S. My son and I have traveled a great deal in the East & Midwest and would like to plan something for the West & West Coast.

Jim