Becky Hart | Jul 24, 2023
Question: What is the best destination for travelers with disabilities?
Answer: The one you want to visit.
No destination should be off limits simply because of physical or intellectual ability. We’d be lying if we said exploring every country or every site is easy, though. It’s a sad truth that travelers with disabilities, while totally capable, often have to put more effort into planning and navigating their adventures than the rest of the population. (If you’re not sure where to start with the planning, check out our guide to traveling with disabilities.)
Maybe you don’t have your heart set on a specific destination yet, though. Or maybe you only want to spend your money in places that support individuals with disabilities. Perhaps you want simple, so you’re asking what the most accessible country is.
If any of those is you, Seven Corners presents its list of accessible destinations around the world with sites anyone would love to explore and a few tips for want to expect.
Asia’s aging population is growing. The Asian Development Bank predicts that the number of people aged 60 and older in the region will reach 1.3 billion by 2050. One side effect of that is that cities are becoming increasingly accessible to accommodate the needs of an older demographic. As a traveler with a disability, that can work in your favor.
Nearly all of Singapore's pedestrian routes, trains, and buses are accessible in a several ways. You’ll find barrier-free pathways and lifts to assist with mobility issues. There are tactile cues such as Braille signage and textured pavement for travelers with visual impairments. And travelers with hearing impairments will find plenty of signs indicating arrival and departure times of public transportation, and flashing lights to indicate when train doors are closing.
If you get to Singapore, you have to explore Gardens by the Bay. This oasis of nature is a big reason the city is also considered one of the most eco-friendly destinations in the world. Don’t miss Merlion Park, known for its half fish-half lion fountain by the bay. And enjoy the mix of cultures that co-exist in Singapore by scheduling a visit to the Muslim Kampong Glam, the Anglican St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and the Buddhist temple Thian Hock Keng.
Accessibility in less touristy areas of Japan may leave you feeling underwhelmed (not to mention frustrated), but Tokyo is a fairly safe bet when you’re traveling with a disability. The 2020 Olympics and Paralympics helped to improve the city’s accessible infrastructure and tourist facilities.
Elevators are being added even to some of the most historic sites. Additionally, Japan claims to be the first to have tactile pavement, so if you have a vision impairment, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding these warning indicators on city streets.
Japan has stronger restrictions regarding some medications and medical devices than you’ll find in other countries. Verify before you leave what is permitted and in what quantities as well as what documentation you need. For example, you may only carry up to a one month’s supply of some prescriptions, and an import certificate is required if you need more than that, carry syringes, or travel with a CPAP machine.
Guide dogs must be certified in Japan in order to be covered by law and allowed in facilities and on public transportation. You can get a temporary ID for a foreign guide dog, but don’t leave this until the last minute.
Once you’re there, check out the Hiroo neighborhood if you’re a foodie. Look for a Sumo tournament, or see goldfish in a whole new way at the Art Aquarium. Especially if it’s springtime and your visit coincides with the Azalia festival, make sure Nezu Shrine is on your itinerary.
Melbourne has figured out how to make getting around easier for individuals with disabilities. Most of the public transport system is wheelchair-friendly, and stops are communicated both visually and audibly. All crosswalks also have audible indicators letting you know when it’s safe to proceed on your route. And like Warsaw below, Melbourne is working on a beacon-based navigation system for people with no or low vision.
In addition to being wheelchair-accessible and having tactile exhibits, the Melbourne Museum is also designated as autism-friendly. The museum provides a huge number of resources for before and during your visit.
Use the social stories on Melbourne Museum’s website to help children prepare and learn what to expect during your visit. And then once you’re there, look to the sensory map to find calming spaces when they’re needed. Areas marked in blue are quiet, bright, and have no multimedia, while red areas have louder noises, low light, and stimulating multimedia.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a part of the world with more accessible travel opportunities than Europe. Whether you’re looking for accommodations for mobility, vision, hearing, or other impairments, you’ll find the assistance you need in most European destinations. We highly recommend traveling Europe with a disability … or without one. Travel is for everyone.
Whereas many old cities have cobblestone streets and uneven ground, Barcelona skipped that trend. You’ll find it relatively easy to explore this city on foot — or by wheel. If you’re relying on public transportation, all buses are wheelchair-friendly, and Barcelona has pledged to also make 100% of its metro stations wheelchair-accessible by 2024.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Barcelona without going to La Sagrada Família. The Basilica, with the exception of the towers, is accessible, and admission for the disabled traveler and a companion is free. Guide dogs are also permitted.
Download the Sagrada Família app to get the audio guide for your visit. It offers sign-guides in Spanish Sign Language, Catalán Sign Language, and International Sign, and has a descriptive audio guide in English, Spanish, and Catalán.
The Polish government launched the national Programme Accessibility Plus in 2018 to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and elderly people. Just two years later, Warsaw won the European Commission’s Access City Award.
How did they do it? Warsaw not only began enforcing accessibility rules, but they also created accessibility requirements for websites, added tactile maps at the international airport, removed cobblestones from streets, and developed the “Virtual Warsaw” app. Virtual Warsaw uses a series of beacons to give the visually impaired real-time navigation via Bluetooth on their phones.
If you visit in the fall, look for the Culture Without Barriers festival. You’ll find hundreds of film and theater performances, all with sign language translations and subtitles, as well as audio descriptions and tactile aids.
When you think Amsterdam, you probably imagine bicycles, canals, art … and maybe the Red Light District. Most of these are accessible to travelers with disabilities. You can rent adaptive bikes, but if that’s still not your thing, look for the trams to get around. Newer trams have wheelchair lifts and priority seating; older ones do not, however.
The city is relatively flat, even with the bridges that cross over the canals. Some people have reported that the cobblestones make it difficult if you have mobility challenges, and with all the bicyclists zipping around, it can be overwhelming if you move slowly. The bicycle lanes can be used by wheelchair users, though, if you’re not intimidated.
Most museums and public attractions are accessible, either with elevators and ramps or guides for the visually and hearing impaired. The Van Gogh Museum has priority entry for visitors with disabilities, and a companion can join them for free. If you’re blind or partially sighted, be sure to ask about Feeling Van Gogh, which is an interactive tour that includes a highly textured version of the Sunflowers painting that visitors can touch.
Unfortunately, the Anne Frank House is not wholly accessible for those using wheelchairs. While you can explore the museum, the rest of the house can only be reached by staircase.
And yes, the Red Light District is generally considered accessible.
The United States has the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people with disabilities against discrimination and guarantees access to accommodations. That doesn’t give the U.S. the only claim to accessibility, however, and you’ll find more helpful accommodations in Canada as well.
Denver nearly always gets mentioned as one of the most accessible cities in the U.S. While most of that talk focuses on wheelchair accessibility, Denver is more than just ramps and elevators. The city is home of the National Sports Center for the Disabled, a non-profit group that provides adaptive outdoor activities to fit the needs of any ability.
The Denver Museum of Contemporary Art is another prime example of the city’s commitment to accessible experiences. Benches and folding chairs are available throughout the museum, service dogs are permitted, and there are even EnChroma glasses available for those with red-green color blindness. These glasses can be checked out for free by visitors who want to experience the art’s vividness in full color.
Be sure to check out the many other museums Denver has to offer as well as its sports teams and nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, which has all-terrain wheelchairs available at no cost.
Need help getting around? Denver’s bus and light rail services are fully accessible and available at a 50% discount for individuals with disabilities, while the Access-a-Ride program provides door-to-door transit as well.
Most are going to Vegas for the fun and entertainment, and everyone is welcome. If gambling is on your wish list, many tables have different heights to accommodate wheelchair users. Staff are also considered among the best trained to provide additional assistance, no matter your needs. If handling chips is difficult, look for “stadium” table games that allow you place bets via a digital display.
The Las Vegas Strip is one of the most accessible pedestrian routes you’ll find anywhere. Level and well-maintained, even the elevated walkways have elevators and are wheelchair accessible. If you want to stop for one of the light or fountain shows, be sure to get there early if you’re worried about an obstructed view.
Even the SlotZilla Zoomline, as part of the Freemont Street Experience, is ADA-accessible with wheelchairs provided by the zipline attraction and hydraulic mats to help while you get the harness on and off.
The Montréal government has recently adopted a universal accessibility policy targeting, among other things, architecture and urban planning, programs and services, and awareness and training in an effort to remove barriers. While many of the initiatives are aimed at improving the life of the city’s citizens, tourists undoubtedly benefit as well.
Thanks in part to the policy, you’ll find more accessible restrooms, furniture, automatic doors, and elevators in public places, so-called “age-friendly” trails, and parks designed for accessibility. When it comes to culture and entertainment, Montréal is also promoting the design of more shows for to accommodate people with sensory, intellectual, neurological, and learning disabilities.
A trip to Montréal should ideally include time in Old Montréal, which dates back to the 1600s. The fact that it is old brings both pros and cons. On the one hand, you’ll get an amazing taste of history, architecture, and parks. However, its age can also make it difficult for those with certain disabilities.
Cobblestone streets can be a challenge for those who are unsteady on their feet or use wheelchairs. And old buildings are not always barrier-free. As we mention below in our highlight of Buenos Aires, there may be a step or two to get into stores and restaurants, and ramps may not always be available.
Despite the challenges, it’s worth the look. Visit the Montréal Botanical Garden. Maps of the garden show trails that are particularly easy for those with physical limitations. While you may not need to restrict yourself to those areas of the grounds, note that some visitors have reported that gravel walkways and sloping ground may be difficult if you venture off those routes.
The Montréal Biopshere Environment Museum was built on Île Sainte-Hélène (Saint Helen’s Island) as part of Expo 67. Today it focuses on environmental issues and offers amazing views via outdoor platforms, which are wheelchair accessible.
The Botanical Garden and Biosphere are part of the Space for Life (Espace pour la vie) museums, which also include a biodome, insectarium, and planetarium. Consider purchasing an Espace pour la vie Passeport if you want to visit all five.
Edmonton has a good dose of nature, art, delicious food, and pretty much anything else you’d want to find on a vacation. One of the highlights is the North Saskatchewan River Valley. North America’s largest urban park — it's 22 times larger than New York’s Central Park — it has miles of trails, a zoo, the famous Muttart Conservatory, and epic views. The best way to access the valley from the city if you have a mobility disability is by using the 100 Street Funicular.
When you’re ready to warm up with some art, check out the Royal Alberta Museum. It not only is wheelchair accessible, but also has braille and audio guides. Sensory kits are available to rent as well.
The best way to get around is probably with your own car, but if public transit is your desire (or a necessity), look into a service like Royal Wagon. While the public buses are accessible, waiting for them in the winter will get quite cold. Royal Wagon operates more like a taxi service. Just remember to reserve one beforehand.
We can’t finish a list of the most accessible cities without naming these special destinations. You might be surprised by what they have to offer.
It’s a sad fact that conflict in the region has left many people with disabilities. The good news, though, is that Israel is taking steps to make many of its cities more accessible for those individuals. For travelers with mobility disabilities, you’ll find more ramps now than in the past, as well as easy-to-navigate walkways and handrails at many of the most important historic sites.
A beacon system for visually impaired visitors has been added to the Old City. Get the Step-Hear app, which provides directions in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.
The Tower of David was built to keep people out, but the modern-day museum has gone a long way toward welcoming more people in. There is wheelchair access, and wheelchairs can be rented for free. Visitors with hearing impairments can request a sign language interpreter for tours and events 14 days in advance. And those with vision impairments can use headsets with audio descriptions for special events. Guide dogs are permitted.
While no country or continent can ever claim to be totally accessible or totally inaccessible, Africa, if we’re honest, might be one of the more difficult destinations to find accommodations. So if this continent is on your bucket list, it might be best to start with South Africa.
Cape Town International Airport received some much-needed modernization in the runup to the 2010 World Cup, and the accessible MyCiti buses can take you from the airport to the downtown area. When it comes to hotels, it’s best to call before booking your reservation to make sure it meets your needs. Get the conversation started by asking some of the questions in our guide to accessible travel.
It’s easy to think that a safari during your trip to Africa would be too difficult, especially if your disability affects mobility. The good news is that more tour companies are developing safaris that anyone can join. Just look for a land-based tour rather than one that requires flights from one location to the next. You won’t cover as much ground that way and you might not see the most remote regions, but the aircraft used for safaris are often smaller and not accessible.
Go2Africa has some other super-helpful tips for wheelchair users booking a safari lodge, such as asking if the walkways between tents and mess areas are paved or sandy.
The key to traveling well in Buenos Aires if you have a disability is going in with the understanding that accessibility will be hit and miss. While many hotels have adaptive measures for rooms, public areas will likely be less accessible.
Smaller, older buildings typically have at least one step at the entrance and may be a tight fit for larger scooters or motorized wheelchairs. Curb Free with Cory Lee found this in La Boca, the neighborhood famous for its vividly colorful buildings. While only some shops had wheelchair ramps, he does note that there are plenty of street vendors and outdoor dining options that help you work around that.
If you’re looking for other must-sees in Buenos Aires, be sure to add a tango show to your list. And a stop at Bosques de Palermo (Palermo Woods) includes accessible paths and a chance to see lakes, gardens, and a collection of statues paying homage to some of the world’s greatest poets.
If your heart is set on the Caribbean, our advice is to focus on resorts and adaptive tour companies that offer what you want rather than limiting your research to a specific island. Accessibility varies by island, so you’re more likely to find the accommodations you need if you focus on finding the right individual companies instead.
That being said, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are popular destinations for travelers with disabilities. As U.S. territories, they are required to comply with ADA regulations.
Cruises are another great option for seeing the Caribbean. If the ship spends any time in U.S. waters or stops at a U.S. port, they are also required to follow ADA requirements. Plus, because cruise lines have traditionally appealed to older travelers, they frequently not only are accustomed to providing accessible options, but they may also have adaptive excursions for each port of call.
Yes, you can get travel insurance if you have a disability. Protecting your health, money, and belongings is important for all travelers. Trip happens (as we like to say), and you want to be able to recover expenses if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip unexpectedly. You also want to be covered if you get sick or hurt while traveling, particularly when your domestic health insurance doesn’t protect you overseas.
Learn more about coverage options, including pre-existing conditions waivers, in our guide to traveling with a disability or by contacting a licensed Seven Corners agent. Our interactive quick quote tool can also help you select the right plan for you and your next adventure.
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