There’s still plenty to do to make holidays more accessible for people with disabilities. But both the rise in awareness of different disabilities and improved technology have meant that the world is becoming more inclusive.
So whether your dream holiday is an exciting city break or a laid back beach retreat, 2022 could be the year to make your travel dreams a reality.
To help you get inspired, here are eight of the world’s most disability-friendly holiday destinations.
1. Berlin, Germany
Known for its innovative architecture, exciting food scene, vibrant culture, tangible history, and lively nightlife, Berlin is a fascinating blend of glamour and grit.
As the German capital, there’s plenty to see and do here. Berlin is home to gorgeous green spaces that cover one-third of the city, hundreds of museums and galleries, unique restaurants, trendy bars, and even more bridges than Venice.
In 2013 Berlin was awarded the European Commission’s Access City award, and the city is committed to being barrier-free (designed for those who have physical or other disabilities).
The U-Bahn, trams, buses, and S-Bahn are all accessible for people who are in wheelchairs, have limited mobility, are blind or partially sighted, or are deaf or hard-of-hearing – and thanks to Berlin’s wide, flat pavements, navigating the city is easy if you’re in a wheelchair.
Almost all of Berlin’s most popular sights and attractions are disability-friendly too. From Museum Island, where the cultural attractions are located, to the Reichstag, where wheelchair-users can enjoy the 360-degree view from the roof terrace via the internal ramp.
In terms of accommodation, there’s plenty of choice, as there are hundreds of stylish hotels with ramps, lifts, and roll-in showers.
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2. Seattle, USA
As the largest metropolitan area in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is known for combining dramatic landscape with immersive culture and top-notch attractions. And whether you’re into nature, music, or space, there’s plenty to keep you busy here.
The Emerald City is regularly cited as one of the most accessible cities in the USA, and it certainly offers a level of access that’s rivalled by few other places.
While Seattle is undeniably hilly, it’s also wheelchair-friendly, and the city has plenty of ramps and lifts. The Link Light Rail system serves the whole of the Seattle metropolitan area, and because it’s so new, it’s been designed with accessibility in mind.
Seattle also has accessible buses and water ferries, wheelchair accessible taxis, and multisensory indicators on pedestrian crossings. Plus there are plenty of accessible hotels, so you don’t have to worry about finding a nice place to stay.
Most of the city’s best attractions are disability-friendly too – from the bustling waterfront Pike Place Market, where you can sample fresh Northwest produce, to the 175 foot-tall Seattle Great Wheel, where you can enjoy gorgeous views of the marina.
For those who enjoy nature and wildlife, there are lots of outdoors attractions equipped with disability-friendly boardwalks and viewing platforms – from the Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo to Washington Park Arboretum. If you want to sail on Lake Washington, check out Footloose Sailing Association, which is the Pacific Northwest’s top sailing programme for people of all disabilities.
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3. Montréal, Canada
If you’re more drawn to Canada than the USA, you might want to think about visiting Montréal. As the largest city in the province of Québec, Montréal is one of the most visited places in Canada, and it’s a great choice for a holiday. This is a city that combines old-world European charm and French flair with an immersive arts scene, contemporary design, and an enormously exciting food scene.
Montréal is not entirely barrier-free, but accessibility has come on in leaps and bounds recently, and there’s been a big investment in accessible transportation and infrastructure.
The city is pretty compact and the bus system is fully accessible, so getting around is easy enough. The vast majority of tourist attractions are accessible too, from the Parc Jean-Drapeau to the city’s many excellent museums.
Another perk of holidaying in Montréal is that it allows you to take advantage of Kéroul, a superb Québec organisation that connects people with motor, visual, hearing and other disabilities with tourist facilities in the province. There are almost 300 accessible establishments in Montréal, including 118 attractions, 58 hotels, and 84 restaurants – so getting ideas about which places to visit, eat, and stay at becomes much easier.
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4. Barcelona, Spain
Colourful, lively, and packed with culture, Barcelona is the second biggest city in Spain – and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
This is a city that has a bit of everything: beautiful parks, historic architecture, fabulous food, and even a beach. More good news is that Barcelona is one of the most accessible cities in Europe, and is a really popular choice for people visiting in a wheelchair.
This is a characterful city that’s a joy to explore and most of the tree-lined boulevards are wheelchair-accessible, with plenty of ramps, lifts, and adapted flat pavements. Plus, all of the city buses and most metro stations are wheelchair-accessible, and taxis, boat tours, and Barcelona’s famous cable cars all offer disabled visitors easy accessibility.
If you fancy heading to the beach, there’s a wheelchair-accessible promenade, walkways down to the sea, adapted changing facilities – and even a free assisted bathing service in summer.
Barcelona’s best attractions, like Gaudi’s Sagrada Família church and Park Güell, Casa Mila, and the bustling Boqueria Markets, are all accessible too (and the latter is a great place to enjoy delicious local tapas!).
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5. Sydney, Australia
Sydney is home to beautiful beaches and soaring skyscrapers, and the urban area is ringed with national parks where you can immerse yourself in nature, or marvel at Australia’s unique landscapes and wonderful wildlife.
As a sprawling metropolis with a crashing surf, at first glance, this sun-soaked city might not seem like the most disability-friendly destination – but looks can be deceiving.
Sydney is one of the best places in the world to get around if you have reduced mobility: almost all public transport is accessible, with barrier-free trains, buses, and ferries. There are over 2,000 tactile and Braille street signs, and the accessibility map highlights all disability-friendly parking spaces and public toilets, as well as potential barriers like stairs and inclines.
Most attractions are disability-friendly, from museums and galleries to the Royal Botanical Gardens and Harbour Bridge. If you’re unsure, you can check out WheelEasy, which is a Sydney-based website that reviews attractions based on their accessibility.
No visit to Sydney is complete with a ferry trip to Manly Beach, where you can hire a free beach wheelchair and head down to the water to cool off.
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Known for its world-class public transport and being impeccably clean and modern, it’s no surprise to learn that Singapore is considered the most disability-friendly city in Asia.
Singapore is an absolute melting pot of cultures, and whether you want to shop til you drop, eat your way around the city, or relax in exotic green spaces, you can do all that here.
The enormously efficient mass rail transit (MRT) is fully accessible, clean and comfortable, and entirely barrier-free, which makes zipping around the city incredibly quick and easy. The streets and pavements are wide and well-maintained, with dropped curbs and smooth surfaces – and more than 95% of pedestrian walkways, taxi stands, and bus shelters are barrier-free too.
Pretty much all tourist attractions here are disability-friendly – from the Singapore Cable Car that takes you to the lovely island of Sentosa, to the Avatar-like Gardens by the Bay, which is a sustainable oasis in the middle of this sprawling concrete jungle.
In terms of accommodation, many of the city’s stylish hotels have accessible rooms, roll-in showers, and toilets that are equipped with grab bars.
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7. Vienna, Austria
Packed with Baroque streetscapes, imperial palaces and classical architecture, Vienna is undeniably historic.
Known for producing exceptional art and music, this is a laidback city with a coffee-house culture – and while the centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s surprisingly accessible. Vienna was even named one of the world’s most accessible destinations by Lonely Planet in 2016.
More than 95% of the tram, bus, and metro systems here are all completely accessible – including the U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations – and transport hubs have ramps and lifts.
The historic heart of the city might be known for its cobblestones. But most of these have either been removed or halved to make room for smooth surfaces, and even pavements and curb drops are standard throughout the city.
The city’s best museums, galleries, and other attractions are all disability-friendly too, from the Belvedere Palace and Museum to the palaces of Schloss Schönbrunn and Hofburg. Most restaurants and coffee shops also have street-level seating and easy access, so you can experience Vienna’s coffee-house culture.
If you want to find out more about accessibility in Vienna, then its official site has lots of info on the most accessible hotels, mobility services, and tours. You can also browse accommodation options using the buttons below.
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8. Washington DC, USA
As the USA’s capital city, Washington DC is jam-packed with grand monuments, compelling history, and stylish architecture – and if you like museums, it’s an absolute paradise.
The Smithsonian Institution is a collection of 19 exceptional (and free) museums, including the Air & Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of African American History & Culture – to name just three! All the museums are disability-friendly, and you can find out more about their accessibility features on the official site.
As the capital city, it perhaps won’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that Washington DC is regularly voted one of the most disability-friendly cities in the world, not just the USA. The public transportation system is fully accessible, and all Metro subway stations have lifts and adapted gates. Plus, the pavements are wide and smooth with curb drops, and the city in general has great ‘rollability’.
All the national monuments – from the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial – are accessible, and travellers in wheelchairs can easily see iconic attractions like the White House and Capitol Building.
DC is also home to six professional sports teams, and if you fancy catching a game, all stadiums have accessible seating and wheelchair access.
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All around the world, people are becoming increasingly aware of different disabilities, and countless cities across the globe are committing to becoming entirely barrier-free. And while disability-friendly travelling can require a bit more planning, there can still be plenty of opportunities to see the world and have adventures.
From the blissful beaches of Barcelona to the soaring skyscrapers of Singapore, there are many disability-friendly destinations to visit. So whether you like relaxing on holiday, learning about new cultures, or feasting on delicious local cuisine, you’ll hopefully find somewhere to pique your interest.
To find out more about travelling with a disability, you might want to check out Wheelchair Travel, which is a great resource for accessible travel all over the world. Or, for more inspiration, head over to Disabled Accessible Travel, Limitless Travel, or Disabled Holidays.