For people with disabilities one of the most important things to find when searching for a haven is accessibility.
There are many steps being taken all over the world to make countries more accessible including; travel options (such as accessible metro’s and buses), legal rights, accessible sports and maps. For the vision impaired, more countries are working on implementing braille, there is also a push being made for more autism-friendly designs, places with muted colors and simple, clean layouts.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the world is still behind in making all these things a reality. However, the work is being done to get there.
We’re going to show you some of the countries around the world that have taken big steps towards accessibility so that you can plan your future with the information you need.
Portugal is one of our favorite countries in the world. It is beautiful, welcoming, safe, the locals are friendly and they have some of the best beaches and golf courses in the world.
Portugal also has world-class healthcare and top-notch infrastructure. The best part is that the healthcare is only a fraction of the cost of what it is in North America.
English is very widely spoken here so there should also be no language barrier.
Although many cities, such as Lisbon, are hilly and don’t seem to be accessible, Portugal offers a lot of choices for the disabled to make their lives easier.
- Public Transportation – Portugal has taken great strides in making public transit convenient for everybody. The metro is completely wheelchair accessible and many of the buses throughout the country are also wheelchair accessible.
- Accommodation – Portugal has a lot of hotels that are accessible. These hotels often have everything on one floor, and have ramps when there is no choice but to go up or down. Accessible swimming pools, lower beds, room lights that can be accessed from the bed, and many other options.
- Dining – Admittedly a lot of restaurants are still working on being more accessible, but a great choice is an al fresco dining option which is very popular throughout Portugal.
- Taxis – Most taxis don’t have ramps suitable for motorized wheelchairs, but regular taxis are an excellent choice for travel if you have a folding wheelchair.
Brazil is a very unique place and has excellent potential for any expat or retiree. There is a lot of opportunity and many great things to experience. There are amazing beaches, breathtaking natural beauty all around, excellent food, friendly people, great climate and nearly no natural disasters.
Rio De Janeiro is ranked as one of the best places for accessibility in South America.
- Sidewalks – In the big cities, such as in Rio, the sidewalks are generally very accessible for people with wheelchairs. Although there is some variation, most curbs have level access. The biggest issues tend to be parked scooters and disrepair.
- Public Transportation – Nearly all buses in Brazil are wheelchair accessible and have a wheelchair lift in the center (although some may be in disrepair). The subway is also wheelchair accessible with lift access from the street.
- Accommodations – There are many accessible hotels in Brazil with elevators, easy access ramps, handrails and a chair in the shower.
- Attractions – The majority of tourist sites in Brazil are wheelchair accessible and there are many tours designed especially for those who need more accessible options.
In addition to being one of the most child-friendly countries in the world, Spain is also one of the most wheelchair friendly. Standing out in Spain is Barcelona which is considered to be one of the most accessible cities in all of Europe. Many of the streets have been adapted to be more wheelchair accessible including many of the historically cobblestoned areas.
- Public Transportation – The main bus systems in all the major cities have accessibility for disabled customers with ramps to help board a customer on a wheelchair.
- Accommodations – It is easy to find accessible accommodations in Spain. In an effort to attract as many visitors as possible almost all hotels have been made accessible for people with disabilities.
- Attractions – Wheelchair accessibility has been added to nearly all attractions and tourist sites. In fact, many of them give discounts or even free entry to disabled people. Sagrada Familia is a very popular visiting spot for disabled tourists.
Known as one of the countries with the highest quality of life. France has a lot to offer to any expat. Whether it’s life in the most romantic city of the world, or life outside of Paris in the rustic French countryside, France is one of the most sought-after countries to live by both expats and retirees.
With so many visitors from all walks of life, France has not shied away from making the country accessible to those with disabilities.
- Public Transportation – This is probably France’s weakest point on accessibility. The buses do have wheelchair access. The weakness is the metro, unfortunately the stations are not yet designed to accommodate wheelchair-bound passengers. There are large gaps between platform and train.
- Accommodations – France is well known for great accommodations and the hotels have definitely done a great job in making their accommodations accessible to all.
- Attractions – While some attractions, such as the Eifel Tower only have limited accessibility, most sites and tourist attractions are wheelchair friendly.
- Taxis – There are plenty of wheelchair friendly taxis in France.
As a country, Italy actually has a lot to work on to become truly accessible. There are a lot of cobblestone streets and the cities tend to get packed with cars and scooters that make it difficult for people in wheelchairs to get around.
However, there is an outstanding exception, which is why I’m giving it an honorable mention.
Milan, Italy won the 2016 EU Access City Awards, for the great work they have made towards making their city inclusive for all.
- Public Transportation – Milan’s public transportation has made great strides in becoming more accessible. They are using more low-level buses that are equipped for helping wheelchair-bound customers.
- Accommodation – Several of the hotels in Milan are accessible and have all sorts of preparations in place to help customers feel comfortable as possible. This includes lower beds, handrails in bathrooms and ramped floors when necessary.
- Museums – Pretty much all the museums and art galleries in Milan are accessible or can accommodate disabled guests as long as they are contacted beforehand.
- Trains – The Italian railroad network is well-equipped to accommodate disabled people. There are reception areas for disabled people as well as specially designed coaches. The large Central Station even has a lift to transport disabled customers from the ticket office to the platforms.
Wheelchair Escapes is a group formed by paraplegics to help disabled travelers plan their next vacation or to set up group vacations. They are certified travel specialists and will be glad to help you plan your next trip around your needs. They can help you set up accessible helicopter tours, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins and all sorts of adventures. Click here to go to their site.
Latin America for All is a company that focuses on taking their clients on wonderful tours in Latin America. They work with clients of all sorts of disabilities. There is everything from discovering Ecuador in a wheelchair to hearing impaired tours. Click here to go to their site.
Wheelchair Tours offers accessible travel packages for Thailand. To visit their website please follow this link.