As this is some what of a boring post you’ll be rewarded with a picture of my disability pride being abused if you get to the bottom!
For each of the places I’ve visited I’m going to award an ‘accessibility rating’ to give an indication of how easy I found to get around. This will be based on four factors: The landscape (for example hills, pavements), adaptions (such as ramps), transport and finally people. Although it’s not ideal I have found that in countries that are seemingly not very wheelchair friendly the assistance of people can go a long way to help make the country accessible. This is how Marrakech was able to score higher than Rome. Landscape wise they were about equal (steps everywhere, very few dropped kerbs but no big hills), adaptions wise Rome had (slightly) more in the way of ramps, Rome had buses with ramps that didn’t work whilst Marrakech had buses with no ramps. The thing that made Marrakech vastly more accessible was the assistance of the people who lived there. In Rome not one single person offered to help (except an American tourist) as they watched my brother and 5’2 mother attempt to heft me on to a 2ft high pavement. In Marrakech, the second you pull the face of ‘how the hell do you get a wheelchair up a flight of stairs’ people rallied around to help. Is this how it work in an ideal world? No, obviously not, in an ideal world I’d be able walk around the countries I visit. Failing that all countries would be built with the smooth floors of a shopping mall but they’re not, and once you’ve seen one shopping mall you’ve pretty much seen them all. If it’s a decision between not seeing the world or doing it with the (sometimes degrading) help of others then I know which one I’m going to pick.
Below is an overview of what I have in mind with each accessibility rating however it’s important to remember that I can only judge according to my personal mobility restrictions. Because I have the upper body strength of a decapitated slug I often use a wheelchair with power-assisted wheels (it looks like a rigid manual chair but adds about 50% extra to every push I make). I figure if I can get around in this chair unaided then an active wheelchair user would also be able (probably more so as I keep my anti-tips on). I also use a standard rigid manual chair, which is harder for me to push but easier for other people to help me with (it’s MUCH lighter and has higher push handles). In this wheelchair I’m able to push myself on flat ground, up and down small hills and up small height differences, but not full kerbs. Finally, and probably most importantly I am able to walk short distances with a crutch/wall/person and this means that if push comes to not being able to shove I can get to toilets down narrow corridors or up a step on to a bus.
10/10 – Like a shopping mall but with no annoying teenagers clogging up the lift when they could use the escalators. In this dream world all public transport would also be accessible and people would know when to offer help but never assume you need it.
8-9/10 – Pavements are level, drop kerbs are abundant and seamless (for any of you that have ever face planted out a wheelchair you’ll know why this is important!) and almost everywhere has ramps/accessible toilets. Active wheelchair users would be able to travel alone. Public transport is almost entirely accessible.
7/10 – The country is less accessible, possibly more hilly, more inaccessible historical buildings etc but adaptions have been made wherever possible. People are helpful whenever the necessity arises and public transport is mostly accessible. Assistance may be required for less active wheelchair users.
6/10 – As above but people are less helpful and public transport is adequate but no better. (I would consider most of London to fit these criteria) or, public transport is less accessible but people are more helpful.
5/10 – The country has major accessibility issues but people help you make the best of a bad situation. Public transport is not particularly accessible.
4/10 – Lacking the basic adaptions required by wheelchair users, or the landscape is just particularly difficult. Public transport is mostly inaccessible. Even active wheelchair users would struggle to get around independently and residents are not willing to help.
3/10 – Most places are not adapted for wheelchair users, the landscape is particularly challenging but people will help where possible. Public transport is not accessible.
2/10 – The landscape is extremely challenging, nowhere is adapted, public transport is not accessible and people are not always helpful. This might be the point where I would weigh up if walking and taxi use would actually be the only option.
1/10 – I’ll tell you if I ever visit a place that scores this low.
0/10 – A cliff face.