Philadelphia, PA - Of the 10 largest cities in the US, Philadelphia happens to have the highest percentage of residents with physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. With a variety of accessible restaurants, attractions, hotels, and museum options present throughout the City of Brotherly Love, there's no question that the destination strives towards excellence in ensuring that each visitor is welcome and able to enjoy their time spent there.
Wheelchair Accessibility Throughout Philadelphia
However, while many aspects of the city offer visitors a great sense of independence when exploring, there are certain drawbacks involved. Whether you're a caregiver planning an accessible trip or looking to prepare yourself for Philly as a wheelchair user, here's what you should know.
A number of accessible attractions
When it comes to experiencing Philadelphia's most renowned attractions and sights to the fullest, those like the Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are all wheelchair accessible, according to WheelchairTravel.org. For those who want to indulge in the area's rich history, visiting the Constitution Center, aka the most complete historical museum, is located in a fully wheelchair accessible building. The Benjamin Franklin Museum is another accessible attraction and allows visitors to get a glimpse into the life and achievements of the historical figure himself via interactive and informative exhibits. Being wheelchair accessible (complete with an elevator for easier navigation) and ADA-compliant bathrooms, the museum is yet another to add to any tour of Philly.
The accessibility of SEPTA
When it comes to getting around and exploring Philly in an independent way, visitors can find a vast amount of accessible services through the local transit network. With the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operating more than 100 bus routes throughout Philly, the transportation network uses a fleet of more than 1,000 wheelchair accessible low floor city buses — all of which have ramps that extend from the front door, as well as seating that is specially made to accommodate individuals with disabilities. While this makes it easy for individuals to explore the city in an independent way, however, the city isn't without its drawbacks.
The inaccessible drawbacks involved
While there are a number of accessible features found throughout the city of Philadelphia, it's important to take into account that there are inaccessible aspects of the city as well. For example, the city was sued back in 2019 by disabled Philadelphians over the city sidewalks' inaccessibility. Four Philadelphians who experience disabilities, as well as the organization's Liberty Resources, Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, Inc., and Philadelphia ADAPT, claimed multiple issues, including broken curb cuts, disintegrating sidewalks, and illegally parked cars in the city, all of which make travel both a challenge and dangerous for individuals with disabilities. As of March 2022, the city of Philadelphia has entered talks of settlement with those who sued, leaving many to wonder what will be done to enact a change.
For individuals with disabilities that create mobility issues, such as cerebral palsy, navigating such sidewalks in a wheelchair can prove to be particularly difficult. However, many may
wonder exactly what is cerebral palsy? In short, it's generally defined as a group of disorders that affects a person's ability to move as well as maintain balance and posture. For those with arm movement who use manual wheelchairs, navigating the occasional sidewalk discrepancy can be a bit of an easier feat, though others who require fully automated wheelchairs may find sidewalk travel to be more than a challenge.
The city of Philadelphia offers a vast array of accessible features, making aspects like transportation and various attractions easy to enjoy for many. However, while there are many accessible features present, it's important to realize that the city isn't entirely accessible, as sidewalks pose just one inaccessible challenge for many.