Since the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was drafted in 2006, nearly the entire world has signed it and a good chunk also decided to ratify. Great! But 11 years later, progress has been slow and many countries are still struggling to hold up their end of the deal. Fortunately, some have made it a priority to put the necessary infrastructure in place to allow everyone to enjoy their destination. Here are three of our favorite spots that have put significant effort into providing accessibility for their residents and tourists alike.
Despite recent turmoil between the Catalonia region and the Spanish government, Barcelona should be on any aspiring globetrotter’s list. Though many of western Europe’s castles and churches may seem similar to the untrained eye, even the architecturally challenged will quickly notice the uniqueness of Catalonia native Antoni Gaudí’s creations. His famous Basilica of the Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882, and though he probably didn’t include accessibility plans in his original blueprints, wheelchair users today are able to appreciate his magnificently detailed design from both inside and out. Other accessible must-sees include the city’s main drag, La Ramblas, and its famous market, La Boqueria, as well as Nova Icaria Beach which has amphibian wheelchairs and volunteers ready to help you get into the water. Sports fans should book tickets to an FC Barça match, one of Europe’s most famous football (aka soccer to us North Americans) clubs. Their home field, Camp Nou, is the second largest soccer stadium in the world with a capacity of nearly 100,000 and includes a designated wheelchair accessible area. Your ticket gets your caregiver in for free, but be sure to book early as seats sell out quickly!
Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (public transportation accessibility information)
With a year-round average temperature of around 80ºF, world class shopping, beaches, very little crime, and a commitment to accessibility, who wouldn’t want to escape to Singapore? Widely known as a family-friendly destination, kids and adults alike will enjoy the Botanic Gardens which include an accessible educational center for children to learn about plants and all things nature. Get a 360º view of the island from the Singapore Flyer (a Ferris wheel nearly as tall as Las Vegas’ High Roller) by booking tickets in advance to make sure staff is on hand to assist you with boarding. You also won’t want to miss Gardens by the Bay, a 101-hectare nature park that will make you feel like you’re in some sort of Avatar-like fantasy world.
SMRT (public transportation accessibility information)
Sick of navigating snow and ice already this winter? Consider catching a flight to Sydney where the average high from December to February is around 78ºF. Since enacting the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act in 1992, Australia has been actively working toward eliminating discrimination against persons with disabilities and improving the accessibility of public spaces. Take a roll through Sydney Harbour before catching a show at the world-renown Opera House, which contrary to its name, actually hosts a variety of events including arts festivals, rock concerts, kid-friendly spectacles, and more. The Sydney Tower Eye allows wheelchair users to take in skyline views from above, and the Royal Botanic Gardens provide access to nature without having to venture out of the city. Access to several of the area beaches, including the popular Manly beach, is possible by taking a wheelchair-friendly ferry ride.
Transport for NSW (public transportation accessibility information)
All three of our favorite travel spots have accessible public transportation systems, but before leaving, be sure to check transit websites for the most updated information. Unfortunately, most hotel booking websites aren’t quite up-to-par when it comes to finding truly accessible accommodations. Companies like Handiscover and Airbnb (who recently acquired Accomable) are aiming to fix that, but they are still in beginning stages. Call hotels and airlines directly before reserving to confirm they can meet your individual needs. Also, remember that no travel destination is perfect. Barcelona is notorious for pickpockets, Singapore has laws that may seem strange to westerners (don’t bring any chewing gum with you), and getting to Sydney from the United States is quite a trek. However, doing your homework and planning ahead can help you prepare for any potential mishaps and allow you to fully appreciate everything these amazing sights have to offer. Now get out there and discover the world!