Unlike the large metropolises of Chicago and Boston, Washington, DC, has the feel of a small town but all the amenities of a big city. It’s a great place to visit any time of year (though the summer humidity can sometimes be stifling!). Even if you’re not into politics, you can still enjoy the city’s vibrant culture, great restaurants, and tons of barrier-free transportation.
With 19 museums and the National Zoo—all of which are free and accessible to people with disabilities—the Smithsonian Institution is arguably one of DC’s greatest treasures. Extensive information on the organization’s accessibility program is available on its website or by calling 202-633-2921. My favorite museum in DC is just a couple blocks away from the National Mall on the corner of F and 9th Street – the International Spy Museum. It opened in 2002 and showcases the largest display of espionage artifacts ever seen by the public! As a huge James Bond fan, I highly recommend this museum!
In addition to its incredible museums, the nation’s capitol has many easily accessible outdoor memorials and monuments (such as the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial), many of which are located along or near the scenic Tidal Basin. They are especially spectacular at night, when they’re fully illuminated. You can visit them on your own, or sign up with one of the many tour companies in the city.
Don’t forget to explore DC’s thriving performing arts community, too. The John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts, the National Theater, Folger Theater at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Ford’s Theater are all wheelchair accessible. If you’re planning to see a show at the Warner Theater, call ahead (202-783-4000) to make arrangements.
Ample sidewalks along the National Mall enable wheelchair users to visit many of the city’s monuments and museums relatively easily.
DC’s Metro system (both rail and bus) is an efficient and safe way to get around much of the city—and it offers discounts for both seniors and people with disabilities. Detailed information on their programs is available at the Metro website. Note that you have to visit the Transit Accessibility Center in person to obtain the accessibility discount card. (For further information, call 202-962-2700.)
Two DC taxi companies have wheelchair-accessible taxis: Royal Taxi (202-398-0500) and Yellow Cab Company (202-544-1213). Reservations aren’t necessary, but because the number of accessible taxis is limited, it’s a good idea to make arrangements at least a couple of hours (or even days) in advance. You can call the companies directly or book taxis through the Taxi Magic mobile app (available for iPhones and Android devices).
There’s one more stop on my tour of wheelchair-friendly cities in the U.S. This hot spot has a reputation for “sin”—can you guess what it is?