Wheelchair Users in Large Cities: What Info Helps You Get Around?
November 6, 2013 9:46 PM   Subscribe

I recently moved to a large city (Seattle) from a smaller city (Omaha Nebraska). I use a manual wheelchair to get around (TiLite) Slowly, I'm learning to navigate the city. I wanted to reach out to other wheelchair users in large cities and get a feel for the kind of information you wish you'd had when you moved there that would have made getting around the city easier. I'm thinking of gathering this kind of information into a single place (website) that can help wheelchair users new to the city get around. For example: 1. How to get around all the damn hills (seattle, san francisco) 2. How the bus system works 3. where and what the hell are hillclimb assists 4. A directory of business and how accessible they are I could go on but you get the idea.
posted by OpnSrce to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Seattle buses are all wheelchair accessible and have seating near the front that folds out of place-- the driver will help secure your wheelchair to the seat. If you're going to be a frequent bus user, you'll want to get an Orca card, which will serve either as an electronic wallet for bus fare (E-purse) or as a bus pass, or both. It also works at the ferry.

The hillclimb assists are for getting people up to 5th or 6th Ave from the waterfront at around Madison street, where it seems to be the steepest-- I'm not sure of the slope, but I know that the federal building entrance on 1st Ave is the 1st floor, and the 2nd Ave entrance is on the 3rd floor. Assists are mostly escalator-based.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:58 PM on November 6, 2013

With buses, there is a wheelchair lift that the driver will pop out on request and seating up front. More details are available on the Metro site.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 PM on November 6, 2013

(I don't think the OP is asking for answers to those questions; I think the questions are being offered as examples of the kinds of questions wheelchair users might want to know about...)

I found London Transport's accessibility information and trip planner useful when unable to use stairs or escalators. Today I would find it very useful to know if there are accessible transport apps for a given transport system, even better if they have live access updates. (For example, if the lifts are out at a particular station, it would be great to know that in real time, and I would expect an app to alert me.)

Also I would find it useful to know if the various transport websites with accessibility information were themselves accessible because wheelchair users are more statistically likely to use assistive devices when navigating online.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:18 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whatever reason you're in a chair, you might want to at least contact various Spinal Cord Injury support groups in the area. I know the UW has one, but there are many other smaller groups, and one might be closer and/or more to your taste. The one in Bellingham, for instance, is small but super friendly and helpful about local issues.

Also, use the Seattle City Government site! They have so many resources to help, it's a question of wading through all the information to find what helps you. If I were you, I would also call the Mayor's Office in person. There's usually a person whose sole job is to help citizens navigate what the government has to offer. (Try now, and try again after the new Mayor takes office .... you never know.) There is a Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities -- sorry, I can't seem to get the link in here -- and their site seems full of info.

If you plan to use the bus a lot, call Seattle Metro. If you want to go to the exhibit of gold from Peru, call the Seattle Art Museum. Go the Rep? Ditto. Many non-profits, and almost all government agencies, have someone in charge of accessibility, and that person is rarely approached for help.

And how about setting up your own website? There was a woman in B'ham who had one mostly about trails, and many of us contributed to it, and it was not only fun to find out about places to go with your chair (or scooter, in my case) it was fun to take pictures and post my experiences. She's gone now, and her web is closed, but it was a wonderful thing while it lasted.

As for the hills -- well, they're dammed hilly. But you do get some views going down!

Good luck with this. I think you'll find a lot of info and some wonderful people.
posted by kestralwing at 11:54 PM on November 6, 2013

(I have a physical disability making steps difficult and work on disability.)

You could have a section on contact information for key organisations/people/forums. It would be useful to have contact information for organisations of disabled people that I could meet and share experiences with.
posted by squishles at 12:40 AM on November 7, 2013

This is more of a "I'm just visiting the city" thing, but even if someone was going to move to a new place, they would need to know this stuff too. Whenever I travel the thing that I undoubtedly need to know is how to get from the airport to my hotel via accessible transportation. Some airport websites are very helpful, but others are not. I really just want to know what the most reliable and affordable options are. FYI I am referring to transportation for an electric wheelchair that would need an accessible vehicle.

1. Can I call a shuttle or taxi company when I get there without making a reservation? If so, which one?
2. If I need to make a reservation with a company, which one, and how early, and how much does it cost?
3. If there are no non-medical/accessible shuttles, what are my other options (train? bus? tram? rolling?) Costs? Easy of use?

Along the above lines, for everyday transit, a handy guide to accessible taxis or shuttle companies -- like REAL, RELIABLE ones -- would be nice.
posted by thorny at 2:01 AM on November 7, 2013

Not a wheelchair user myself, but a guy I know who uses a chair lobbied successfully for bars in our city to have to detail exactly what accessible facilities their property had when they applied for a licence, so this information could be published as a guide.

It wasn't about enforcing better access (Edinburgh is built on a million levels, there are bars in old dungeons and vaults, up and down old stone stairs etc - the only way to make it totally accessible would be to bulldoze the whole city and start again) but just letting wheelchair users find out easily where they could go out comfortably without having to hunt for information.

He was inspired to do it after going to a bar which had an accessible entrance, so he assumed it was accessible all the way. Two pints later he needed the loo, and discovered it had a tiny doorway. He had to leave the bar and go down the road to another pub that he knew had an accessible toilet.
posted by penguin pie at 4:21 AM on November 7, 2013

I don't know much about Seattle and I don't use a chair, though I have pretty constant exposure to the hardware and a population who use them. That being said, in my experience, one of the most functional groups of people who actually know and _do_ stuff have been active wheelchair basketball players and staff.

The cross section of disability and background is reasonable and sport-first advocacy can take a little different tack. I am not involved in WCB but I appreciate the chair handling skills that my athletes who have played have acquired. I pay some attention but only enough to know that this is pretty general advice and have no idea how efficacious it might be in a particular locale.

Best of luck on your move - I hope you enjoy your relocation from the interior to the wet coast as much as I have.
posted by mce at 10:09 AM on November 7, 2013

You might want to connect with some of the disability groups in the area. I think the big dog as far as leading disability activism and community is UW and there are a few groups in the area that could help you with this project (all Facebook links, sorry...)
posted by athenasbanquet at 11:48 AM on November 7, 2013

A long time ago in a book for Seattle residents I saw a guide and map to traversing the hills of downtown Seattle by taking the elevators in some of the block-sized buildings. You could get from the waterfront to the top of the hill through a series of horizontal moves of a block or two separated by elevator rides.

Alas, I cannot remember the name of the book (and the information is probably outdated now) and the closest I can find on the internet is an article from 1997. The article refers to staircases, but where there are inside staircases there are also elevators so you might still find the route described useful, although you'll need to do some exploring/experimenting to determine which route(s) still work today.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:32 PM on November 7, 2013

Here is the answer to your question about hillclimb assist: http://www.alwayssunnyinseattle.com/2013/07/seattle-pops.html
It is specifically an indoor elevator or escalator in a private building but is considered a public space. Good luck on your move. I loved living in Seattle.
posted by coolsara at 2:57 PM on November 7, 2013

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