Before I went to Washington DC, I stumbled onto this article by Reid Davenport ‘Traveling with a disability in Europe’.
According to him, Europe is inaccessible in comparison with the USA. I am not disputingthat many cities in Europe are largely inaccessible, however, I would suggest that it is extremely important to do sufficient research before setting off wherever you ‘re going. London underground is inaccessible and disabled community has campaigned and continue to campaign on access. Having said that, we have accessible taxis (black cabs ) on the streets and the city is criss crossed with accessible buses (transport information on Transport for London which helps to navigate travel for all). There are alternatives to using the tube. Reid did not have to use the underground.
However, if you came from Washington DC, it is easy to understand why you would gravitate to the underground for travelling in the city. With an accessible Metro, it is easy to navigate public transport. I have been to Washington twice before many years ago – as a tourist visiting a friend and later, as a library student on a pilgrimage to the Library of Congress. I remember being ecstatic about being able to use the underground. But this time I wanted to experience alternative forms of moving around. I love buses – you can see where you re going on a bus and it gives you an overview of the city. Buses are also usually cheaper and here, these buses have room for 2 wheelchair users. It didnt take me long to figure that buses 32 and 36 and they both get near the Smithsonian. I asked the bus driver and got off at the Archives when I tried it. Best of all, I found
out that the Bus 5A took you to Dulles Airport for $6 and $3 with a disabled person’s concession. It cost me $70 taxifare on arrival to get to my hotel from the airport. I also found the bus drivers very friendly and helpful. In fact I can say that all the transport staff were courteous and helpful to this ignorant tourist. I was always asking questions and directions. There was this amazing Metro man who helped me immensely when I panicked at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station – on my way back to the airport to go back to the UK, the lift/elevator stopped working. There was no other way to get out – another reason I m not keen on using the undergound. I explained to him I had a bus to catch to the airport, whereby he told me I should get to Rosslyn and catch up with the bus there. I had no idea what he was on about but he had such confidence that I thought I should trust in his directions and yes, he was right, when I got to Rosslyn I caught up with the same bus to Dulles!
Signage is not obvious in this city, it might be me but I sat at the square at the Foggy Bottom Metro lift/elevator to have snacks 2 days before I figured out that it was actually the lift to access the underground. It was right at the George Washington University Hospital and I had thought it was one of the accessible entrances to the hospital -right next to the canteen! At pelican crossings, some had audio and tactile signals but most did not seem to. There was no buttons you can push. And if you did not knowwhere the access lifts were it can be problematic. They were not always next to the main Metro stations.
I had lunch with the fabulous Stephanie Ortoleva, the Founder and President of Women Enabled, Inc and her husband Frank at Bayou across the street from the Melrose and we exchanged much about our advocacy work. They do not seem to have Access to Work or ‘resonable adjustments‘ equivalents over there. For all the ADA legislation there, Bayou did not have an accessible toilet. I found that surprising.