What determines where you will go on your travels? Oftentimes the things that are most important in choosing a destination include attractions, food, sustainability, and an interest in experiencing a culture beyond their own. For many however, the most important part of choosing where to go depends on the accessibility of the destination.
The Importance of Accessibility
The treatment of those with disabilities has been horrid for much of western history. People with disabilities had laws barring them from society, placed in institutions, faced eugenics, and death in the name of ‘euthenasia’. Consideration for people with disabilities became more prevalent in the United States after WWI when veterans began coming home with debilitating injuries. In the 1960’s disability advocates used the momentum of the civil rights movement alongside African Americans and other marginalized groups to gain civil rights. The Rehabilitation Act was finally passed in 1973 protecting people with disabilities civil rights for the first time. This is when equal access to public services was first mandated. Then in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. This finally called for incorporating and integrating people with disabilities in all aspects of society. Over the last 30 years a lot has improved including accessible public spaces and businesses. Despite the progress, many places and buildings around the world are older and were not built with accessibility in mind, making many locations around the world inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Conversations about climate change and sustainability first began to receive political traction in the 1970’s and have gained serious momentum since then. In 1992 the UN had an environmental conference first establishing precautionary climate policies. Over the next three decades more climate focused agreements and guidelines were outlined and advocated for. Momentum from these climate agreements have been worked into everyday societies helping create sustainable and eco-conscious places around the world.
Accessible & Sustainable Travel
Some places around the world have been working towards greater accessibility by implementing inclusive strategies into their societal structure. These places often have green initiatives and accessibility in mind during city development. This means putting focus on marginalized groups and ecological impacts throughout development of accessible and sustainable infrastructure to create a space that everyone can participate in. These cities make great destinations for travelers who might have limited mobility or use a wheelchair and wish to practice sustainable travel!
Saying this, below you can find 7 cities around the world that are leaders in accessibility and sustainability for all to explore.
Berlin is home to many wheelchair and limited mobility accessible attractions, accommodations, sidewalks, and parks. There is a lack of wheelchair accessible taxis but most public transportation is wheelchair accessible.
On the sustainability front, Berlin has cut CO2 emissions by a third since 1990 and aims to be climate neutral by 2050. They have great recycling initiatives, more than 2,500 green spaces and public education on sustainability and ecological preservation.
Denver is extremely accessible to those that use a wheelchair or have limited mobility. They have public transportation and taxis, accommodations, attractions, sidewalks, and other public spaces specially constructed for those with limited mobility.
As for green initiatives, the state of Colorado has many, including green tax credits, weathering assistance for reduced energy waste, sustainability education, hybrid taxi services, ecological preservation, and a successful recycling program.
While Hong Kong has attainable public transportation, accommodations, public spaces, and attractions in tourist areas, some parts of the city are not reachable to people who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility. Furthermore, Hong Kong has also made great strides in creating sustainable public transportation and waste reduction. They have active policies in place to promote clean energy and fight climate change. With their buying power, they have been given an opportunity to encourage changes in global companies sustainability practices.
Oslo has many reachable accommodations, public transportation, taxis, attractions, and public spaces and sidewalks. There are places within the city that are less available to those with limited mobility but it has been improving over time. Oslo started a community based movement for environmental change that has had great success. Teaching and implementing sustainable practices, renewable energy based transportation, prioritizing ecological preservation and biodiversity are some of Oslo’s many achievements that makes it one of Europe’s greenest cities.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco boasts wheelchair supportive public transportation, accommodations, and attractions. Keep in mind that some of the sidewalks are extremely steep and would be difficult for a person in a wheelchair to use (but those primarily exist in residential neighborhoods and away from tourist destinations). San Francisco has been a consistent leader in sustainability and is generally considered the most eco friendly city in the US. They have been working toward becoming waste free and have recycling laws in place, as well as many solar initiatives.
Singapore has accessible accommodations, public transportation, and attractions, wheelchair friendly infrastructure and barrier free pedestrian ways making it one of the best cities for people with limited mobility. Singapore is nicknamed the Garden City because of their advanced eco building programs that implement green spaces woven into the city’s framework. They are on track to have zero waste in landfills by 2050 and they have successful water conservation and food waste processing.
Washington DC is the US leader in accessibility. With restriction-free accommodations, attractions, and infrastructure, most places are available to people with limited mobility. Public transportation and taxis are improving but can still be inaccessible to wheelchairs.
Washington DC is also working towards green initiatives, sustainability, and ecological preservation in a large program called ‘Sustainable DC’. These actions take place over various sections of society to create a well rounded and inclusive approach.
Read more about sustainable traveling in DC here.
Finding a travel destination can be difficult. It can be even more difficult as a traveler with a disability who wants to practice sustainability. We hope this guide has helped you choose your next accessible and sustainable getaway!