The Locked-In Traveler: Venice


The Locked-In Traveler

(Kati’s Wheelchair Traveling Journals)


(Click here for audio version)

Venice, Italy is considered to be one of the most inaccessible tourist destinations in the world for wheelchair users. That used to be the case but not so much anymore.

Understandable that people may think so, counting that the city is made from over a hundred islands. It actually was difficult getting around in a wheelchair through the narrow alleys, over the bridges, and up the steps.

The city has done something about the problem and managed to make the town more disabled-friendly. Half of Venice is now easily accessible. A good portion of the other half is still accessible to a certain degree, and only certain places are entirely inaccessible for a wheelchair. An important fact is that the major museums and attractions are all accessible to people with disabilities.

One noticeable matter is that the city is traffic-free, and that makes a perfect atmosphere to stroll around.

I visited Venice in the summer of 1998. My mother, an assistant and I took a two-week trip to Italy to visit an old friend. It was my second journey in a wheelchair.

My friend lived in Pesaro and arranged an accessible apartment for us. Pesaro is a small not-touristic city full of that romantic Italian charm. It is a great place for honeymooners but not so much for sightseeing tourists as we were.

Considering the fact that there was not much to do in Pesaro itself, my friend took us to other nearby places as Florence, San Marino, and Venice.

Get Kati’s autobiography; “Living Underwater

Florence is a beautiful old city and like any ancient city, not everywhere is easily accessible in a wheelchair though.

San Marino also an old city was also semi-accessible. Funny thing though; we decided to visit Guaita, which is an old fort upon a hill. The path to the top was so steep that my friend huffed and puffed while pushing my wheelchair upwards. To help out my mom pushed him, and my assistant pushed mom.

We were like; “the little engine that could,” with my mom, my friend, and my assistant going; “puff-puff.”

From the three cities, Venice was the one I like the most despite the difficulties.

On arrival, we parked at the parking lot right in front of where you can take the water taxi (Vaporetto) to the city center. The boat’s floor is at the same level as the dock, making it easy to get on and off with the wheelchair. The ride itself is like a sightseeing tour as it cruises the Grand Canal that runs through Venice.

The city was not as accessible then as it is now. Getting around in a wheelchair was tough. Some of the alleys were just wide enough for the wheelchair to go through. I did not see even one other wheelchair that day.

It was a terrific day, but my mom, my friend, and especially my assistant, were exhausted after that trip. The pulling up and lowering down the wheelchair over the bridges took the air out of all of them.

Venice is one of the most enchanting cities that I have been to, and I want to go back someday.

Venice is doable in a wheelchair. Nevertheless, it remains crucial to plan your trip well.


Get Kati’s autobiography; “Living Underwater

(Kati & Henning van der Hoeven)

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