Over the past few decades, the United States has come a long way in terms of improving wheelchair accessibility. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) came into effect on 26 July 1990. The ADA is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that sets legal standards for how accessible public areas need to be. Implementation of the ADA has improved accessibility standards across the entire nation.

But while improvements in wheelchair accessibility have happened all across the US, certain states have gone the extra mile. Some have made especially large and effective efforts to improve the experience of their wheelchair-using residents and visitors.

Today we will highlight five of the best wheelchair-friendly states in the US.

What Are the Best Places To Live For Wheelchair Users?

Most wheelchair users agree on what makes a town, city, or state wheelchair-friendly. The attributes that make a place optimally accessible are:

  • A well-run disabled parking program that is easy to navigate and user-friendly
  • Lots of well-placed handicap spaces, both in parking lots and on-street
  • A Residential Parking Permit program, if necessary
  • A fully accessible public transport system
  • Fully ADA-compliant amenities
  • Modern, wide, smooth sidewalks

Where Are The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vacations In The United States?

In 2021, there are so many great wheelchair accessible vacations in the United States. Given that every region of the US now adheres well to the ADA, the choice of where you go on vacation is more dependent on your personal tastes than on whether your destination will be accessible.

Most of the nation’s most visited cities – such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, and Washington DC – are also some of the most accessible cities in the US.

And while National Parks and other areas of natural beauty are more limited in how wheelchair-friendly they can be, even these attractions – such as Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls – have managed to become as wheelchair-friendly as they reasonably can be.

What Qualifies As Handicap-Accessible?

An area is handicap-accessible if its amenities and facilities are in compliance with up-to-date accessibility guidelines – for example, as stipulated in the ADA. An accessible state contains as few barriers as possible to prevent a disabled person from getting around, living unimpeded, and enjoying equal rights and opportunities.

Disabled Parking - Seattle
Image by Luca Micheli on Unsplash: Seattle consistently tops polls of America’s most wheelchair-friendly cities.

The Best Wheelchair-Friendly States In The US

1. Washington State

Washington tops our list of wheelchair-friendly states. The Evergreen State’s largest city, Seattle, has a fully accessible public transport system and many accessible tourist attractions. Seattle has been ranked the most wheelchair-friendly city in America in several polls. Washington State also has lots of accessible nature trails and areas of natural beauty to explore and enjoy.

2. California

The two largest cities in California, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are two of the most wheelchair-friendly cities in the US. Both cities have public transport networks of buses, trains, taxis, and trams that are very accessible. San Francisco, due to its hilly topography, has an especially wheelchair-friendly public transport system.

All of the major tourist attractions in California, including Disneyland and the great museums and galleries of LA and San Fran, are wheelchair-accessible. California also has several areas of renowned natural beauty, such as Yellowstone National Park, which have plenty of wheelchair accessible trails.

3. Illinois

Illinois comes in third on our list. The Prairie State’s largest city, Chicago, is another highly accessible city. The Windy City’s public transport system and taxi network are very accessible and its major attractions, parks, restaurants, and nighttime venues are all also impressively wheelchair-friendly. Chicago also has an excellent, user-friendly disabled parking program.

Illinois boasts several beautiful and accessible parks and areas of natural beauty, such as Beall Woods State Park and Chicago Botanical Gardens.

4. Washington DC

The nation’s capital, while not technically in a state, still has to make our top five. Washington DC (which is not in a state but in the District of Columbia) is certainly one of the most wheelchair-accessible cities in the United States. The city’s sidewalks are some of the widest and smoothest in the country and its public transport system is second to none in terms of accessibility. All of Washington DC’s incredible historic sites, buildings, museums, and galleries are fully accessible and ADA compliant.

Disabled Parking - Washington DC
Image by Jacob Creswick on Unsplash: Washington DC is one of the most accessible cities in the US.

5. New York

Number five in our list is New York State. The Empire State contains the nation’s most populous city, New York. Over the last few decades, NYC has done great work in terms of making itself a very wheelchair-friendly city. The Big Apple’s amenities and attractions are mostly wheelchair-accessible, as is the NYC public transport system. Both New York City and New York State have well-run disabled parking programs. The state’s areas of natural beauty have also been made impressively wheelchair-friendly.

So there you have it: our list of the best wheelchair-friendly states in the US. Honorable mentions also go to Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, and Oregon. These states are also doing a great job of being wheelchair-friendly, and they very nearly made the top five!

Featured image by Edgar Colomba on Pexels