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Exploring Accessible Philadelphia

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Historic row houses Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, known as the birthplace of American democracy, is a city that’s rich in history, culture, and lively urban life. Philadelphia is like a second home to me.  I’ve been going to Philadelphia (aka – Philly) since I was a little kid.  My parents would take my brother and I to Philly on Black Friday to visit Santa and Santa’s Village at Gimbels, a well-known department store and staple in Philly for decades.  Little did we know that our parents were just distracting us while they did their Christmas shopping while we were in the Village! Years later, I spent 7 months in Thomas Jefferson Hospital and then Magee Rehab after I broke my neck and became paralyzed at the age of 18.  I also worked as a corporate executive at two major companies in Philadelphia for more than 15 years – driving from my home in Delaware each day. 

All to say, Philly is close to my heart in many ways.  I’ve experienced firsthand the progress Philly has made to become more accessible over the years.  

Accessible access

From accessible sidewalks and historic buildings, to public transportation and accessible taxis such as 215GetACab, to sports venues and attractions throughout the city and along the Delaware River, Philadelphia is more accessible than many cities.  Without a doubt there is more work to be done for greater accessibility, but I love this city, its people, and the businesses that have welcomed me for decades. 

And, I can’t forget to mention the food that Philly is famous for – soft pretzels and cheese steaks, aside from the eclectic foodie scene that is absolutely amazing. It has something for everyone and you’ll find it to be quite accessible. 

Here are some of my recommendations for a memorable trip to Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love! I’ll be back soon, Philly!

Historic Landmarks

Philadelphia is home to iconic historic landmarks that have taken steps to enhance accessibility. Independence National Historical Park, which includes Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, offers accessible entrances, ramps, and elevators, assistive listening devices, open captioning, and a website which describes accessibility. For history buffs, these venues are a must!

Museums and Galleries

There are so many museums and galleries in Philadelphia that are accessible, you could spend a week exploring them and not see them all.  Philadelphia is home to world-class museums and galleries where everyone is welcome and where you will find many that are accessible.  The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, and the Franklin Institute have made efforts to provide accessible entrances, elevators, and accessible exhibits. These cultural institutions offer sensory-friendly programs, audio guides, and other accommodations for people with disabilities. Plan to spend hours or even a day in each.

Adaptive Sports and Recreation

I’m pretty sure just about everyone knows that Philadelphia is very passionate about its sports teams. Adaptive sports are no different and the options will amaze you.  Philadelphia offers a wide range of adaptive sports and recreational activities for people with disabilities. There are disability-friendly fitness studios and organizations such as Carousel House, which offers a number of adaptive activities to people with disabilities. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department provides adaptive sports programs, including wheelchair basketball, adaptive cycling, and adaptive tennis. Additionally, Kelly Drive and Schuylkill River Trail offer accessible paths for walking, cycling, and enjoying the scenic beauty along the Schuylkill River.

Tours

Philadelphia offers a range of tours for people with disabilities.  For example, Philly Touch Tours coordinates cultural and historical tours for blind and low-vision guests at the Penn Museum and the 9th Street Italian Market.  The Philadelphia Trolley Works offers accessible sightseeing tours, including visits to iconic landmarks like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The Big Bus Tours also provide accessible double-decker buses with ramps, allowing visitors to hop on and off at various attractions.

Cultural Events

Philadelphia hosts a variety of inclusive cultural events that celebrate its vibrant arts and entertainment scene. The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Ballet offer accessible performances, including sensory-friendly shows and sign-language interpretation. The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) showcases inclusive performances and exhibitions that include various art forms.

Dining and famous Philly treats

According to the Health Department, Philly has nearly 6,000 places to eat!  The cuisine in Philly is as diverse and as creative you’ll find anywhere in the world.  Not all of these restaurants are accessible but with this guide from VisitPhilly.com, you’ll be able to make better decisions about your dining choices.  There are a few “must try” places during your visit to Philly such as the Reading Terminal Market, an historic institution that began in 1892 with merchants offering food and food products.  It’s accessible from just about all of its entrances. And, of course there is the ongoing rivalry, (all in good fun), about who has the best cheesesteak in Philly, Geno’s or Pat’s, but with so many places offering their own version of “the best cheesesteak,” you’ll need to decide for yourself!

Philadelphia is a big city with most of its historic buildings and attractions located in Center City or a short taxi ride away. It’s a fun city and it gets really crowded along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during major events like the Wawa Welcome America festivities on July 4th each year and  J-Z’s Made in America Festival held over the Labor Day weekend.  In Philly you’ll find accessible historic landmarks and museums, adaptive sports and inclusive cultural events, and some of the best food anywhere.  So, plan your visit with a knowledgeable travel agent such as Travel for All, build a great, accessible itinerary, and enjoy this amazing city and all of the accessible activities it has to offer!

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