Accessibility in Venice

This item appears on page 17 of the August 2009 issue.

I visit Venice often, and although I do not use a wheelchair, it is my observation that seeing Venice in a wheelchair can be done. Getting from A to B will be awkward, but you can get from island to island by using the vaporetti (water buses) and the very good itinerary maps provided for the purpose by the tourist office.

E-mail and ask for the “Accessible Venice” folder. They will send you a set of maps and information in an 8½"x4½" folder weighing 5.5 ounces. I don’t know if there’s a charge for postage. Accessible WCs are shown on the map as well. (Credit the creation of the “Accessible Venice” map-folders to InformaHandicap Service. The tourist board is the distributor.)

Even so, at some vaporetto stops the float decks don’t meet the boat decks by as much as 10 inches; it’s definitely not always an easy “roll-on, roll-off” for a wheelchair. (I know about this because, using only one eye, I have no depth perception and I feel for the difference with my stick.)

The 7-day vaporetto ticket is a bargain at €50 ($70). You can buy it in Venice at their ticket offices, usually at the pier, but it’s cheaper if you buy in advance from the US.

To do this, Google “Hellovenezia” or “Venice Connected” and see what they offer. You have to select the date of first use seven days or more in advance; they call it “withdrawal.” Read the instructions carefully.

I used Venice Connected and picked up the ticket at Hellovenezia in the airport. I was told to keep the receipt in case I was ever challenged.

Venice has six of its hundreds of bridges fitted with platform lifts to carry wheelchairs across canals, but information about their use is not generally known and even the tourist information people who give you the keys and instruction sheet are not well informed about their actual use. My advice — unless you have a real interest in them, forget about the chair lifts.

The beautiful, new, un-Venetian-style Calatrava Bridge, linking the Santa Lucia train station with Piazzale Roma, is definitely not accessible. There are no handrails and no ramps for wheeled baggage. And the ramps I saw at other bridges on a previous visit all have disappeared.

Another problem for visitors is the lack of public seating. Very few of the campos have benches for mothers airing their children. I know of few parks in the residential districts. Sometimes I just have to stop walking and lean against a wall to help take the weight off my bad leg.

By the way, it seems Internet use is going wireless in Venice. You may have to bring your own computer fitted for wireless connectivity. Some hotels seem to have removed their guest-use computers in favor of providing a router and giving guests a personal password; you pay for the time used. It may be a security precaution.

I had to show my passport at the Internet cafe and it was recorded. The seats were much too low for this stiff oldster with poor eyes. Un-ergonomic even for the young.


New York, NY