The Americans with Disabilities Act requires most public places to comply with disability-friendly regulations. Most hotels, National Historic Landmarks, and restaurants in Philadelphia are disability accessible. For basic Philadelphia information, contact the Mayor's Commission on People with Disabilities, Municipal Services Building, Room 900, 1401 J.F.K. Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19107 (tel. 215/686-2798), or see the excellent website at www.phila.gov/mcpd. SEPTA (the local transit authority) arranges special transportation for people with disabilities through the Customized Community Transportation Program; offices are open weekdays until 4pm, at 1234 Market St., 4th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107 (tel. 215/580-7145). SEPTA buses are lift-equipped. Market East and University City subway stations are wheelchair accessible, but many stations are not. Art-Reach maintains "Access the Arts: A Guide for People with Disabilities," online at www.art-reach.org, with listings for more than 140 area facilities; for more information, call tel. 215/568-2115. The Philadelphia airport's website, www.phl.org, also publishes a guide for travelers with disabilities -- ADA services include 31 TDD telephones, elevators and escalators, Braille ATMs, curb cuts, and wheelchair-accessible shuttle buses. The airport hot line for travelers with disabilities is tel. 215/937-6700 (TDD tel. 215/937-6755).
Travelers with disabilities will find most tourist areas accessible. All Center City curbs are cut at intersections. Nonetheless, some streets in Society Hill and around Independence National Historical Park have uneven brick sidewalks; Dock Street is paved with rough cobblestones, and some historic sites -- Betsy Ross's house, for example -- are not wheelchair-friendly.
Parking can be tough, however, as handicapped parking spots -- marked with blue meters -- are in high demand. The Independence Visitor Center has a level entrance and publishes Accessibilities, a brochure detailing all parking sites.
Virtually all theaters and stadiums accommodate wheelchairs. Call ahead to plan routes. To aid people with hearing impairments, the Kimmel Center and Academy of Music provide free infrared headsets for concerts; the Annenberg Center rents them for $2.
The Free Library of Philadelphia runs a Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, very conveniently located at 919 Walnut St. (tel. 215/683-3213; http://lbph.library.phila.gov); it's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. It adjoins the Associated Services for the Blind, which offers transcriptions into Braille for a fee.
The America the Beautiful -- National Park and Federal Recreational Lands Pass -- Access Pass (formerly the Golden Access Passport) gives visually impaired or permanently disabled persons (regardless of age) free lifetime entrance to federal recreation sites administered by the National Park Service, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation. This may include national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.