My name is Dominique Partarrieu and I am a UX Designer at Wheel the World. I’ve been with the company since its start and I feel so lucky to be part of this wonderful family. I am Chilean and I live in San Francisco, California.
I’ve been able to participate in various WTW scouting trips: Torres del Paine, Easter Island, Maui and the San Francisco area. Wheel the World trips are magical. They create a really special environment of collaboration and empathy between all members of the group, where barriers disappear.
I was part of the team that onboarded accessible San Francisco. Our objective was to assess the accessibility in detail of all of the different activities and attractions that we wanted to offer our clients. Experiencing the city where you live from the perspective of a tourist is a great opportunity. What’s incredible about San Francisco is that it never stops surprising you. It’s a very diverse city, with corners and places to constantly discover.
Being a city made up of hills with steep slopes, the general accessibility of the city is surprising. Public transportation is very accessible, the majority of restaurants and places are inclusive with accessible bathrooms.
Getting Around Accessible San Francisco
San Francisco’s public transportation system is called Muni. It includes buses, metro trains, cable cars, and street cars. Most buses have either a wheelchair lift or a ramp and all buses have at least wheelchair securement area, with stop buttons accessible from a wheelchair. The Muni metro has designated priority seating in the car behind the driver. The cars have stairs that can go flat, depending on the height of the stop, and stops at street level have “accessible islands”, high platforms to access the train on a wheelchair. The city’s historic streetcars are also part of the public transportation system. Some stops have raised platforms for accessible boarding. You can read more information about Muni’s accessibility, including which stops have raised platforms here.
While Muni is a great way to get around the city, if you’re planning on exploring nearby areas, Bay Area Rapid Transit – also known as BART – is a good option. It’s a metro system that runs both above and underground, even under the bay. San Francisco is located in a region known as “The Bay Area”. Cities in that region are divided into sections often referred to as “East Bay” and “South Bay”. The city of Berkeley, for example, is across the bay from San Francisco. Travelers can use BART to get around the Bay Area. All trains have priority seating and space to accommodate wheelchairs. Braille and tactical signs are available at all stations. There tends to be a gap between the cars and the platform, so be mindful of that. You can read more about BART’s accessibility here.
If you’re in search of private transportation, taxis are available, and ride share services like Uber offer wheelchair accessible vehicle options in San Francisco.
We were lucky to find a great partner, VMI vans, to provide wheelchair accessible transportation for our tours and activities around the city. These wheelchair accessible vans have ramps and designated spots to secure wheelchairs. Contact Wheel the World here to reserve accessible transportation in San Francisco.
Things to Do In and Around Accessible San Francisco
San Francisco and its surrounding areas are full of opportunities to explore. California wine country is nearby, amazing natural landscapes are a short ways away, and the city is full of activities and attractions for everyone.
Accessible Activities in San Francisco
San Francisco is not a large city. In fact, it has a population of just under a million people. But, it is full of different neighborhoods and areas with history and culture that make it seem huge! Chinatown, North Beach (a historically Italian neighborhood), The Mission, and Haight Ashbury (the center of the hippie movement) are squeezed into the city’s almost 47 square miles.
Explore the highlights of this city and its diverse neighborhoods on a city tour. Wheel the World’s guided city tour will take you to these neighborhoods and more with a guide and accessible transportation. You’ll explore the different neighborhoods, experience downtown and famous tourist attractions, and stop for city views and views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Find out more about the city tour here.
If you want to explore this city in the way many locals get around, try a handbike tour. Wheel the World offers self-guided and guided tours, where they provide the adapted bike and helmet and all you have to do is hop on and head out to discover accessible San Francisco. You can choose to cycle to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also rent a handbike and cycle through Golden Gate Park, which contrary to what its name suggests, is not located next to the bridge. Golden Gate Park is a great place to spend the day. It’s an expansive park with various gardens and museums. You can learn more about the guided tour here and the self-guided tour here.
Accessible Activities Around San Francisco
While the city has so much to do and explore, the surrounding Bay Area and Northern California is full of accessible things to do!
Right outside of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, lies the town of Sausalito. Famous for its floating houseboats and artsy vibe, it’s a great place to shop at boutiques, visit art galleries, and enjoy its waterfront walkway. It’s so close that you can experience the city of San Francisco and then add a stop to Sausalito on a guided tour. You can also choose to visit the Muir Woods, home to California’s famous Redwood trees, the tallest trees in the world. They really are magnificent, I was in awe of the sheer size of these trees! Only 40 minutes from the city, it’s an unmissable opportunity to see something unique to northern California and really connect with nature. Spend the day escaping the city and visiting Muir Woods and Sausalito.
About a two hour drive south of San Francisco you’ll find Monterey and Carmel-by-the-sea, charming seaside towns with history and beautiful landscapes. The drive through that area is amazing! It takes you winding down the rugged Pacific coast with ocean views. Monterey Bay Aquarium is consistently rated a top aquarium in the country and is a great place to visit if you’re interested in observing marine life. A full-day tour can take you from San Francisco, to Monterey and Carmel, and to the city in accessible transportation, with stops to take in the history, and nature of these idyllic beachside cities. If you’re feeling more active, we tried an amazing adaptive kayaking experience, paddling in the Pacific Ocean next to seabirds and Monterey’s famous sea otters.
Just north of San Francisco, sits California’s famous wine country. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are known worldwide for their vineyards, wineries, and gastronomic scene. Many of the vineyards offer tours and tasting experiences, and depending on how long you’re in the area, you could make a weekend of it or just visit for the day. Wheel the World has a day trip to the Sonoma Valley, to get a taste of the region and a few wines! They provide the accessible transportation, guides, and assistance.
Places to Stay in Accessible San Francisco
With such a diverse range of places, choosing where to stay in accessible San Francisco can be difficult, but you can’t make a wrong decision. Anywhere in the city that you choose, you’ll be able to connect with the other neighborhoods. Most hotels offer ADA Accessible accommodations. The Phoenix hotel in downtown San Francisco is a modern hotel inspired by its history as a motorlodge popular with musicians on tour. It’s an economical option with accessible ground floor rooms surrounding a courtyard with a pool and lounge area. The pool is accessible by Hoyer lift. Contact Wheel the World here to make a reservation.
If you want to make a weekend (or more) out of your trip to wine country, check out the Archer Hotel in Napa. It’s a luxury boutique hotel in Downtown Napa, where you can walk or roll to restaurants and shops. It has a steakhouse on-site, a rooftop bar and pool, and both mobility and hearing accessible suites with options for roll-in showers. In downtown Napa, you’re just a short drive from the surrounding vineyards. You can make a reservation here with Wheel the World.
Exploring San Francisco and its surrounding areas with Wheel the World from the perspective of a tourist through the lens of accessibility made me appreciate the wonderful region where I live. There are so many things to do and experience – from the culture and history of the city to the uniquely Californian nature. I hope you get a chance to explore accessible San Francisco soon. And when you’re ready, we’ll be here at Wheel the World to help you organize it!