3 Tips For Exploring Switzerland In A Wheelchair

12.16.2015
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Woman in a wheelchair with a man crouched down next to her

Aimee Hoffmann has a deep connection with Switzerland. It’s where she married her husband, Daniel, and it’s a place she and her family visit 1-2 times per year. “Over the years, I feel like I’ve experienced this city [Bern] from different perspectives at various points in my life,” shares Aimee. For nearly a decade, she has explored Switzerland in a wheelchair.

Exploring accessibility overseas

“Europe, in general, does not have the same disability laws/regulations as the U.S.” shares Aimee, who lives in the U.S. with her husband and two children. “You’ll therefore find that a lot of public transportation stations and buildings have maintained their original architecture, making accessibility more limited than in the States.” Aimee says it’s helpful to have an able-bodied travel companion to help make not-so-accessible encounters a little easier.

Aimee also has advice on renting a vehicle while in Switzerland: “Since converted vans with ramps were hard to find in Europe, we always made sure that our rented car had enough space in the trunk for the wheelchair.”

When Aimee and her family visit the city of Bern, she always stays with relatives, but acknowledges that others often don’t have that luxury. She recommends researching hotels for information on accessibility. One gem of insight Aimee offers is utilizing a local medical equipment shop where you can rent equipment! She recommends Hilfsmittel, a local shop located in Belp, about a 10-minute drive from Bern. “You can call to reserve the equipment and set a time/date for a pickup.”

First-hand tips for enjoying Switzerland:

  • Getting Around: If you’re not a “rugged” pusher like myself or don’t have a power chair, you may need a boost to get around. Although, I’m happy to report that the curbs are mostly smooth.”
  • Public Transportation: “One of Switzerland’s main forms of public transportation is the “tram” which runs along the streets on tracks, suspended from cable lines. However, only certain stops/lines have wheelchair lifts.”
  • Medicinal Assistance: “Be assured to know there are a number of Apotheken (apothecaries) in town, should any minor medical issues arise. The Swiss are huge advocates of homeopathic treatment, which are widely practiced by most of their physicians.”

Switzerland sounds like a great place to visit. You can find activities for kids, couples, and the whole family, including accessible cable cars all the way up to the Schilthorn mountain.

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