by Diarmuid Corry © 2001
Diarmuid Corry and his wife, Orna, of Dublin, Ireland visited Amsterdam in July 2001. Diarmuid is a T4 paraplegic and uses a compact, narrow manual wheelchair (65.5cm/26.2” wide with a very tight turning circle).
There and Airport Service:
flew with Aer Lingus direct from Dublin.
Amsterdam Airport (Schipol) is
fully wheelchair accessible but badly laid out. This means that there
could be a very long walk from the plane gate to the baggage arrival.
There are “travelators” but it is still quite a way. If you
are a slow mover, talk to the staff about getting assistance. Give
yourself plenty of time when leaving to make your gate. There are plenty
of toilets. US travellers should note that the usual European standard
is to provide a unisex disabled toilet with a separate door, rather than
the more usual US approach of providing an accessible cubicle in the
“standard” toilets. The officials in Schipol were well trained, and
all transfers and loading on and off the plane were done well.
The train runs right to the airport form Central Station Amsterdam. To my surprise, I was informed by the lady at the train ticket office that if I wanted to use the train, I would need to give 24-hours notice for assistance to be available. I took her at her word, but I’m not convinced this is true. Editor's note: Baggage handlers at Central Station will usually help a wheelchair passenger board (given a half hour or so notice), but this necessitates going directly to their department and requesting assistance.
got a taxi. It was 75NLG from the airport to city centre. Taxis are generally
Mercedes (or other large) saloon cars. I did not notice any wheelchair
accessible taxis – which is not to say that they don’t exist.
The frustrating thing in Amsterdam was trying to get information! The
tourist office opposite the train station is not accessible. Neither is
the newly refurbished transport information centre. There is an
accessible tourist office in the train station itself on the first
floor. But the morning I went looking, there were hordes of people and
it was just too much hassle to try to get there. So my information is
based on experience and, therefore, is liable to be incomplete.
Most public transport is not accessible. However, the
tram routes 5 and 1
seemed to be operating new trams that are accessible. I did not see a
single number 5 or number 1 that was not accessible. And I did
not see a single other tram that was accessible! The 5 is useful as it
runs close to the Museumplein, which has a host of interesting sights.
We took the 5 a few times. Not all stops have level access from the
street to the tram. A free map I got at the hotel lists the following
stops as being “officially” accessible:
Spui (1 & 5), Koningsplein (1 & 5), Hobbemastraat (1 & 5), v.
Baerlestraat (5), and all stops on the 5 route from Apollolaan to
Oranjebaan. However, many other stops are accessible (maybe the map is
out of date). Central Station is. The only one I came across that
wasn’t was Leidseplein where the step in or out of the tram was about
250mm. Getting out is possible but getting in would require assistance.
The map also cryptically states that the
Metro 50, 51, 53 and 54 also
“have wheelchair accessibility”. I don’t know what this means.
Luckily Amsterdam is a city made for walking (or rolling). It is flat and
full of fascinating canal walks and alleyways. There are cycle lanes
everywhere, which are useful for negotiating junctions and the like. But
beware, the cyclists take no prisoners and are not inclined to avoid you
if you are on “their” path! If you hear a bell, get out of the way!
Almost everything of interest is within a half hour walk of Central
Station. I strongly recommend just wheeling around and forget about the
transport. Keep a weather eye on the pavement though. Many of the
pavements are cobbled and in poor condition. I was almost flung out of
the chair several times when the front castors caught in holes or
Editor's note: We have had reports of visitors
breaking wheelchair hubs on this type of terrain. Using air filled inner
tubes rather than hard inserts, will minimize chances of breaking
Editor's note: We have had reports of visitors breaking wheelchair hubs on this type of terrain. Using air filled inner tubes rather than hard inserts, will minimize chances of breaking your wheels.
If you must use public transport, then taxis seem to be the best bet.
is an old city and many of its building are tall and narrow, with
several steps in. This does not bode well for finding accommodation. An
Internet search will turn up fifteen or twenty accessible hotels but none
are cheap. This is not surprising, as it tends to be the up-market hotels
that have renovated and installed access.
stayed at The Golden Tulip Barbizon Palace.
It is located just across from the main railway station. It's a 5-star
so expect 5-star prices.
There is level access
from the street. The hotel room was on the second floor and had a
standard non-adapted ensuite bathroom and an adapted
bathroom off through another door. It was fully adapted with grab-rails
and a roll-in shower with wall-mounted shower seat. The washbasin was
fully accessible. The only down side was that all the towels and
bathroom items were placed in the AB’s room – more discrimination!
The room was a generous
size so circulation was easy. The usual mod cons and remote control
television. They offer a room service breakfast.
Be aware that there are
no accessible toilets on the ground floor. If you want to enjoy a few
beers in their "brown" bar (and I suggest you do), then you
will have to use the bedroom toilet.
Zeedijk 39a, 1012 AR Amsterdam, (Tel: 020–42-72-005). Good Portuguese
food, though a bit pricey. Low step from street (50mm) through wide
door. No access to toilets.
Nieuwmarkt 8-10 (Tel 020-427-6334). Reasonably priced Thai food. Level
access from street. Toilets are on the level with standard width doors,
but there is a sharp turn just inside the door. I could use them but not
all chairs would make it.
Warmoesstraat 25-29, 1012 HV Amsterdam (Tel: 020-6261560). Reasonably
priced Indonesian food. Single step (150mm) from street. Wide doors. The
food was not very good – it seemed to be all pre-prepared then heated
Zeppos, Sorry, I lost
the address but you can find them in the phone book! This is a lively
and nice place to eat. There is level access off the street and the
toilet is "accidentally accessible". This means that it has
level access and the doors are wide enough for my chair to get through.
The cubicle is small though.
The waterbuses or barges
are inaccessible in general. There is, however, one accessible tourist
boat that does a trip around the city called the Rederij Lovers or
just "Lovers". It is located a few bridges down from
the station. The barge is ramped and comfortable and the trip is well
is a lovely square near the main museums. The Rijksmuseum is
accessible although I did not personally visit it. So also is the Van
Gogh Museum via an external lift. I did visit this, and for anyone
interested in Van Gogh’s work, or 19th century art in
general, it is well worth it. All parts of the museum are accessible via
an elevator. Nearer to the centre of town, the Amsterdam Historical
Museum (off Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal) is also accessible. The café
just off the courtyard has the only publicly accessible disabled toilets
that I found. They are a little awkward as there are four steps up to
the toilet area. There is a lift that the toilet attendant will operate
The red-light district
is famous, of course, and you can walk through it and “window shop”
along with all the other tourists! It seems that almost all the
establishments are inaccessible, although I am reliably informed that a
few are not. On the "sex strip," one of the floor show places
claims to be accessible (I don’t know the name, but any door man will
point you in the right direction). - in practice this means they will
carry you up the three or four steps in. Once in, you are on a level
floor in the cinema like arena, but the toilets are not accessible.
Bars & Coffee Shops
Most bars and coffee
shops are located in old buildings, which makes access very difficult.
However, careful hunting will find some with level access (or low
steps). However, it is very unlikely that the toilets will be
accessible. I found none with accessible toilets. Many bars also have
tables outside, which means you can enjoy a beer (or whatever) without
having to struggle with doors or steps.
The nature of bars means
that I do not have clear notes of where I visited! But I can recall the
located on Korte Leidsedwarsstraat near the junction with
Leidsekruisstraat, is a small smokey jazz bar. They claim to have live
jazz every day, and certainly they had some excellent performers when I
was there. Access is very awkward. There is a low (100mm) step down from
street level into a very tight “porch.” The door into the bar is at
a 70 degree angle and also has a small downward step. Getting in
involved a bit of pushing, shoving and a hop! The toilets are upstairs.
Maxim’s Piano Bar,
on Leidsekruisstraat near Alto, has a low step (100mm) in through wide
doors. Although the access was easy, the live music was truly awful the
night we visited, so we did not stay long!
Casablanca, on Zeedijk, is another jazz bar. The bar area occasionally has live music and has level access off the street through double doors. It is very tight and moving through the bar in a wheelchair will cause chaos! The jazz performance arena is up two steep steps. The doormen said they would be happy to lift me in. In the event I did not go in, so I cannot comment further.
Golden Tulip Barbizon Palace
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