Perfectly Portland

 by Marti Gacioch 2005

Trees, Trees, trees and plenty of fresh air to go with them. You can’t beat Portland, Oregon, for clear vistas, scenic views of snowcapped Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, not to mention excellent accessible public transportation and, undoubtedly, one of the best bookstores on the planet.


Because we wanted to avoid rainy weather as much as possible, we visited during August for its low chance of precipitation. We flew from San Diego on Alaska Air, and while I found their service courteous and efficient, I was less than pleased when they returned my power chair to me with a broken battery terminal—necessitating my phone search for a quick repair part. Several hours of searching later, Wheelchair Works provided my helper with the elusive part and our trip finally started. Located in a  Portland suburb, the Wheelchair Works shop is at 4211 SE International Way #C, Milwaukie, OR 97222, (503) 654-4333, 1-800-377-4333). Learn more at

Staying with friends, who anticipated every comfort and provided plenty of laughs, made for a dream trip as they showed us the treasures of their newfound city.


The Japanese Gardens were high on our must-see list. Built on a hillside—before access was considered--about 60% of the gardens are wheelchair accessible, with easy rolling—the rest, such as challenging gravel paths and a sand and rock garden, necessitate either a helicopter to navigate steep stairs or a weight-lifting helper. However, the rock and sand garden can be experienced from an accessible lookout area above .

Access information can be viewed at

General information:


To enter the gardens, skip the steep, perilous path that eventually leads to a mountain of steps and take the free, accessible shuttle bus at the bottom of the hill instead. Admission to the garden is $6.75.


Large wheelchair accessible restrooms are not far from the small barely accessible) gift shop.


Just a block from the shuttle is the International Rose Garden with  8,000 roses on view for free from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. at Washington Park, 400 SW Kingston, Portland, OR 97201


We were delighted with Portland’s Tri-Met transportation system, and rode buses with lifts for .45, an easy to use tram and roll-on, roll-off streetcars. Note: In the downtown and Pearl Districts transportation is free—just roll on and off at will.  do Wheelchair users can take the tram from the airport directly to the downtown area, where curbs cuts are smooth and low.


Our second day,  we took the bus to Powell’s City of Books (1005 W Burnside, (503) 228-4651 We planned to stay the full day there, prowling its multiple floors that are crammed with both new and used books. After one long session in this book haven, we took a brief intermission at Rocco’s Pizza across the street and then renewed our assault.

If this mega Powell’s still isn’t enough books for you, you can always visit
Powell’s Technical Books (33 NW Park Ave., (503) 228- 3906).
It’s a much smaller store that specializes in every possible technical book from accounting to zoology.

The next day, we toured Portland’s new up and coming Northwest District, the Pearl—a revival area of beautifully renovated brick buildings, art galleries and shops,

I was delighted with the smooth, easy rolling and entries to trendy shops here.


Their nearby Chinatown is still a work in progress with a small sampling of restaurants and shops, amid busy construction and remodeling of old buildings. One stand-out shop here, the Monkey and the Rat features Asian treasures well worth stopping for—if you can somehow navigate the very steep one-step entryway.


A short roll later, we visited the Portland Market under the Burnside Bridge, featuring colorful local arts, crafts, food and music. The atmosphere resembles a carnival (complete with corn dogs and lemonade).


Another fun shopping and dining neighborhood is Portland’s Nob Hill district located between 21st and 23 Ave. Again, excellent curb cuts and easy rolling. Most of the shops have easy entry—even the New Renaissance Book Shop at 1338 NW 23rd Ave. It has a ramp around back to avoid the front steps. Don’t miss Tully’s Coffee across the street at 1323 NW 23rd for coffee, sandwiches and pastries. A bonus here is their spacious unisex bathroom.


Leaving Portland without driving out to see the stunning The Columbia Gorge would be missing one of the world’s most beautiful pristine environments. It only takes about an hour on 1-84 to reach the 620-foot Multnomah Falls, the second highest waterfall in the United States.


Portland Visitor’s Association

Portland Historical Society
corner of SW Broadway and Madison Street)


Independent Living Resources (ILR)

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