Is Vienna really as Wheelchair accessible as people say?

Yes and no.

On the one hand the city centre is very accessible with dropped curbs pretty much everywhere, a decent number of accessible, adapted toilets, a largely accessible underground system and wheelchair accessible museums and palaces.

On the other hand, we had an absolute nightmare trying to get to the airport and the city tour bus was not accessible. The hotels were so-so.

First of all, the good. We stayed at the Ibis Budget Hotel and the accessible room was large. The toilet had drop down rails on either side and there was a special lift to take wheelchair users up the short level difference between the reception and the floor on which the accessible room was.

BUT in the bathroom, the wall-mounted shower seat was ridiculously low; only about halfway up the height of my wheels. I thought perhaps it was broken but the hotel staff checked in both this and the next-door Ibis non-budget hotel and all the shower seats were the same very low height. I had to put a regular chair in the hotel shower which was both dangerous because it could easily skid on the wet floor and difficult because it didn’t drain so I was always sitting in a puddle of water when I washed.

Whilst a good number of the restaurants have level access to get in, the majority of them did not have an accessible toilet. It was only using the advice of Michael from room-chooser.net that I was able to find some options. And there weren’t a vast number of these. But if you ate at a restaurant near an accessible toilet that you have found, you could manage.
Fully accessible restaurants were: Huth Da Moritz, which was basically an Italian https://www.damoritz.at/en/startseite.html and the River Cafe on the banks of the Danube https://rivercafe.co.uk/.
On the underground system, not all of the trains were accessible with the level access. On the older trains, the so-called wheelchair accessible carriages had a small height difference of at least 5 inches between the platform and the train. But the trains came fairly regularly so you could be patient and wait for a more modern carriage which would offer the level access and even a small electronic ramp which came out when the trains stop to bridge the very small space between the platform and the carriage. vienna metroAs a London resident, I have often seen precariously wide gaps between the platform and carriage, wide enough for castors to get stuck, so this was definitely appreciated.
But in the train station that we used in Stefan Platz, whilst there was an accessible toilet, it was opened by key. This was fine if you visited during normal working hours because you could easily find a toilet attendant. However, if you visited later on in the day, you generally couldn’t find a toilet attendant and so would have to search the train station for station staff that could help you get a key. And it was a big station with not a lot of staff.
Of course, whilst you are in Vienna, one of the main tourist attractions is the opera. Although we are not fans of opera, we went to see a production of Salome, principally because it was only one and 1/2 hours long. We were horrified when we checked the programme listings and saw that the majority of the operas were over three hours long! We went to the Vienna State Opera dsc_0011_2 11320740092860382120..jpgand to be sure of getting a wheelchair space, I emailed them directly to check that wheelchair spaces were offered. There was a special area for wheelchair users and their companion which did not have fixed seating areas meaning that it could accommodate all different types of wheelchairs and allowed companions to sit either directly next to wheelchair user or behind them. These tickets were reasonably priced although the usual situation of only being able to admit one companion which meant that anyone else in your party would have to sit elsewhere happened as usual. Why do so many places never think about the fact that there may be more than one other member of your party and it would be nice to all sit together?

This aside, I was very impressed with the technology available at each seat. There was a small screen in front of you on which you could choose your preferred language and then the opera was translated for you as it progressed, much like having subtitles when you watch a foreign film. This was definitely appreciated and made it a lot easier to follow what was happening on stage.

Whilst obviously the Vienna State Opera building offered its own accessible toilet, The Metro station by the Vienna State Opera had an accessible toilet as well for which you did not need to get a key. The toilet seemed to be open all the time that the Metro station was so quite a few times we diverted our route to use that toilet because it was always open however I should point out that the toilet plays ‘The Blue Danube’ on a loop so if you are a slow toilet user, this may drive you quite crazy!

The biggest problem of all was getting to the airport. I really didn’t think this would be a problem considering the volume of wheelchair tourists that visit the city. But when we try to take a regular train to the airport, the trains had stairs up to the carriage. The station staff who had personally sold us the tickets and so had clearly seen that I was in a wheelchair, had not told us about this fact and when we returned to berate her and asked when the next accessible train would come, it was not the next train nor the one following that but the third train and it would mean that we would miss our flight. So, we had to rush to the place from where the new CAT direct airport to city train departed, which did have an accessible toilet and pay an increased price for that ticket. And even that train had a precariously wide gap between the platform edge and the carriage which was not ramped by one of their excellent automatic ramps like a modern underground train.
So all in all it was a bit of a mixed bag and I would warn other wheelchair travellers against thinking that it is some kind of utopian wheelchair users destination!

 

 

 

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