Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

Visiting Obama - Washington DC and Virginia October 2012


Conducted by David and Gerardine Pipkin


The Airline and the Airport

Virgin Atlantic allows disabled passengers to board first and is fully accessible.  Transfer from the airplane at Dulles was by an airport mobile lounge ride, this is the system used to transfer passengers from the plane to the terminal, all level and accessible.  To see a video of how this mobile lounge works, please check out the link.

At Dulles International Airport there is a shuttle service which is fully accessible but like all things best to check when booking.  For more information, please email them here:

For more information on accessibility at Dulles International Airport, please check out this link:


At the Hotel

Avenue Suites which is located on Pennsylvania Avenue has a fully adapted room for disabled people with ramped access at the front door.


Getting Around

Washington DC is very level and easy to roam around.  We walked from the hotel into the city centre with plenty of dropped kerbs though you have to be quick crossing the road at traffic lights as they don’t stay in your favour for too long.



Day 1

The American History Museum is all disabled friendly with disabled toilets. Natural History Museum is all fully accessible with disabled toilets, but with it being a Sunday this museum was very busy with children, maybe not so busy during the week.

The Smithsonian visitor centre is all fully accessible with plenty of space for mobility and disabled toilets. However, some displays are slightly dark due to the nature of old photos.

We walked to the White House and passed the buildings of the IMF and UNESCO HQ. All of which are located in Pennsylvania Avenue with wide, flat pavements making it easier for all.


Day 2

The Yellow bus tour from outside the Four Seasons Hotel to Georgetown is not accessible but if you phone beforehand they may be able to help.  Please check out the following websites for more information: and

We got off the bus at Union Station where a lot of building work was on-going which made it difficult for people with mobility issues to cross the road.  However, there are disabled toilets and lifts to all floors with lots of shops and car rental places which are all accessible.

We used the bus and travelled to Georgetown, and had lunch at Martins Restaurant which was not easily accessible. The canals and harbour side have a lot of construction work going on here too making it difficult to get around, but it will be fine when it is completed.  This area is rather hilly going down to the Potomac River.

Took the yellow bus to Union Station and changed to the red bus and went to Capitol Hill and buildings. Please check out the link below for a list of accessibility options for this attraction:

We walked down the Mall, saw gardens and sculptures and down to the World War Two remembrance pool and the Vietnam Wall then viewed the ladies statue and walked onto to the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jnr gave his famous speech.  All places mentioned along the Mall are out in the open and are all accessible.


Day 3

Drove to the National Space and Aircraft Museum - Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is located on the outskirts of Washington near Dulles Airport. This museum has only recently opened and therefore is fully accessible. Here you can see Enola Gay, the plane which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, stealth bombers, the Space Shuttle - Discovery and all sorts of planes and helicopters. There is only one eatery on site and its McDonald’s and not a good one if possible take your own snack.

We then drove to Greensprings, Williamsburg.  At Diamond Resorts our apartment was on the second floor with no lift, but you can organise beforehand to have an accessible apartment.


Day 4

Drove out and found the premium outlets, which were all fully accessible. We went to Jamestown, looked at the ships, forts and Indian houses. All these were accessible, and all are outside, apart from the ships which are not easily accessible.


Day 5

Went to a small cinema to see a film on how the first settlers arrived, this was wheelchair accessible and with closed captions.  The museum here was fully accessible though rather dark in places for someone visually impaired, and the contrast of colours on exhibits was not good.

On to Colonial Williamsburg, we had a good look around the farm then visited the Governor’s Palace.  The first floor is accessible with a lift located at the west entrance. Kitchen and scullery accessible via west entrance gate.  Family restroom in east yard of the palace is completely accessible.  The palace has seven wide steps to railing west advance building is wheelchair accessible via a lift, with the gardens all fully accessible.  Please check out the website below for more information:

The Capitol Building appeared to be accessible only on the ground floor.  The first floor is accessible with a lift located at the south entrance. A graded entrance is at the south gate; four steps to piazza, no railing; no steps from portico into the building. Pictorial interpretations of inaccessible areas are available to guests with impaired mobility.

At Chownings Tavern, (where we had lunch), they had steps at the front with a wheelchair lift available to main level from north entrance of the building.  There was also a disabled toilet on the main level.  On the main street there was the blacksmith which was accessible at ground level, but the wig maker had no disabled access with steps at the entrance. We had tea at Barnes and Noble; all of which were accessible, with a lift and flat entrance.


Day 6

At the naval base in Norfolk, home of the US Navy, we visited the USS Wisconsin built in 1943 and served in Korea and the Gulf War of 1991. This attraction is partially accessible for wheelchair users.  The museum was all level with lifts. We were shown around the ship by the project manager. We couldn’t visit the naval base because of the security issues and the tours by coach had finished.


Day 7

We visited Colonial Williamsburg and went to the court house where they held a mock trial. There were four wide stone steps up to the court house which was not accessible.

The Armoury also had lots of steps, but has disabled access on ground level. We visited the Apothecary which had two steps with no railing, wide doorway and pictorial interpretations of inaccessible areas are available to guests with impaired mobility. Printing office and bindery had numerous steep steps with railings and there was an accessible entry located just west of 18th century post office. The shoemaker was not accessible at all, along with the hatmaker and wigmaker.

For more information on accessibility at Colonial Williamsburg, please check out this link:


Day 8

We visited Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson; our tour of the house was at 12.40 (timed ticket). The house is accessible as well as the slave walk and gardens. Please see the link for more information.

The Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Richmond is accessible and is very attentive to customers’ needs.  The website for this restaurant is at:


Day 9

Went to look around Jamestown and had lunch in a beach café, but unfortunately there was no disabled toilet. All houses can be viewed from the outside and plenty of information to read about the history.