Northern California is reasonably well-equipped for travelers with disabilities.

Communications

  • Telephone companies provide relay operators (dial 711) for the hearing impaired.
  • Many banks provide ATM instructions in braille.

Mobility & Accessibility

  • Most intersections have dropped curbs and sometimes audible crossing signals.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public buildings built after 1993 to be wheelchair-accessible, including restrooms.
  • Motels and hotels built after 1993 must have at least one ADA-compliant accessible room; state your specific needs when making reservations.
  • For nonpublic buildings built prior to 1993, including hotels, restaurants, museums and theaters, there are no accessibility guarantees; call ahead to find out what to expect.
  • Most national and many state parks and some other outdoor recreation areas offer paved or boardwalk-style nature trails accessible by wheelchairs.
  • US citizens and permanent residents with a permanent disability qualify for a free lifetime ‘America the Beautiful’ Access Pass (http://store.usgs.gov/pass/access.html), which waives entry fees to all national parks and federal recreational lands and offers 50% discounts on some recreation fees (eg camping).
  • California State Parks’ disabled discount pass ($3.50) entitles those with permanent disabilities to 50% off day-use parking and camping fees; for an application, go to www.parks.ca.gov.

Helpful Resources

  • A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide to the California Coast (www.wheelingcalscoast.org) Free accessibility information covering beaches, parks and trails, plus a downloadable PDF guide to the San Francisco Bay Area coast.
  • Access Northern California (www.accessnca.org) Extensive links to accessible-travel resources, including outdoor recreation opportunities, lodgings, tours and transportation.
  • Access San Francisco Guide (www.sftravel.com) Search the city's official tourism site for this free, downloadable PDF guide – dated, but useful.
  • Access Santa Cruz County (www.scaccessguide.com) Free online accessible-travel guide for visiting Santa Cruz and around, including restaurants, lodging, beaches, parks and outdoor recreation.
  • Accessible Travel (http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel) Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide.
  • California State Parks (http://access.parks.ca.gov) Searchable online map and database of accessible features at state parks.
  • Flying Wheels Travel Full-service travel agency for travelers with disabilities, mobility issues and chronic illnesses.

Transportation

  • All major airlines, Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains can accommodate people with disabilities, usually with 48 hours' advance notice.
  • Major car-rental agencies offer hand-controlled vehicles and vans with wheelchair lifts at no extra charge, but you must reserve these well in advance.
  • For wheelchair-accessible van rentals, try Wheelchair Getaways in San Francisco, or Mobility Works in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno and Chico.
  • Local buses, trains and subways usually have wheelchair lifts.
  • Seeing-eye dogs are permitted to accompany passengers on public transportation.
  • Taxi companies should have at least one wheelchair-accessible van, but you’ll need to call ahead.