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Stairs, Steps, Curb Cuts, Escalators, and Elevators

Some European elevators were installed many years after the building was constructed, and consequently they can be quite small. Sometimes the door is too narrow to fit a wheelchair through, and sometimes the elevator is not deep enough to allow a wheelchair to fit inside. In other places, there can be a step leading to the elevator.

The most common place where you will encounter stairs without elevators is at train stations (particularly in smaller towns) where there is a flight of stairs to reach the tunnel underneath the tracks or the walkway above the tracks.

Curb cuts (ramps at the corners of street intersections) are present in some European cities and not in others. Many places that do not have a curb cut may have smaller curbs than normal (about 3 inches or 8 cm). Where curb cuts are not present, you may be able to get onto the sidewalk via a nearby driveway.

In many places it may be easier to locate and use an escalator than an elevator. I will soon put a video on the website showing me use an escalator in my wheelchair. Until then, I can tell you that whether you are going up or down the escalator, you want your front wheels on the uphill direction of the escalator. Position your front wheels on one step and your rear wheels on the next lower step. Grab both of the handrails and lean slightly forward towards the uphill direction. It actually doesn’t take much strength to hold onto the rails. As for getting off the escalator, when you are going down be sure to lean slightly forward so that you don’t tump over backwards. When you are going up, be sure that you pop your front wheels up so that you don’t flip forward.   It is actually a very easy process, but be sure you practice with a spotter in front of you and behind you before trying it on your own.

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