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Accessibility Rating System Explanation

This page contains an explanation of the Sage accessibility rating systems for Tourist SightsHotels, and European Cities.

Tourist Sight Accessibility Rating System

After visiting over a hundred museums, churches, castles, and palaces across Europe, I have found that tourist attractions can generally be classified into 5 buckets based on accessibility features. I have described these as ranging from 5 Star Sage Accessibility to 1 Star Sage Accessibility and they generally correspond to five types of disabled travelers:

5 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for wheelchair users with no arm/hand use (quadriplegics)
4 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for wheelchair users with limited arm/hand use
3 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for wheelchair users with full use of upper body (paraplegics)
2 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for slow walkers or wheelchair users who can get up a few steps
1 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for people who can walk up a flight of stairs

Each of the accessibility categories contain all of the accessibility features listed below them. If the tourist attraction is only missing one of the accessibility features it will be dropped down a level.

Tourist Attraction with 5 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Wheelchair users with no arm/hand use

Stairs/steps at entrance: Step-free (level access)

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Less than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Flat and smooth

Front Door: Motion activated and wide enough for a wheelchair

Percentage of exhibits that can be seen without going up steps: Greater than 90%

Bathroom: Same as 4 star and unisex so spouse can assist

Tourist Attraction with 4 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Wheelchair users with limited arm/hand use

Stairs/steps at entrance: Step-free (level access, ramp, or elevator)

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Less than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Flat and smooth

Front Door: Activated by button and wide enough for wheelchair

Percentage of exhibits that can be seen without going up steps: Greater than 80%

Bathroom: Wide enough for wheelchair and has grab bars

Tourist Attraction with 3 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Wheelchair users with full use of upper body

Stairs/steps at entrance: Step-free (level access, ramp, or elevator)

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Can be greater than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Can have slight slope and/or slight cobblestones

Front Door: Manual and wide enough for wheelchair

Percentage of exhibits that can be seen without going up steps: Greater than 50%

Bathroom: Wide enough for wheelchair

Tourist Attraction with 2 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Slow walkers or wheelchair users who can get up a few steps

Stairs/steps at entrance: Can have a few steps

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Can be greater than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Can have medium slope and/or medium cobblestones

Front Door: Manual and can be too narrow for a wheelchair

Percentage of exhibits that can be seen without going up steps: Less than 50%

Bathroom: Too narrow for wheelchair

Tourist Attraction with 1 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Slow walkers or wheelchair users who can get up a flight of steps

Stairs/steps at entrance: Can have a flight of stairs or more

Distance from drop-off location to entrance:  Can be greater than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Can have severe slope, cobblestones, and/or gravel

Front Door: Manual and can be too narrow for a wheelchair

Percentage of exhibits that can be seen without going up steps: Less than 10%

Bathroom: Too narrow for wheelchair

Hotel Accessibility Rating System

After staying dozens of hotels across Europe, I have found that hotels can generally be classified into 5 buckets based on accessibility features. I think this makes much more sense than some of the other rating systems out there that mention “disabled access” and “disabled access with assistance”. I don’t know whether they think “assistance” mean that you have two strong people with you or merely someone to go inside and asked for an alternative entrance to be opened.

I have described these accessibility categories as ranging from 5 Star Sage Accessibility to 1 Star Sage Accessibility and they generally correspond to five types of disabled travelers. After you understand these ratings you will be able to know if it is suitable by merely looking at its Sage Accessibility rating.

5 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for wheelchair users with no arm/hand use (quadriplegics)
4 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for wheelchair users with limited arm/hand use
3 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for wheelchair users with full use of upper body (paraplegics)
2 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for slow walkers or wheelchair users who can get up a few steps
1 Star Sage Accessibility: Suitable for people who can walk up a flight of stairs

Each of the hotel accessibility categories contain all of the accessibility features listed below them. If the hotel is only missing one of the accessibility features it will be dropped down a level.

Hotel with 5 Star Sage Accessibility

Same as 4 Star Sage Accessibility but with pictures. In many cases, I have visited these hotels personally to evaluate them. Hotel has roll-in shower in bathroom, grab bars by toilet and bench in shower, and plenty of room around bed.  Entrance to building is flat or has a slight ramp.

Hotel with 4 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Wheelchair users with limited arm/hand use

Stairs/steps at entrance: Step-free (level access, ramp, or elevator)

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Less than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Flat and smooth

Entrance to building: Flat or slight ramp

Bathroom: Bathroom door wide enough for wheelchair. There are grab bars near the toilet and the bathroom has a roll-in shower.

Hotel with 3 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Wheelchair users with full use of upper body

Stairs/steps at entrance: Step-free (level access, ramp, or elevator)

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Can be greater than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Can have slight slope and/or slight cobblestones

Entrance to building: Flat or slight ramp

Bathroom: Bathroom door wide enough for wheelchair. There are grab bars near the toilet and the bathroom has a bathtub.

Hotel with 2 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Slow walkers or wheelchair users who can get up a few steps

Stairs/steps at entrance: Can have a few steps

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Can be greater than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Can have medium slope and/or medium cobblestones

Bathroom: Bathroom door not wide enough for a wheelchair. Might only have a stand-up shower.

Hotel with 1 Star Sage Accessibility

Suitable for: Slow walkers or wheelchair users who can get up a flight of steps

Stairs/steps at entrance: Can have a flight of stairs or more

Distance from drop-off location to entrance: Can be greater than 20 m

Path from drop-off location to entrance: Can have severe slope, cobblestones, and/or gravel

Hotel entrance: Manual door and can be too narrow for a wheelchair

Bathroom: Bathroom door not wide enough for a wheelchair. Might only have a stand-up shower.

Accessibility Rating System for European Cities

Smoothness (Cobblestone Abundance)

5 – No Cobblestones anywhere
4 – Limited Cobblestones
3 – Cobblestones only in old part of city. Much of cobblestone areas have an accessible sidewalk or bike path
2 – Cobblestones almost everywhere
1 – Cobblestones everywhere

Smoothness (Cobblestone Severity)

5 – Flat Pavement>
4 – Mild cobblestones, no chance of tipping over
3 – Bumpy enough for feet to fall off footplate but low chance of tipping over
2 – High chance of tipping over if not going slow
1 – No rolling, Each push only goes as far as the push, otherwise need to stay in a wheelie the whole time (particularly when going downhill)

Flatness (Hills)

5 – Completely flat
4 – Slight incline
3 – May need to rest in some places
2 – Definitely need to rest
1 – Too steep to go up without tipping over

Proximity of sights to each other

5 – Only 1 sight
4 – All major sights within 400 yds of each other
3 – All major sights within 1 mile of each other,
2 – Major sights cannot be covered in a day, they are apart but can be divided into groups,
1 – Major sights are miles apart, definitely need transportation

Accessible Public Transportation

5 – Subways completely accessible
4 – Most buses, trams, and subway stations accessible
3 – A few buses, trams, and subway stations are accessible, taxis are available
2 – Taxis are the only tranportation available
1 – No subway, trams, or taxis (generally this only occurs in very small towns)

English Spoken

5 – Everyone speaks English
4 – Most people at hotels, taxis, restaurants, and museums speak English
3 – English spoke primarily at hotels and tourist spots
2 – A few people in town speak English
1 – Nobody speaks English

Overall Accessibility

In this section, I take into account all of the accessibility ratings listed above to come up with a single Overall Accessibility rating. 5 is very accessible and 1 is not accessible.

Quality of sights/town

This is absolutely subjective and is takes into account the following factors: art sights, historical sights, ambience, & uniqueness. A rating of 5 goes to the best / most unique destinations in Europe, and a rating of 1 has nothing noteworthy to see.

Quantity of sights

This is an estimate of the number of days needed to see the town. It assumes that you are okay with leaving the hotel before 10 am and spending the day seeing sights, doing walking tours, or having lunch on a town square. I would consider this to be somewhat of a minimum; if you generally move at a slow pace you can take extra time.

5 – Need more than a week to see all the major sights
4 – Can see all the major sights in 5 to 7 days
3 – Can see all the major sights in 3 or 4 days
2 – Can see all the major sights in 1 or 2 days
1 – Can see all the major sights in less than a day

Worth the Effort

This column may very well be the best single type of information on the entire website. It is my effort based on all my travels to prioritize what I would have visited if I had to do it all over again. If you are in a wheelchair or have another significant mobility issue and are trying to take your first trip to Europe, I would select one of the cities with a rating of 5. I would avoid cities with a rating of 2 or 1 until you have taken a few trips to Europe.

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