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Traveling to Venice with Multiple Sclerosis

I recently received this question about visiting Venice with multiple sclerosis and a mobility scooter.  I thought my response would be helpful to share

Her Question:
My husband has recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of MS. My hope is that this diagnosis will not bring an end to our travels.  We had planned to visit Venice and Florence.  When you talk about places that are wheelchair accessible, should I assume that these places are just as accessible by a scooter? I think my husband would have to use a scooter because the disease saps his energy and his balance is bad.

My Answer:
For tourist attractions I would say yes – wheelchair accessible is the same thing as mobility scooter accessible.  When I say a place is wheelchair accessible, it primarily means step-free.  Some museums in Paris would have the additional restriction of tiny elevators that would not fit a mobility scooter, but you won’t have that issue with any places in Florence or Venice.

For hotels, it’s the same thing – wheelchair accessible and mobility scooter accessible are the same thing.  The accessible hotels that we recommend have a step-free entrance, elevators to the rooms, and a disabled bathroom that is large enough to maneuver a mobility scooter.

An accessible tour would work for mobility scooters also – the route would be step-free and the walking tour in Florence is one of my favorites out of anywhere in Europe.

The biggest difference between traveling with a wheelchair and a mobility scooter has to do with getting around the city.  I’m in a manual wheelchair and have had no problems using the buses in Florence or the vaparetto (water buses) in Venice.  My manual wheelchair also comes apart and will fit into the trunk of a taxi.

In some European cities, the official policy is to not let mobility scooters onto public buses.  The actual feedback I’ve heard from clients varies – some of them have taken their mobility scooter onto the buses and others haven’t been allowed to.  I suspect it may have to do with the size of the scooter.  I’ve attached a picture of a client in a mobility scooter who recently came back from Paris, Rome, and Florence.  I think if your husband’s mobility scooter is as small as his, you won’t have a problem.

In Venice, things get more complicated.  While nearly all of the vaparetto stops are designed to be wheelchair and mobility scooter accessible, when the boats are full of people they float lower in the water causing the height difference between the boat and the dock to be the size of a large curb.  I have a mother-daughter pair in Italy right now, and the daughter is in an electric wheelchair.  Based on my travels to Venice, I gave them a list of which vaparetto docks I thought would likely have full boats and that they should avoid.  They’ll be in Venice next week, and I’ll be interested to hear if my suggestions worked out.

Let me know if you have any more questions and if you’d be interested in having us plan the trip for you.  I have had numerous clients with MS, so I can tell you that your travels will certainly not have to end 🙂

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