Overall, accessibility is an afterthought in Montreal. It is possible to navigate around Montreal but whether it be navigating the sidewalks and streets or using transportation challenges exists. For starters, the city has a number of hills that surround Mount Royal. Not every attraction that you may want to see is located in the downtown or Old Montreal area, so even for power wheelchairs and scooters, transportation is likely needed at some point.
Sidewalks were overall maintained well and curb-cuts or walkway ramps were plentiful. However, sometimes transitions from the street to sidewalk was far from streamlined; effecting the smaller front wheels of both manual and power wheelchairs. For larger streets, pedestrian islands were placed in the middle but were not accessible.
The downtown and Old Montreal area are mixed with small hills and plateaus. For a manual wheelchair the frequency of hills may be tiring if self-pushing. For the most gradual route to Old Montreal take the McGill Street (Rue McGill), which is located just past the Palace de Congress building (a train station hub plus convention center).
Old Montreal is a specific area of downtown with the oldest buildings in the city. In some places sidewalks can be very narrow and occasionally unpassable. This part of town is also known for cobblestones though very few areas were problematic. In Old Town, Rue Notre-Dame is one street that is the most level and is also where the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal is located. Then the hill falls down to the water where there is a relatively level bike path.
Another popular area in downtown is Saint Catherine Street (Rue Sainte-Catherine) because it’s filled with shops and restaurants. This street itself is the plateau of another hill and is flat compared to is surroundings but still has a slight incline.
Check out the Montreal Access Guide for more information about terrain and getting around this city and its attractions, including accessibility of restaurants and stores.
Buses are technically wheelchair accessible but there are problems. Some buses have the ramp in the front while others are in the back. Communicating to the driver at the front of the bus when the ramp is in the back can be challenging. Local and tourist wheelchair users alike have too often experienced bus drivers that are unwilling or uneducated about operating the ramp itself; Or the ramp is not working due to poor maintenance. People are also warned that in too much snow a bus will not service wheelchairs in heavy snow or freezing rain.
Taxis usually need twenty-four hour notice to transport passengers who want/need to stay in a wheelchair. The Para-Adapté Taxi is the best and contract to individual drivers whom all have different vehicles. The general number is 514.277.3344 and email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ground Trains (Amtrak and VIA Rail) are accessible for most. The Central Station is located under the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, near Bonaventure Metro or McGill Metro. There are handicapped spots for drop-offs and automatic doors into the station. Inside, the station has wheelchair accessible restrooms, restaurants, eateries and various gift shops.
Either train company, be sure to notify them if you have a wheelchair or are a senior slow walker when you purchase your ticket in advance and when you arrive at the station. Plan to arrive early. Both have accessible ticket offices, designated cars and ramps for boarding. Be vocal about what you need to the station attendants.
To get to the train’s platform for boarding, Amtrak has long lift that takes passengers in wheelchairs and such down a flight of stairs. The lift is operate by an Amtrak employee, so it is best to be by the “priority boarding” in the waiting area on the main floor of the station. VIA Rail has an elevator that takes passengers to the train boarding level.
Underground Trains have very limited access and that’s when all elevators are working. Accessible stations are along the Orange Line. Here is list of where you can find all the accessible elevators to train stations. Other elevators may lead you to lower levels but not to the train platform itself coupled with linking underground passage ways can be confusing.
At accessible stations, some ticket kiosks have been lowered for improved access. You may also find an accessible STM ticket office. A designated gate is accessible for wheelchairs, strollers and such to enter and leave but you will commonly see everyone using it so be assertive if needed. One the Orange Line, the first and last car of the train that are designated to be accessible and marked by the universal sign. This means more space for a wheelchair and priority seating for those with a handicapped. However, if the train is crowded there is no enforcement.