New Orleans Access: The French Quarter & Bourbon Street

Let me start by saying that New Orleans is a great place to visit. Great food, people, places to see, and despite the age of the city, pretty easy to get around.New Orleans is FLAT so whether you use a manual or power wheelchair, or have a cane, you won’t be going up-hill ever. This wonderful reality unfortunately contributed to the massive flooding back in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina but this is definitely a silver lining for those with mobility issues.

The highest point is the French Quarter at no more than a mere 14 feet above sea level.  Yes, this is THE French Quarter with Bourbon Street so if you have too much to drink, you won’t have to worry about rolling away down a hill (whether you’re in a chair or simply just fell over and decided to tuck, duck, and roll). The French Quarter also has a lot of shopping.  So much diversity to the extent that I’m not going to bother trying to list everything they have i.e. pre-1899 firearms, crystals, and clothing galore.

The good news is that most of the curbs do have banks for easy wheeling and stepping up and they shampoo the streets everyday! The bad news is that he sidewalks are pretty gnarly. They are maneuverable however so just pay attention! And try not to think why certain streets are so dirty that they need shampooing every day.

Moreover, the French Quarter is an extremely interesting and historic area of the city.  With walking tours nearly 24/7 about everything from architecture, ghosts, cemeteries, vampires, Voodoo, and pretty much anything you can imagine, there is a lot to learn and see in this area. One half to one mile away from the French Quarter and adjacent to Lee’s Circle in the Arts/Warehouse District is the National World War II Museum (fully accessible), Contemporary Arts Museum, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Unfortunately, we either could not find or there was no accessibly entrance into the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum (it is in a very old building.

There is also a lot to eat in the French Quarter.  Antoine’s is as fantastic as it is famous.  Ladies, you’re in luck, the toilet here is at grade. Gents… you may have a small problem as there is a step up to the main bathroom.  There are others in the building however though they are not as convenient. Definitely go eat some Beignets (french powder sugar covered “donuts”) at Cafe Du Monde and don’t forget the au lait!  It is right near the river boat and a great way to enjoy the rest of the day. The good news is that the food is absolutely delicious and worth the inconvenience of having to pay in cash. Plus, the line is only for takeout so just seat yourself at the first table that people get up from and someone will clear the table and take your order quickly! The bad news is that the line extends forever!!!

Now, what would be a trip to New Orleans without a ride on a streetcar. Named “desire” or not, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that all of the trams that run along Canal Street have accessible lifts! The bad news is that though good for the purposes of historical preservation, none of the trams on the St. Charles line are accessible.  In fact, even if you can walk but have limited mobility, it may be a challenge to step up onto the car.

The compromise: New Orleans has busses galore and all of them are accessible.  The taxis are like most other American cities.  They take cash and credit but may or may not be fully accessible.  In short, this is not London.  However, most of the drivers are very friendly and helpful.

If taxis aren’t your thing, Uber just opened shop in NOLA just two weeks ago. It is more pricey since they only offer town car (black/SUV) service and there are not a lot of cars available but it is an option. Another alternative would be download “Curb” formerly known as Taxi Magic. They didn’t always show up but you will get a taxi. More info on accessible transportation in New Orleans.

There is the brand new beautiful Crescent Park in the Bywater neighborhood where you can get great photos of the city. The good news is that it is beautiful and there is a nice wine shop where you can buy a glass or bottle for your stroll near the entrance. (Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits). The bad news is that the park isn’t finished yet so the exit is a very very steep stairway called the rainbow.  Again, wonderful for preservation (and should be kept!) but until the park is completed, you’ll have to go back to the entrance to exit.

Another great attraction is riding along the river on a steam boat.  I went on Grey Line Tour’s “Steamboat Natchez Riverboat” which is authentic to the original technology and design.  Truly a great way to see the city and just relax. It doesn’t matter if it is raining or not because most of it is covered.  However, I had an odd experience while lining up.  I tried calling out to one of the people working their and after being ignored repeatedly, I finally got someone else’s attention.  I asked if and where there would be a line for the elderly and disabled to which I was told that it is not official but usually people can line up near the exit area. Upon lining up, I could not help but notice the number of injured, elderly, and wheelchair bound people waiting in this massive queue so, I did what I thought was right and waived my cane at a few others that were in the main line only to be yelled at by the employee that I shouldn’t be telling people that they do not have to wait with all of the able-bodied people.

Hope this helps everyone get around even just a little bit more easily!

Spencer Kassimir (2 Posts)


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