Recently I travelled to Istanbul Turkey for vacation. Before we left I searched the web for information on the accessibility of the major tourist sites. I found that they were for the most part accessible, but due to the historical value, not much can be done to alter them for better access. What was even of more importance to me was “how was I going to get around the city”? I learned that there are NO accessible taxis. I did find one company that has a lift van to take you wherever you want to go. Below I will give information on the major tourist sites, their accessibility, and more importantly, how to contact the transportation company so you can get to these sites as well as to and from the airport.
One major site is Topkapi Palace, which was the home of the Ottoman Sultans. You can be dropped off right at the front gate. Once inside the property, there are different areas to see. The Harem section has a 4 inch drop at the doorway. Once inside it is quite a bumpy ride on the cobblestone. As you go from room to room there are small ramps on each doorway threshold to get over the few inch rise. Half way through I encountered a doorway with no ramp, and the threshold was to high get get my power wheelchair over. Now why there wasn’t a ramp there, but in every other doorway just didn’t make sense. I had to turn back and go another route to get out. If your in a manual chair, with a little help, you’ll have no problems, anywhere.
The Grand Bazaar is a large, indoor market that sells items made in Turkey. Carpets, leather goods, ceramics and jewelry are just a few things you will find. There are no prices on anything. Ask how much something is, the salesman will probably take out a calculator. Do not pay that price! Start bargaining down! For instance, I wanted to buy a large hand painted ceramic bowl. The first price we were told was approx $75usd (they will tell you in tl-turkish lira). After bargaining, I paid $25. Some will refuse to drop the price, simply walk away. There are many booths selling the same items. Entering the Bazaar there is a 4 inch drop, which locals helped me get down. Once inside it is rather smooth and level.
The Blue Mosque was built starting in 1609. It is spectacular looking both inside and out. Everyone must remove their shoes before entering and women are given scarfs to cover their head. There are steps to enter the main gate of the property. We were sent around the corner to the north/west side where there was a smaller 5 inch step. A few locals standing nearby helped lift my chair over. Then there is a long ramp to go up to enter the court yard. At the door to go inside is where you must transfer to the provided wheelchairs so not to track in any dirt onto the carpets. Again, a manual chair will have no problem. I had to have my chair lifted a few times because of the ez lock peg underneath for when i drive my car. The area between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia has some street vendors for food and is a great place for people watching.
The biggest concern I had about traveling to Istanbul, Turkey was how was I going to get around. I searched the internet to find that the options we have in the U.S. just didn’t exist. What I did find turned out to be wonderful! This wheelchair van rental in Istanbul. When I traveled here, this is basically the only accessible van for hire. The driver is friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable. We had arranged to be picked up at the airport, and upon arriving, he was there waiting. We had a choice of half day(am/pm) or full day to go sightseeing. You can also use his service for one way trips around town. The local taxi company’s don’t even have accessible vans which surprised me.