Disabled travelers are frequently intimidated by Venice. The city was built long before "equal access" became part of the architect's vocabulary, and the city is dotted with hundreds of bridges that require climbing and descending steps.
It's no wonder that many physically disabled tourists are tempted to skip Venice when traveling through Europe. And that's a shame, because it's certainly possible to enjoy Venice with a wheelchair, walker, or crutches if you know what to expect and plan your touring strategy accordingly.
Step 1: Plan ahead.
Many hotels in Venice have elevators, but quite a few don't (especially in the lower price ranges). And in some hotels, you may have to wrestle your way up several steps just to reach the elevator. Because of this, it's a good idea to find out if a hotel is accessible before you make a reservation.
(See the Accessible Hotels in Venice article for listings of wheelchair-friendly hotels that are convenient to both ground transportation and the sights.)
The not infrequent acqua alta or "high water" between late October and early spring is another thing to consider. When high tides and winds in the Adriatic push water into the Venice Lagoon, the result is flooding of St. Mark's Square and other low-lying areas. Pedestrians can don rubber boots or step onto temporary wooden walkways, but if you're in a wheelchair, you could be stuck in your hotel for a few hours until the tide goes down.
Step 2: Visit the Tourist Office.
The Azienda di Promozione Turistica, a.k.a. the Venice Tourist Office, publishes free maps and brocures for disabled travelers. The tourist office's headquarters are in a freestanding white building by the public gardens just off the Piazza San Marco; you'll find branch offices in the Venice railway station, the arrivals hall at Marco Polo Airport, in one of the passages leading from the narrow or arcaded end of the Piazza San Marco, and various seasonal locations around town.
Next page: Accessible transport, information resources