Handicapped Travelers in Turkey

Turkey has made great strides in special-needs accessibility in recent years, but it still has a long way to go.

The word for “handicapped” in Turkish is özürlü (UR-zur-LEW). “Wheelchair” is tekerlekli sandalye (TEH-kehr-LEK-LEE sahn-DAHL-yeh). “Battery-powered wheelchair” is akülü tekerlekli sandalye.

Many Turkish cities and historic buildings were founded thousands of years ago. Modifying them for travelers with special needs can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

A bright spot is the hospitality and adaptability of the Turkish people. They will go out of their way to help handicapped travelers overcome obstacles whenever and wherever possible.

Most of my recommended travel agencies are familiar with the needs of handicapped travelers, and can arrange for accessible transport, hotel rooms and tours. More…

Here are some specifics:

Airports

Luckily, Turkey has been building lots of new airports in recent years, and these are designed to modern standards to accommodate handicapped travelers. Airports at the largest cities (AnkaraAntalyaIstanbulİzmir) are easily navigable, with jet bridges, assistants, wide doors, ramps, curb cuts, etc. At smaller airports, there probably won’t be jet bridges, so deplaning is by staircases rolled up to the plane door. Check for particulars.

Hotels

Many of the newer, better hotels have guest rooms and other facilities designed for easy accessibility, including ramps, elevators/lifts, hallways, public rooms, guest rooms,toilets, etc. Unfortunately, most of the older, smaller, cheaper lodgings present difficulties such as lack of elevators/lifts, or lifts difficult or impossible to use with a wheelchair, tiny bathrooms, raised thresholds, etc. Check with individual hotels to see if they can acommodate your needs, or ask one of my recommended travel agenciesto help.

Local Transport

Some bright spots here: the modernized transport networks in some major cities (IstanbulAnkaraİzmir) are pretty well adapted for handicapped travelers. The Istanbul Metro and Bağcılar-Kabataş trams, the Marmaray,Füniküler, and the “Sea Bus” catamaran ferries were designed with European standards of accessibility in mind. City buses have seats reserved for özürlü passengers, but so far as I know, there are no buses adapted for easy access of wheelchairs (“kneeling bus”). The charming traditional ferryboats have not been adapted for wheelchair access, although access may be possible with assistance.

City Streets

 

Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
Sidewalk: not easily accessible…

nightmare of uneven pavement, non-standard widths and curb heights, with obstacles like sawn-off pipes sticking out here and there in most cities and towns. Shopkeepers and restaurateurs invade sidewalks with displays of goods, tables, chairs, signs, etc. Many pedestrians walk in the streetsbecause the sidwalks are difficult.

Most streets have macadam surfaces, often not in the best repair, but many streets in historic Old Istanbul, for example, are surfaced in square granite paving blocks, with few curb cuts. Cities are making efforts at improving accessibility in public spaces, but it will be many years before access can be assumed.

Public Buildings

Earnest efforts are being made to render Turkey’s most historic buildings, museums, and sites accessible to handicapped travelers, but there’s a long way to go. Some prime sights in major tourism centers are adapted. Check before you go.

Intercity Trains

The opening of high-speed train lines between IstanbulAnkara and Konya has improved travel accessibility among those cities as the trains, platforms and stations are up to European standards.

Older, traditional intercity trains, however, are still boarded by narrow steps, not through platform-level wide doors. Major stations may have ramps (initially installed to facilitate baggage handling) or curb cuts, but smaller ones may not.


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