Recently Germany celebrated the landmark 25th anniversary of the famous Berlin Wall deconstruction. Germany is awash with Unesco world heritage sites; rich in history, art, culture and castles in abundance. Prior to our initial visit, we decided to approach this destination with no preconceived notion as to its complex history and world perception. As a result, we were and continue to be pleasantly surprised at Germany’s recognition and public redress of “human stains” from their past governance, as well as their transparent, present-day democracy, and their unwavering drive towards future innovative research and development.
Germany has invested heavily in the accessibility sector of its economy. It has chosen to market services to the disability sectors under the umbrella of “barrier-free” access. While we continue to embrace the opinion that more often than not, access remains an individualized perception with all its challenges and experiential differences, we can however, applaud Germany for the accessible tourism touch point services it continues to offer in most of its’ major cities and some emerging rural sectors.
Over the past 6 years, our travels to Germany have revealed a treasure trove of accessible facts which are of significant benefit to any traveler with a disability or slow-walking individuals. Germany has developed codes, similar to other jurisdictions, to identify specific accessibility features of importance to the following groups: wheelchair users, persons with limited mobility, and those with a hearing or visual impairment. Accessible details of hotels, restaurants, tourist venues, and public spaces and services are identified by these codes. The ease of use of the German codes and the detailed, abundant information which is easily located, makes it very user-friendly for individuals to identify what services or places are appropriate to their own needs. Allergy warnings and dietary considerations are available in most restaurants. A “Euro key” is required and available to access the barrier free public toilet facilities. In most cities, the keys can be obtained at the Tourist Information Centre or a local business in close proximity to the washroom (identified as “WC” in Germany). We can confidently conclude that Germany is a mecca for accessible services and we will document what we have observed during our travels to specific communities over the next several blogs.
The public transportation system throughout Germany is interconnected and for the most part accessible. Deutsche Bahn (DB), the national rail system, has integrated local, regional and long distance trains, buses and trams. The major hubs are impressively accessible and assistance is available at most stops with prior notice. Our blogs on specific cities will describe transportation in more detail.
Highlights while traveling through Germany were participating in a regional cruise on the Rhine, visiting the ethnic regions of Berlin, the charm of Cologne, Munich’s beer and castles, the Bavarian enchanted country sides and the welcome experience of the sheer interconnectivity of train travel across the country.
We have concluded that accessible ventures into the main cities and emerging sectors of Germany are becoming “Wheelie Easy”.