Wheelchair Accessibility in Chicago
By Bryan AndersonMay 24, 2019
I travel a lot in my work for Quantum, but I love coming home and hanging out in Chicago! There are a lot of fun things to do here. And most importantly, a lot of my favorite places in Chicago are extremely accessible for power wheelchair users like me!
My favorite place in all of Chicago is Millennium Park on the east side. It sits right in the center of downtown. It’s free and open every day. There are tons of concerts that happen in the park during the warmer months, like the Chicago House Music Festival, Chicago Blues Festival and Grant Park Music Festival. Plus, the park has tons of cool landscaping and public art installations all over the place. One piece of art is called Cloud Gate, but us locals call it “The Bean” because it literally looks like a giant metal bean!
All the areas of the park are accessible with a wheelchair. The Crown Fountain in Millennium Park is a really cool place and best of all, totally inclusive. The Crown Fountain consists of a granite reflecting pool between two tall glass towers that display digital video. When you’re there, the video shows people’s faces and then water comes out through a nozzle on each of the tower’s faces. So, it looks like someone is spitting water out of their mouths! The fountain is designed without edges or deep-water areas, so anyone with a wheelchair can easily enter the fountain and be included.
Plus, the park has fully accessible restrooms and concession stands, as well as accessible parking. It’s absolutely fantastic! They’ve thought of everything and as a power wheelchair user, I am very thankful for that.
The sidewalks in Chicago are pretty well cared for in terms of a smooth ride for wheelchairs. This may not be true for everywhere in Chicago, but the areas in the center of the city, downtown and business districts are definitely well kept! Plus, there are curb cuts at all intersections.
Still, no place is perfect. There is a mass transit system that serves Chicago and some of the surrounding suburbs. Yet, only certain stops have elevators for wheelchair users. So, when you’re trying to get someplace, you can’t always get as close to your destination as you’d like if there isn’t an elevator at your designated stop.
Although using a wheelchair has its challenges in the city, having iLevel® on my power wheelchair has definitely made a huge difference. When I go out to eat with my friends, sometimes all the tables are full, except for the high-top tables. This can be frustrating! With iLevel, I can elevate my chair and sit at a high-top table with everyone and be included in the conversations. iLevel allows me to be more adaptive to my environment. Which is huge!
Although you may have to take a roundabout route to get somewhere, overall, Chicago is a great city for wheelchair users. And of course, accessibility doesn’t happen overnight. Some of Chicago’s historic buildings have a grandfather clause that they can’t make changes to the building, so this makes improving accessibility tougher. Still, I am very appreciative of what Chicago has to offer terms of accessibility.
So, if you’re thinking about visiting Chicago or planning a trip to my city, I recommend coming in the summer and checking out all the great concerts at Millennium Park. Maybe I will see you there and we can rock out together!
About Byran: Bryan grew up and resides in Illinois. Injured by an IED in October 2005, Bryan is one of the few triple amputees to survive his injuries in Iraq. He is an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation and a spokesperson for USA Cares, which is focused on assisting post 9-11 veterans. Click here to learn more about Bryan.