New Orleans, Louisiana
What is it that attracts us to New Orleans? Is it the food, the culture, the music or maybe it’s the night life on Bourbon Street. After Katrina a category 5 Hurricane in 2005 it left much of New Orleans devastated and in ruins. The famous French Quarter was hit hard and the damage to the streets, sidewalks and businesses seemed unrepairable. Even in our visit in 2016 over 10 years later the damage is still visible in the streets and sidewalks. New Orleans as been around for a very long time and disability access to buildings back then were the least of concern for the architects. Fast forward to today and you have a city that is well over 100 years old and still with little concern for disability access to buildings, sidewalks and even transportation. If you are a wheelchair user like me my bet is your friends and family have been there and brought back horror stories about how inaccessible New Orleans is for you and your wheelchair. Well…that was sort-of not my experience.
Did I get to see what I wanted to see? My answer is a modified most definitely. There was much I didn’t have access to, but there was so much that I did have access to that the could not’s were far out weighted by the could do’s. Many of the restaurants were not accessible in my electric chair. Many had a significant step up and some even though were accessible the arrangements of tables and chairs made it impossible to navigate once inside. We did however find several restaurants that were easily accessible giving us plenty of cuisine choices for lunch and dinner.
Construction and repair is still being done on many of the sidewalks and business fronts around the french quarter including a few streets being barricaded to keep out the traffic. Getting around the French Quarter was indeed a challenge but not impossible. Using an electric wheelchair did make this much easier for me as I was able to power through the broken concrete, the sandy pot holes and large cracks in many of the sidewalks. A manual wheelchair would without question be much more difficult to navigate through these obstacles. A manual wheelchair would however provide you access to many of the partying establishments with a little help from a friend. Like always one is better than the other except when the other one is better.
Parking is not a big problem either. There are two large parking lots at the east edge of the french quarter off of Decatur Street called Premium Parking. They are along the Mississippi river. With your smartphone you can download the Premium Parking payment app which makes it super simple to choose and pay for a parking spot. The app even shows you available parking locations that you can reserve in either Lot P401 or P402. Once you register in the app and provide a credit card for payment you can pay for and even add time and money without being at your vehicle. It’s not the cheapest but a short walk puts you in the heart of the french quarter.
So, if you have always wanted to experience the french quarter of New Orleans and like me your wheelchair goes everywhere you go start planning your trip without worry.
There is so much to see and experiencing the culture and the flavors of New Orleans can easily be enjoyed no matter what your level of disability. We visited the french quarter on two separate occasions. We first spent most of the day touring down the streets and enjoying the architecture, the smells and the many shops that were accessible. We enjoyed lunch a wonderful lunch at a sidewalk bistro and indulged our taste buds at the Original Pierre Maspero’s for dinner. Established in 1877 it is one of the oldest restaurants serving authentic New Orleans cuisine. And one of the most accessible restaurants in the french quarter.
Here is a short list of a few of the places we enjoyed with easy wheelchair access and much to enjoy.
New Orleans National Historic Park
Old U.S. Mint, which also includes the history of Jazz
Washington Artillery Park
St. Louis Cathedral
Bourbon Street, don’t miss it after dark.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Harrah’s New Orleans
The walk along the Mississippi River
Laura’s Candies, for the best Pralines, truffles and candies.