There are a variety of very wheelchair friendly transportation options in and around Chicago. Whether you are looking to get to or from O'Hare International Airport, visit city attractions, or tour one of the many local landmarks - your guaranteed an accessible, comfortable transportation experience. Below you will find the information you need to make Chicago easily accessible.
Chicago Amtrak (Union Station)
Chicago Union Station is designated as a top 10 Great Public Spaces for 2012 by the American Planning Association, for its design, architecture and utilization. Union Station is very wheelchair friendly with barrier free platform mounted lifts for loading wheelchair passengers; it has accessible restrooms, elevators, ticket counter and payphone.
Amtrak is essentially owned and operated by the U.S. Government. It is very aware of ADA regulations and is quite accommodating of wheelchairs. Seating for wheelchairs is limited so call in advance and inform Amtrak of any special needs. Seating is on the lower level on specific railway cars equipped with fully ADA compliant restrooms.
- Certain cars are also equipped for overnight wheelchair passenger sleeping. There is a small separate room which includes an accessible bathroom.
- All trains are accessible from the loading platform by a removable ramp which the conductor puts in place for wheelchair passengers.
- Dining and lounge areas are on the second level and are not generally accessible. Conductors, however, are available to bring food and beverages to passengers requiring assistance.
Uber covers the Chicago land area but does not yet offer wheelchair accessible vehicles.
More than 20 taxi companies in Chicago currently operate wheelchair accessible minivans equipped with ramps, wheelchair securements and shoulder seat belts. It generally takes 15-20 minutes for an accessible taxi to arrive. In February 2015 Uber thoroughly covered the Chicago land area but I couldn't find anything accessible on my Uber phone app.
Chicago Transit Authority Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation's second largest public transportation system--a regional transit system that serves the City of Chicago and 40 neighboring communities. CTA provides 1.64 million rides on an average weekday, accounting for over 80% of all transit trips taken in the six-county Chicago metropolitan region. Presently, CTA service is provided by two modes: bus and rail.
CTA Bus Most rides on CTA are taken by bus. Our bus system consists of 140 routes. Buses make over 25,000 trips daily, and serve nearly 12,000 bus stops throughout the region.
CTA bus routes serve communities locally, move people across town, and a number of express services are provided. Several routes also provide 24-hour service, known as "Owl Service."
CTA 'L' (Train Service) The CTA rail system consists of train lines spanning the city and neighboring communities, and is known locally as "The 'L'." The service provided is described as "heavy rail rapid transit," also referred to as a "subway" or "metro" in many parts of the world.
Today's 'L' system has eight rapid transit routes and consists of 145 stations over approximately 242.2 miles of track. Parts of the 'L' run above ground, in subway tunnels and tubes, as well as at grade or in expressway medians. Two routes--the Red and Blue Lines--operate 24 hours, every day.
CTA is a fixed route transit service provider. This means that its buses and trains operate along set routes according to fixed schedules. The ADA requires that all new vehicles purchased for general fixed route public transportation service be accessible to people with disabilities.
CTA Accessibility Notes: All of CTA’s buses are capable of “kneeling,” thereby lowering the bus. All the buses also have ramps at the forward doors, priority seats, and wheelchair securement areas. These features ease boarding and riding the bus for people with mobility and other disabilities.
All stations have gap fillers to bridge the space between the platform and the rail car. In addition, rail stations have customer assistants available at many hours to assist customers with disabilities.
All of the trains provide space for wheelchairs. The vast majority of CTA’s rail cars have a designated wheelchair securement area and ADA-compliant doors. All of our rail cars have Braille signage, priority seats, and both interior and exterior stop and route automated voice announcements.
All of CTA’s buses and most of CTA’s rail cars were built in accordance with ADA requirements. The ramps on CTA buses and wheelchair spaces on both our buses and rail cars are designed to accommodate either a manual or a powered wheelchair
TRAIN WARNING: Only 100 of CTA’s 145 train stations (69%) are accessible by ADA-compliant elevators or ramps. Many station have multiple steps - flights of steps. I strongly recommend you avoid the "L" trains unless you know the exact route your taking and know the specific station is accessible.
Other Chicago Accessible Transit
AC Med Tran | 630.568.3850 | Visit Website
Non emergency medical transportation services in Chicago area. I booked AC Med Tran in 2015 for transit between O'Hare and a NW suburb. It was a little expensive and took 30-45 minutes for them to arrive at O'Hare baggage claim but they did a nice job.
Disabled on the Go | (630) 972-0023 | Visit Website
We provide non-emergency transit for people with disabilities and seniors throughout Chicagoland 365 days a year. Our specially equipped MV-1 LX limos will get you and your loved ones, around Chicagoland. The MV-1 meets or exceeds ADA standards and is designed to carry one wheelchair passenger plus three additional passengers. Service animals are welcome. We will provide you with a simple reservation process and comfortable door-to-door service.
For my next Chicago visit I'm going to give Disabled on the Go a try. I've ridden in the MV 1 vehicles and like them.
In July 2017 one of our WCJ followers sent me the following email: "Just wanted to let you know I used this service today. I had a great experience. It is a one vehicle service and expanding, run by a husband and wife. They are very knowledgeable of Chicago and surrounding areas. They are very attentive once you make the reservation. I received a personal email verifying my plans. Driver also called the night before to verify the ride. The only thing I would suggest is to call to verify online reservation. They had a computer glitch and were initially unaware of reservation. They did have it".
In October 2017 another WCJ follower emailed me "My husband and I just got back from our first wheelchair trip to Chicago to visit our daughter at Northwestern. I booked all or our transfers with "DISABLED ON THE GO" . Nancy and Mark Frueh were terrific. Reliable, dependable, helpful. I felt reassured from the moment I booked with Nancy and made all the arrangements. I researched and called some of the other companies on your Chicago list. Nancy and Mark's company was the most cost effective and flexible too. We booked travel with them for both days we were in Evanston/Chicago and for our airport arrival and departure".
Chicago Disability Transit | (312) 335-1244 | Visit Website
This disability-owned company, centrally located on Ohio Street, serves corporations and individuals in both city and suburbs. It has fully accessible vans and cars. Service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Private trips can be booked by email, phone or fax during regular business hours.
PACE Paratransit Services | 800-606-1282 | Visit Website
Registered paratransit riders who would like to extend their eligibility to Chicago while visiting must present documentation that they are ADA paratransit eligible for the jurisdiction in which they reside. ADA paratransit certification (with expiration date) and a photo ID should be sent to Pace to arrive at least 7 days before the first desired day of travel. Pace will then issue an RTA paratransit pass good for 21 days per 365-day period and provide a list of phone numbers for the various paratransit operators. Once certified, visitors can set up arrival and departure paratransit rides, if desired. Certification also allows visitors to use the Taxi Access Program.
All-Ways Medical Carriers | 800-709-0700 | Visit Website
Based in the northern suburbs, this transportation company serves Cook, Lake and DuPage counties. It has lift-equipped vehicles of various capacities and can provide accessible transportation for any purpose including airport and hotel shuttle service. Dispatchers are available daily from 6am-8pm.
Chicago Accessible Van Rentals
For my last Chicago visit I used Mobility Travel Rentals. They delivered the van to Chicago O'Hare and met me at the baggage claim. Costs are about $150 a day. Van delivery and pick-up costs are about $100 each. Unfortunately they decided to close down in August 2018.
Accessible Vans of America
Phone: (847) 364-PACE (7223), option 3
Pace is the suburban bus division of the Regional Transportation Authority in the Chicago metropolitan area. It was created in 1983 by the RTA Act, which established the formula that provides funding to CTA, Metra and Pace. In 2013, Pace had 39.925 million riders.
Pace buses generally have longer headways (often between 20 and 60 minutes) than CTA buses. All Pace buses are wheelchair accessible
The Pace Bus schedule has limited hours, and different weekday and weekend schedules, so check Station & Bus Times and plan in advance. For mass transit from O'Hare International you'll connect to a Pace Bus at the Jefferson Park Transit Station and the overall transit time is 2 hours if you make the connections.