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Discover Philadelphia wheelchair accessible attractions, things to do, city guides, tours and activities for disabled travelers including Eastern State Penitentiary. Read our informative accessibility reviews and ratings of popular Philadelphia attractions and destinations to learn which attractions are wheelchair accessible and wheelchair friendly, as well as which locations Jim recommends should be avoided by travelers in wheelchairs.

The Eastern State Penitentiary, also known as ESP, is a former American prison in Philadelphia. It was operational from 1829 until 1971. The penitentiary refined the revolutionary system of separate incarceration first pioneered at the Walnut Street Jail which emphasized principles of reform rather than punishment.

Notorious criminals such as Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton were held inside its innovative wagon wheel design. James Bruno (Big Joe) and several male relatives were incarcerated here between 1936-1948 for the alleged murders in the Kelayres Massacre of 1934, before they were pardoned. At its completion, the building was the largest and most expensive public structure ever erected, and quickly became a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.

The prison is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark, which is open to the public as a museum for tours seven days a week, twelve months a year, 10 am to 5 pm.

Accessibility Information

  1. City Attraction Wheelchair Accessible:        Partially
  2. Fully Accessible Entry:                                     Yes
  3. Accessible Restrooms Onsite:                         Yes
  4. Restrictive Steps:                                               Yes: Many

Jim’s Accessibility Comments:

WARNING: the Penitentiary complex is not fully ADA compliant. The building is nearly 200 years old, and is a National Historic Landmark. Sections of it may never be fully accessible. 

WARNING: The Hands On History Exhibit, the audio stop at cell block 7, the admissions office and gift shop are not accessible.

However the history here is fascinating and much of the tour is accessible including several ramps.

Al Capone’s cell is on the 1st floor and is accessible.

There is a wheelchair accessible restroom.