San Francisco, CA
Jim's Wheelchair Traveler Tips & Information


I've been fortunate to have traveled to many corners of the globe. Although planning comes to me fairly easily, traveling in a wheelchair necessitates becoming an even better planner. Experience has taught me many lessons. I've been to hotels where the wheelchair could not fit through doors or into an elevator, and visited too many restaurants without an accessible restroom. While traveling, I've had wheels, axles, the wheelchair frame and footrests break or fall off. And getting into a taxi or renting a car was far easier 30 years ago when vehicles were considerably larger.

With today's car rentals being more compact, it is much more difficult to fold up my wheelchair and throw it in the backseat. Although Hertz and Avis have specialty reservation desks for wheelchair accessible vehicles, neither provides vehicles that easily accommodate independent wheelchair travelers and both are incredibly unreliable.

Today I plan my hotel and restaurant reservations with great care, calling and emailing and following up well in advance. It is now possible to arrange almost everything including taxis and van rentals across the globe in advance. Every location can be put on speed dial before departure. It's also nice to know the location of the local wheelchair repair shop and have access to medical supplies when and where needed. We have attempted our best to provide you with some helpful hints throughout our website including some local contacts below that you might find helpful.

Booking your Hotel Room

Booking a hotel room online is convenient, but more often than not it results in arriving to the hotel only to find out they did not properly reserve an accessible room, or even worse - they have no accessible rooms in the hotel. Before booking a hotel room, we recommend reviewing our extensive list of certified San Francisco hotels, hotels to avoid, plus a directory of wheelchair accessible hotels in and around San Francisco. When booking a hotel room, WCJ highly recommends the following:

  • Call the hotel directly and "block" your wheelchair accessible room for the desired dates of travel.
  • Have the hotel email or fax you a confirmation, noting the accessible room and bring this with you at check-in.
  • Call the hotel directly 24-48 hours in advance of your arrival to re-confirm your wheelchair accessible room.

When calling the nationwide reservations call center for many hotel chains, they do not have the ability to "block" wheelchair accessible rooms with individual hotel properties. We recommended to call the hotel directly, and speak to the front desk to properly reserve and block your accessible guestroom.

San Francisco Area Transportation

The San Francisco area provides for many private and public wheelchair accessible transportation options including trains, buses, taxis, van and car rentals, and ferry boats.

For complete information on San Francisco area transportation, visit our San Francisco Transportation page by clicking here.

Valet vs. Self Parking

Please note that many hotels, especially donwtown-area hotels, charge exorbitant prices for both valet and self-park garages.

Because I drive a converted van with hand controls and a transfer and swivel seat, I prefer not having valet attendants drive or park my vehicle. I prefer to find hotels with self-parking options and have attempted to note such facilities whenever possible.

Pack You Airlines Bags Carefully

Wheelchair passengers are always last to exit the plane, sometimes 30 minutes or more after all other passengers have departed. Since I'm generally the last person to the luggage carousel, I'm always concerned someone will steal my bags (yes, this has happened). As a result, I always pack a special carry on bag with anything I might need for 2 days if my luggage is lost or stolen. This includes critical medical supplies and medications, an extra seat cushion cover, lightweight wheelchair repair tools, handy wipes and plastic bags.

I always bring large black plastic bags to collect my detachable wheelchair parts at the end of the jet way. These should be placed in the over head luggage rack, not in the cargo area.

You should also know that the Air Carrier Access Act mandates that fold up wheelchairs have priority for on-board storage if a closet is available. Keep your wheelchair on-board if possible. Demand your rights!

Making Restaurant Reservations

When you book a restaurant reservation, let them know that a member of the dining party is in a wheelchair. You will receive preferred seating for your convenience and restroom access.

Additionally, if you are meeting in a private or banquet area of a restaurant, make sure that it is wheelchair accessible and has accessible restrooms.

Medical Supplies & Repairs

Sometimes things go wrong. Items get lost or broken, wheelchairs lose a screw or fall apart, or you just need something that you forgot to pack along for the trip. Not to worry, the San Francisco area has some great medical supply and wheelchair repair companies ready to give you a hand.

Allure Mobility & Medical Supply
(Medical Equipments & Wheelchairs)
851 Van Ness Avenue.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 766-0546

Bay City Medical Supplies
(Medical Equipment & Wheelchairs)
75 Phelan Avenue.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Phone: (650) 347-6606

Hometown Medical Supplies
(Medical Equipment & Wheelchairs)
75 Phelan Avenue.
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: (888) 848-0818

Shield Healthcare
(Medical Supplies)
2950 Buskirk Avenue, Suite 180
Walnut Creek, CA 94597
Phone: (925) 952-3930