Seattle, WA
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 Seattle hotels, hotels to avoid, plus a directory of wheelchair accessible hotels in and around Seattle. 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.

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!

SeaTac Airport

SeaTac Airport, located approximately 15 miles South of Downtown Seattle, is one of the most wheelchair accessible airport terminals in the world. It is especially easy to navigate with a wheelchair since there is only one main terminal and 2 remote gates. All gates are connected by a very wheelchair accessible tram. All passengers are dropped off/picked up at the main terminal so you cannot end up at the wrong terminal. The remote N Gates (domestic) and S Gates (international) are conveniently connected via a tram accessible for all sized wheelchairs. All incoming passengers funnel into the main baggage claim, which has 15 carousels.

SeaTac Accessible Restrooms

  • SeaTac has a multitude of very nice, very wheelchair accessible restrooms throughout the airport with large stalls. There are also many large very nice Family Restrooms which are exceptionally spacious.
  • There are also very nice, large wheelchair accessible restrooms on the baggage level.
  • In the parking structure Level 3 with the Shuttle Buses and Shuttle Express, there are 2 wheelchair accessible restrooms behind the Shuttle check-in counter although they are not nearly as clean or nice as the Terminal restrooms.

Rental Cars (from baggage claim)

  • The remote car rental site is approximately 5 minutes outside the SeaTac terminal, and is very wheelchair accessible via buses provided by each rental car company.
  • From the baggae claim area, exit through the sliding glass doors near carousel #1 or carousel #15 (North and South ends of the airport).
  • All rental car company buses are wheelchair accessible and tack you right to the rental facility.
  • There is a somewhat steep carpeted incline as you exit to the street to meet the bus. You may need assistance especially if you are carrying a suitcase.

Sound Transit Metro Buses (from baggage claim)

  • Just 10-12 minute from Baggage to Train. Very level, concrete walkway and very wheelchair accessible.
  • From Baggage take elevator up to Parking Level.
  • Cross over Sky Bridge and go toward parking structure.
  • Once you're in the parking structure take elevator to down to 4th level.
  • Follow signs to Metro Buses and Sound Transit Light Rail which are clearly marked.
  • At the Sound Transit rail boarding platform, take the elevator down to street level (International Blvd) and board the accessible bus.

Seattle Area Transportation

The Seattle 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 Seattle area transportation, visit our Seattle 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.

Hiring a Taxi (from baggage claim)

  • Just a couple minutes from Baggage and very wheelchair accessible.
  • Take elevator up to Parking Level.
  • Cross over Sky Bridge and go toward parking structure.
  • Once you're in the parking structure take elevator to down to 3rd level and look for taxis

Sound Transit Light Rail (from baggage claim)

  • Just 10-12 minute from Baggage to Train. Very level, concrete walkway and very wheelchair accessible.
  • From Baggage take elevator up to Parking Level.
  • Cross over Sky Bridge and go toward parking structure.
  • Once you're in the parking structure take elevator to down to 4th level.
  • Follow signs to Sound Transit Light Rail which are clearly marked.
  • Purchase ticket at wheelchair level kiosk and board train.

Shuttle Express (from baggage claim)

  • Just a couple minutes from Baggage and very wheelchair accessible.
  • Take elevator up to Parking Level.
  • Cross over Sky Bridge and go toward parking structure.
  • Once you're in the parking structure take elevator to down to 3rd level.
  • Follow signs to Shuttle Express which are clearly marked.

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 Seattle area has some great medical supply and wheelchair repair companies ready to give you a hand.

Norco Medical Service
(Medical Equipment)
4135 Stoneway North
Seattle, WA 98103
Phone (206) 547-2200
Website: http://www.norco-inc.com/categories/medical-servicesTim's Medical Supplies
(Medical Supplies & Repairs)
199 Dora Ave. W
Bremerton, WA 99312
Phone: 360-782-1922
Website: http://www.timshomemedicalsupplies.com

Shield Healthcare
(Medical Supplies)
615 Strander Blvd.
Tukwila, WA 98188
Phone: (206) 575-7837
Website: https://www.shieldhealthcare.com