How wheelchair accessible is Berlin

Living barrier-free in Berlin

If you have a handicap or are not so good on your feet due to age, you have to find out exactly where there are barrier-free and handicapped access and where possible obstacles lurk before moving to a new city. Germany’s capital has the motto “Berlin is for everyone” and is constantly working to implement the guiding principle. It is not for nothing that Berlin is one of the best accessible cities in Europe. But despite great efforts, not everything is perfect.

With a handicap through the city

For people with a physical disability, it is not always easy to move around a big city like Berlin without complications. But Germany's capital is doing a lot to ensure that everyone can find their way around.

With the help of grooved panels on the floor, people who are blind or have poor vision can orient themselves at the crossings and pedestrian crossings and thus find their way around the city. The traffic lights are equipped with special pushers in many places, which indicate to the blind with an acoustic signal when the traffic light is green.

Problem with old boroughs

Use public transport

The buses of the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) are completely barrier-free and offer enough space for wheelchairs and walkers. The same goes for the ferries. There are only two exceptions: the excursion line 218 and the rowing boat on the ferry line F24.

In the buses, the drivers use the fold-out ramps to ensure barrier-free entry into the vehicles. The BVG double-decker buses have space for two wheelchairs in the multifunctional area.

People with disabilities can get onto the tram via a lift or a folding ramp that is attached to the front first or second door. Large pictograms guide you to the right door, where the passenger attendant will help.

A special service in Berlin: Anyone who is traveling as a BVG or S-Bahn passenger and is disabled or is in a wheelchair can have the passenger service of the Berlin-Brandenburg Transport Association accompany them through the city free of charge. The service is valid Monday to Friday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. for the entire city of Berlin. The registration must be made at least one day before the planned trip.

It can be a bit more problematic if you are dependent on a wheelchair and a trip on the train is pending. In order to be able to board barrier-free, you have to reserve a boarding aid at the service counter one day in advance. However, not every train station has staff available to install the ramp at the desired time. This may lead to certain restrictions in terms of the possible travel times.

In addition, the entrances for wheelchair users are not always marked. Broken elevators are also an obstacle if they are the only access to the tracks.

Use public toilets

If you have to ease yourself during your tour through Berlin, you can use one of the numerous barrier-free public toilets. Wall AG's public toilets were awarded the “Berlin barrier-free” signet in 2008 for their equal user-friendliness.

Explore the metropolis without barriers

It is made as easy as possible for people with physical disabilities to find their way around Berlin. The free “accessBerlin” app contributes to this. It shows on a map along several routes where there are sights, restaurants, hotels and other categories with barrier-free access in Berlin. The categories can be selected using a filter function. This also includes public toilets, local transport and shopping opportunities. The app is always up to date and also shows, for example, when an elevator is broken. So it is always possible to explore the city without any obstacles, even with a handicap.

Barrier-free living

Whether it's an apartment or a house: Berlin offers good opportunities for people with a physical handicap to live barrier-free.

Find a wheelchair-accessible apartment

In many districts of Berlin there are apartments that are geared towards the special needs of people with physical disabilities and enable them to live a barrier-free life. Anyone looking for such an apartment can use the information service offered by the Mobidat project. The project has been campaigning for barrier-free living in Berlin for several decades.

The project has set up a special database of wheelchair-accessible apartments for people looking for accommodation who are in wheelchairs. This database enables those looking for apartments to find vacant apartments in Berlin's city districts and, if interested, to contact the apartment provider directly. This makes it easier for people with physical disabilities to find an apartment that suits their needs.

Build a barrier-free house

If you don't necessarily want to be in the middle of the city, but more in the more rural surroundings of Berlin, you don't need an apartment, but can alternatively build a house. Extra-wide doors and corridors as well as wheelchair-accessible rooms make the house barrier-free. A stair lift and ramps for the house and patio door allow easy access to all areas of the house.

It is even easier to build the house in the bungalow style and to do without stairs at all. As with other house types, this type of construction can be realized as a solid construction or optionally as a prefabricated house. The planning of such a bungalow can be implemented in a variety of ways and is therefore based entirely on individual wishes and needs. A big plus point of a bungalow is the absolute accessibility, which makes living comfortable even for people with a physical handicap.

In addition, there is the fact that it can be expanded and restructured at any time, as there are no load-bearing walls that have to be taken into account when renovating. So you can easily add rooms or restructure existing rooms and thus adapt the entire house to the current needs. With a basement, it is also possible to build a second level if necessary, which also ensures barrier-free access via a stairlift and other technical options.

Wheelchair accessible restaurants

There are numerous restaurants in Berlin that are designated as barrier-free. On websites such as the Mobidat homepage, there is a corresponding list that can be adapted with search criteria. This way you can see which restaurants are suitable for wheelchair users and which are also suitable for hearing and visually impaired people.

Other public buildings and facilities such as hotels, museums or cinemas as well as special parking spaces can also be selected in the search mask. In addition, you can rate the individual restaurants on the website so that other users can see how accessible a particular restaurant actually is for various physical impairments.

For example, the entrances or access to the toilets in some restaurants are only partially suitable for wheelchair users, but wheelchair users can move around completely independently in other restaurants. Some restaurants also offer orientation aids and access for visually impaired and blind people.

Barrier-free celebrations in Berlin

For over ten years it has been a legal requirement that all newly built clubs in Berlin must be barrier-free. However, not all clubs that are marked as barrier-free are actually designed in such a way that someone with a physical disability can move around there completely independently. Extra-wide doors and passages alone do not make barrier-free access. According to the Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities Act, a place is only considered completely barrier-free if the person concerned does not need any further help.

To get to the outside area of ​​a club, in some clubs in Berlin you have to push aside a curtain made of plastic strips. This is hardly manageable for wheelchair users alone. If you don't want to keep asking the staff for help, you have to bring someone with you. Because apart from obstacles such as a curtain, the staff always has to hand over the key first if someone wants to use the toilet for the disabled or the elevator. The elevator takes a wheelchair to the various dance floors of the clubs. However, some floors can only be reached by wheelchair via ramps, which someone first has to put on the steps.

Overall, many clubs are accessible to physically handicapped people, but sometimes only with help. Nevertheless, Berlin still has some catching up to do in this regard. On the Wheelmap website, wheelchair users have marked which clubs, according to their personal experience, are barrier-free. That’s just 33 out of 185 clubs, with half of the clubs having no known accessibility status to date.