Chicago in a wheelchair : 3 Days in the Windy City

In July 2018, we had the chance to spend three days in Chicago before attending the annual LGMD2I conference in Iowa City. Three days under the hot summer sun were enough to get a great first glimpse of the city and its accessibility. Let me share my experiences with you.


Some basic facts

The City of Chicago in Illinois lies on Lake Michigan, one of the five great lakes of North America. In 2017 Chicago was the second most visited city after New York. Two airports serve the city: Midway Airport (MDW) and O’Hare International Airport (ORD).


Why the ‘Windy City’

Why do people actually call it ‘The Windy City?’ It’s likely because of the breezy wind from Lake Michigan. However, there are controversial opinions about the nickname’s origins. The web mentions several possibilities like the rivalry with Cincinnati or the weather, the World’s Fair, or politics. So far, there is yet to be a final answer to this question.


The Chicago Style Pizza

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Giordano's | Little Miss Turtle

Deep Dish Pizza at Giordano’s

Chicago is also well-known for its food, the Chicago Deep Dish Pizza or Chicago Style Pizza. As a European and authentic Italian pizza addict, I had to taste that dish! Two deep-dish pizza chains were recommended to us: Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s. We decided to try Giordano’s. Admittedly, this is very personal, but I preferred something other than this type of pizza.




Accessible L-Train from Chicago O’Hare Airport to Downtown Chicago

The wheelchair-accessible CTA Blue Line Train connects O’Hare Airport to the city center for only 5 USD. A Single-Ride Ventra ticket is good for up to three rides within two hours of use, which means you can transfer at no extra cost. However, there is an about 10 cm (3.9 inches) step between the platform and the train. The station staff provides a mobile ramp for wheelchair users upon request. So, the Blue Line Train definitely is a convenient and affordable way to get to downtown Chicago. Also, the ride only takes about 45 min.


Step CTA Blue Line O'Hare Station | Little Miss Turtle

Small step between the platform and CTA Blue Line Train at O’Hare Station


Accessibility of Chicago’s L-Train Metro System

Unfortunately, not all train stations of the L-Train metro system are accessible. Therefore I recommend visiting CTA’s official website before departure. Moreover, also remember to check the elevator status in advance. Below you will see a list of accessible L-Train Metro Stations.


Jackson Station Chicago | Little Miss Turtle

Wheelchair-accessible Jackson Station (transfer between Blue and Red Line)


List of wheelchair-accessible CTA L-train stations on the Chicago Downtown Loop

Blue Line 



Brown Line



Harold Washington Library


Orange Line



Harold Washington Library


takes you also to Midway Airport

Red Line



Purple Line

Merchandise Mart



Harold Washington Library


Green Line



Pink Line



Harold Washington Library



Wheelchair-accessible taxi in Chicago

Another option is to take a wheelchair-accessible taxi. You can either go to the taxi counter at the airport or book an accessible taxi via the Curb Taxi App. You can also call Open Taxis, Chicago’s centralized wheelchair-accessible taxi dispatch (toll-free number 1-855-928-1010) or download their app.


Chicago City Taxi | Little Miss Turtle

Wheelchair-accessible Chicago City Taxi


Wheelchair-accessible things to do in Chicago

Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail was close to our hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood, so we decided to walk to the Navy Pier. The wheelchair-accessible trail takes you along the shore of Lake Michigan to Ohio Street Beach and the Shed Aquarium.



Milton Lee Olive Park

We also stopped at Milton Lee Olive Park, where you can see Chicago’s skyline beautifully. The black skyscraper on the right is the former John Hancock Center. It is now called 875 North Michigan Avenue and is home to the observatory 360 Chicago.


Chicago Skyline | Little Miss Turtle

The Skyline seen from Milton Lee Olive Park

Accessible 360 Chicago Observation Deck

We visited the accessible observation deck 360 Chicago, in the former Hancock Building, during our second stay in August 2019. A high-speed elevator takes you up to the 94th floor, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of Chicago. Better not be afraid of heights, though!



Navy Pier

The Navy Pier is an entertainment area and one of the city’s landmarks. We enjoyed strolling along the accessible pier. There are many shops, restaurants, attractions like the Navy Pier Wheel and the indoor Crystal Botanical Gardens, as well as other cultural and fun things to do.
Good to know: There are two accessible family restrooms beside McDonald’s inside the food hall!



Wheelchair-accessible Chicago Riverwalk

We also explored the accessible Chicago Riverwalk waterfront. The way from Navy Pier to the Riverwalk entry is not that long (about 20 min.). It leads across the Lake Shore Drive Bridge. You get stunning views of Chicago’s architecture from the Riverwalk, not to mention the impressive DuSable Bridge with the Trump Tower right behind it. Access ramps are clearly indicated and very easy to find.



Millennium Park

Another great place certainly not to miss is Millenium Park with its famous Cloud Gate. Millennium Park is part of Grant Park, a large urban park in the Loop district. Millennium Park is fully wheelchair-accessible and there are several accessible restrooms.


Cloud Gate inside Millenium Park | Little Miss Turtle

Cloud Gate inside Millenium Park



To sum up, Chicago’s general wheelchair accessibility is great, besides the fact that the L-Train system is not fully accessible. As a wheelchair user, I enjoyed my time in the Windy City and will surely be back soon with some more time.


Have you been to Chicago yet?
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