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How We’re Improving Access in Downtown Seattle

Seattle is renowned for our arts, outdoors, and well, rain. Less well known is that we have some serious hills, rivaling San Francisco’s steeps, which pose an obstacle to accessibility for wheelchair users.

steep street1

Steep Street: Cherry St. between 4th and 5th avenues.

Manual wheelchair users face a steep climb, and power chairs can deplete their battery motoring uphill, so how can we make downtown accessible for everyone? Creative solutions, collaboration, and recognizing challenges.

steep street2

Steep Street: Madison St. between 4th and 5th avenues.

This summer, we’re bringing together transportation agencies, regional Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinators, accessibility advocates, and people with disabilities to discuss solutions and obstacles to make getting around easier for everyone.

Our first meeting focused on how to improve existing elevators and tunnels by improving signage, introducing shuttles, extending elevator hours, and building new accessibility features. The group also discussed how maps and apps could be used to share information, including tactile features for people with visual impairments, and make trip planning easier.

ADA map

Downtown Seattle Accessibility Map

The group will meet again in the near future, and in the meantime is working to improve existing maps of downtown accessibility features. The current map is available online here.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at