As a relatively new city with lots of fresh concrete, Portland’s infrastructure is more wheelchair-accessible than the average American city. Visitors will find curb cuts throughout downtown and enjoy well-maintained accessibility features built into Portland’s public transportation. The city’s free-spirited attitude also extends to a general acceptance of neurodiversity. Of course, it’s not always sunshine and roses in the sometimes rainy City of Roses, but this guide will go a long way to getting you a smooth and inclusive experience.
Know Before You Go
Accessible Transportation in Portland
Sidewalks in downtown Portland and the central city almost always have curb cuts. Upgraded in 2022, SW Naito Parkway along the Willamette River waterfront offers smooth grades and wide paths for wheelchair users.
City parking, including on streets and at the Oregon Zoo, is free for those with the light blue or “W” placards for wheelchair users. Parking is not free for other placards, so make sure to plug your meter or download the easy-to-use Parking Kitty app.
Accessible Public Transportation
Portland’s public transportation system, TriMet, is one of the nation’s best for accessibility, especially along the MAX light rail lines. The Portland Streetcar, which runs in three downtown loops, is also accessible. Ride-share services like Uber and Lyft are required to have wheelchair-accessible vehicles, which you can request through an “Access” mode in their apps.
Flying in or out of Portland? Portland International Airport has a well-deserved reputation for being welcoming and accessible. Their extensive list of accommodations includes “hidden disability” sunflower lanyards, a 24-7 sensory room near gate D10, and both pre- and post-security service animal relief areas.
Adaptive Bike Rentals
Portland’s bike-share program Biketown has partnered with local bike rental company Kerr Bikes to create Adaptive Biketown, a program dedicated to increasing access to bicycles for those with disabilities. Rental options include hand-powered bikes, foot-powered bikes and multi-user bikes. The program also offers accessory rentals like calf support pedals, special grips and self-balancing pedals.
Renting a bike is as simple as visiting the Adaptive Biketown website, selecting your bicycle or accessory and entering the date and time for your rental. Bicycles can then be picked up at Kerr Bikes in Southeast Portland from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. (If you need to rent a bike outside of those hours, special requests are considered.)
Introduced in 2016, Portland’s bike-share program brings 1,000 smart bicycles to the central city.
Portland loves bikes, but it's still important to be armed with knowledge and cycle safely.
With bike lanes and paths throughout the city, Portland has great places to ride for cyclists of all abilities.
Accessible Attractions in Portland
Central City Attractions
Portland Art Museum
The Portland Art Museum has a wheelchair-accessible entrance at SW Park and 10th Avenue that opens a world of accommodations. The museum employs a dedicated Head of Accessibility, who can arrange spoken-word or ASL-interpreted tours upon request. The museum also offers free admission to aides.
Oregon Historical Society
Across the beautiful Park Blocks from the art museum is the Oregon Historical Society museum. A ramp along Southwest Park Avenue leads to the accessible building. A wheelchair is available to borrow at the front desk, and audio descriptions and hearing devices are also available.
Oregon Convention Center
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, affectionately known as OMSI (“om-zee”), offers smooth floors, mostly accessible exhibits, and interactive devices. One of their elevators to the second floor is glass with beautiful views of the river but another nearby elevator nearby, on the opposite wall, is usually much less crowded. The exception to OMSI’s wheelchair accessibility is the USS Blueback submarine, which has many stairs and narrow passages and is not accessible. The Empirical Theater, OMSI’s extra-large movie screen, and the planetarium have wheelchair spots available. Parking is $5 for all patrons, so make sure to remember your spot number on the way in. Learn more at omsi.edu/accessibility.
Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s City of Books is a must-see in this book-loving city. The warren of departments — comprising multiple buildings covering an entire city block — can make for a confusing journey. Fortunately, Powell’s employees are always quick to offer a helping hand. A spacious central elevator will drop you off on any floor. The main marquee entrance at West Burnside at 10th Avenue is accessible, while the doors at Northwest 11th and Couch lead to a large interior ramp into the Orange Room. There are also two ADA parking spaces on the street just outside the Orange Room entrance.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
Portland Saturday Market
The Portland Saturday Market has something for everyone. The food, fun and crafts showcase the city’s creative spirit. Located in Old Town Chinatown, along the waterfront below the Burnside Bridge, it is easily accessible by public transportation.
Accessible Attractions in Portland’s West Hills
Historic Pittock Mansion has a designated accessible entrance and elevator. While the building’s vintage 1914 elevator can’t accommodate motor scooters or larger wheelchairs, two standard-size wheelchairs are available for visitors who can transfer into them available on a first-come-first-served basis. The Gate Lodge is not wheelchair accessible.
Washington Park is home to a host of classic Portland attractions. All restrooms in the park are accessible. View accessibility guides at the links below:
Washington Park is also home to the Oregon Zoo. Recent upgrades improved wheelchair accessibility, but watch for crowds to avoid sensory overload. Our best advice? Get there right when it opens and hightail it to the elephants and lions at the bottom of the hill. The rest of your visit carries you uphill, and you’ll be back at the exit when you’re ready to leave. The zoo offers wheelchair and electric scooter rentals.
The oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States, the Portland International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park features more than 10,000 roses, great views of the skyline and the Cascades.
A haven of meticulously maintained, tranquil beauty, proclaimed one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, the Portland Japanese Garden offers meandering streams, intimate walkways and an unsurpassed view of Mount Hood.
Located near downtown Portland in Washington Park, the Oregon Zoo is home to more than 2,600 animals.
Accessible Performing Arts in Portland
Portland’5 Centers for the Arts has wheelchair-accessible entrances and restrooms in all their performing arts halls, which include the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and Keller Auditorium. You can filter their calendar to show tickets for ASL-interpreted events; or request sign-language interpretation with 48 hours’ notice. At each venue’s coat check, you can borrow a weighted lap pad or a sensory bag with headphones, fidgets and other items.
Portland Center Stage offers open captions, audio descriptions and sign-interpreted performances for most productions. Both of its theaters are wheelchair- and walker-accessible. Visit their website to see accessibility services and a schedule of accessible performances.
Portland is home to a worldwide initiative to build playgrounds for all. Visit the original Harper’s Playground at Arbor Lodge Park in North Portland. Southwest Portland’s Gabriel Park opened an accessible playground in the spring of 2022.
Accessible Trails in and Near Portland
The regional government in the Portland metro area has enhanced a number of natural areas to cater to accessibility needs. Many of these, like the Banks-Vernonia Trail and the centrally located Hoyt Arboretum, are detailed in our article on accessible trails.
A collection of accessible soft hikes perfect for leisurely strolls, low-impact exercise and lots of meandering dilly-dallying.
Portland and the Columbia River Gorge are filled with hiking opportunities for everybody, many of which have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible trails.
Accessibility at Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls gets 2 million visitors annually, and one of them could be you. Keep in mind those crowds for sensory sensitivities and go during off-hours. Parking is a bit of a walk from the falls and through a tunnel under the highway, which can be loud. The trail is ramped up to a viewpoint below the bridge. Getting all the way to the iconic bridge requires traversing two sets of stairs, but the trail is paved beyond that.
More Accessible Portland Resources
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Lillouie Barrios and his husband Victor Covarrubias opened Pah!, a deaf-, queer- and Latinx-owned restaurant, in Southeast Portland’s Lents neighborhood in 2022. Located in the food court at Zoiglhaus Brewing Company, Pah! offers customers the option of ordering in American Sign Language (ASL) or via voice transcription.
CymaSpace is a nonprofit, deaf-owned technology hub in Portland. Their mission is to make arts, media and culture accessible and inclusive to the deaf community.
Autism and Sensory Needs
Accessible Travel Around Oregon
Oregon State Parks has an accessibility initiative, including paved trails and accessible camping spots.
Oregon Coast Accessibility
At no cost, beach wheelchairs are available to borrow in several Oregon towns. Visit the links below for details, and be sure to reserve in advance.
- Cannon Beach wheelchair program
- Seaside beach access for everyone
- Manzanita beach wheelchairs
- Lincoln City beach wheelchair
Beaches With Mobility Mats
Some Oregon beaches provide mats to create temporary pathways with rigid surfaces so people who use mobility devices can more easily access the beach.
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