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Boston, most uncommon.

Boston, one of the oldest cities in the United States, existed over a century before we even thought of independence. The terms "historic" and "wheelchair accessible" do not usually go together, but this city's rich heritage and diverse neighborhoods make it worth the effort to explore.

THE FREEDOM TRAIL

Boston's role in the nation's history is easy to trace, thanks to the Boston National Historical Park. The complex is unique in that although the National Parks Service manages it, the federal government owns only three of its 16 sites. Better known as the Freedom Trail, it came about due to cooperative efforts of federal, state, city, and private organizations.

The 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, designed as a walking tour of Boston's eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history, is the best way to see the city. Start at the State House, in Boston Common, then follow the red line or brick through the streets and neighborhoods to Charlestown Navy Yard and the Bunker Hill Monument.

Here are some of the sites you will see along the way:

Massachusetts State House Built in 1795 on land that originally belonged to the John Hancock family, this building has an accessible ground-level entrance through the rear parking lot. For information on tours, call (617) 727-3676.

Old South Meeting House This church, constructed in 1729, was the largest building in colonial Boston and often served as a town-meeting site. All facilities are on one level; the entrance has one low step. Ring the bell to the left of the front door if you need assistance.

Old State House Constructed in 1713, this building was the seat of the colonial government. A wheelchair lift is available upon request. Only the first-floor level is accessible.

Paul Revere's House The silversmith's residence is the oldest house in Boston (1680). Wheelchair users may enter the first floor with assistance from staff, who can be alerted at the ticket booth. The second floor is accessible only by stairs. Wheelers pay half-price admission.

Old North Church This famous tourist attraction is the city's oldest standing church (1723). All facilities are at one level with a step at the entrance. (A steep ramp is available in the summer.) The adjacent gift shop has five steps.

Charlestown Navy Yard The Freedom Trail continues into the Navy Yard, which opened in 1800. The Yard is the proud home of the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Restorers completed work on the ship just in time for her 200th birthday on July 21, 1997. Wheelchair users may be able to visit the main deck -- with assistance -- depending on tide conditions. Call ahead to make arrangements, (617) 242-5670.

The U.S.S. Constitution Museum tells the story of the ship's years under sail. Public rest rooms are accessible.

TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS

Although driving is an option when you explore the city, its heavy traffic, construction, maze of one-way streets, and lack of parking are all good reasons to seek alternative solutions when sightseeing. If you are interested in renting a van, contact Accessible Vans of America, (888) 282-8267/northc@ accessiblevans.com.

Boston Cab, (617) 536-5010, and Checker Taxi, (617) 536-7000, can get you around town, too. They offer accessible service at standard rates.

The Metro Boston Transit Authority (MBTA) has an extensive commuter rail system consisting of 99 stations and 259 one-way miles. Currently, only the Orange and Red Lines are substantially accessible by ramps or elevators.

MBTA also runs bus routes throughout the city and extends farther out into the suburbs than the rail or trolley systems. Many, but not all, routes have buses with lifts and tie-downs.

Contact: MBTA at 7 Chauncy Street, Boston, MA 02111. (617) 222-3200 (general info)/222-5146 (TTY)/722-5415 (TTY)/722-5123 (access guide).

Minute Man Tours offers an 80-minute trolley ride through much of the Freedom Trail and the Boston neighborhoods. You can find this transportation at the Boston Tea Party ship or the Aquarium. This is a great way to get your bearings and to see some of the areas that have unfriendly terrain for wheelers. All trolleys are accessible. (617) 876-5539.

ACCESSIBLE HOTELS

The Eliot Hotel, in Boston's Back Bay, has 91 rooms, valet parking, and an accessible entrance on the south side on Massachusetts. The facility has four accessible two-room suites: smoking or nonsmoking, queen-size beds on platforms, and sleeper sofas. The suites have wide doors, low peepholes, and closet rods. Ample room next to the bed makes maneuvering easy. Bathrooms have roll-in showers, shower seats, and grab bars. Sinks are accessible; raised toilets have grab bars.

Contact: Eliot Hotel, 370 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215. (800) 443-5468/HotelEliot@aol.com.

The Holiday Inn Select Boston Government Center enjoys one of the city's premier locations. Situated at the foot of historic Beacon Hill, the facility is the closest hotel to the Fleet Center Oust three blocks) and five blocks from Faneuil Hall Market.

The hotel has designated parking. Twelve accessible rooms have king-size beds on platforms, wide doors, and low peepholes. Bathrooms have wide doors. Some have roll-in showers, and the rest have tub/shower combinations. All have shower benches and grab bars. Sinks are accessible; toilets are raised and have grab bars.

Contact: Holiday Inn Select Boston, 5 Blossom, Boston, MA 02116. (617) 742-7630.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carol Randall founded Access-Able Travel Source, LLC, in 1995 to help provide information about accessibility to travelers with disabilities. Contact her at Access-Able Travel Source, LLC, P.O. Box 1796, Wheat Ridge, CO 80034. (303) 232-2979/239-8486 (fax)/www.accessable.com /carol@access-able.com.
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Title Annotation:wheelchair accessibility
Author:Randall, Carol
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Aug 1, 1997
Words:927
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