If there is one thing that takes away from Dubai’s overall rating for wheelchair accessibility, it is the sidewalks. Although many areas of the city have walkways that are well cared for, the “curb cut revolution” hasn’t touched every sector. I enjoyed rolling around Dubai in my wheelchair, but I did face some difficulty.
Pictured above is an example of an ideal sidewalk/crosswalk in Dubai. It is well marked and is outfitted with pedestrian signals. Curb cuts exist on either side, and in the median between lanes of the roadway. But, just a few blocks away from this intersection near the Business Bay Metro Station, there are sidewalks in significant disrepair and others without curb cuts at all.
If you’re a power wheelchair user like me, you will not be able to hop the curbs that lack ramps. You’ll have to go around them, which means operating your wheelchair in an active roadway. It might raise your heart rate a bit, but it’s definitely not as scary as wheeling in the streets of Bangkok (See my YouTube video). In Dubai, I was typically forced to roll in the street for no more than one to two blocks at a time. Drivers were courteous and gave me the right of way. But, it can still be dangerous, and is certainly a risk.
Curb cuts are more frequently available near major attractions and shopping malls. You’ll face more accessibility challenges in the Deira Creek area of the city, which is the center of “old Dubai.” When possible, ride public transportation between sights, as this will allow you to bypass issues with the sidewalks.
Many sidewalks have fallen into disrepair or been temporarily closed as a result of construction. The city is growing rapidly, and new skyscrapers are going up on almost every corner. Here is a video look at a route I took, through a construction zone, to reach the Burj Khalifa. Next time, I’ll take the public transportation system, and recommend you do the same. :p
If you have any specific questions, post them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer.