Sidewalks in Providence are “okay” and generally accessible to wheelchairs and pedestrians using walkers. In some areas of the city, sidewalks may be broken or cracked, but they generally remain passable. Curb cuts are available at nearly all intersections within the city limits.
Sidewalk accessibility in Providence has two pitfalls, neither of which can be corrected. The first is the city’s hilly landscape. Several hills within the city can make rolling difficult – such as alongside the State House and up to Federal Hill. Powered wheelchairs will handle the climb without a problem, but manual wheelchair users will probably require assistance. The accessible city bus allows wheelchair users and slow walkers the opportunity to bypass the hills — hop on a bus at the bottom of the hill and hop off once you have reached the summit. The central downtown area is relatively flat.
Winter weather is also a factor the city has no control over. During winter snowstorms and in the days following such storms, streets in most New England cities are difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. This is true in Providence as well. The first priority for a city is always to clear streets. Sidewalks are secondary. While the city does not entirely abandon its responsibility to clear sidewalks, it is done slowly and should be assigned higher priority. Clearing snow from sidewalks is increasingly difficult during an ongoing winter weather event that is quite common in the Northeast. Wheelchair travelers may prefer to visit Providence in the summer or fall.
I have personally wheeled the city in my power wheelchair and found the situation to be manageable. I have visited Providence during each weather season, including several times in winter, and was still able to get around by using a combination of wheelchair rolling, city bus and taxi. Each difficulty reported here can be overcome, regardless of the season you choose to visit.