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Accessibility

Accessibility

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site offers a wide range of services for our patrons.

Drop Off/ Pick Up Zone
A drop off / pick up zone is located directly in front of the penitentiary entrance on the northside of Fairmount Avenue at 21st Street.

Parking
While we do not have our own parking lot, free on-street parallel parking is available, including two accessible parking spots located on Fairmount Avenue directly in front of the penitentiary’s entrance. In addition, there is a private paid parking lot that is reasonably priced located about one half block from the penitentiary’s entrance. Parking at the private lot generally costs $3.00 to $10.00 depending on the length of your stay. For exact pricing, please call Parkway Corporation at (267) 765-3665.

Entrance
The admissions area, which includes a small exhibit and the museum store, is only accessible by a set of three steps. This section of the penitentiary can easily be bypassed. In addition, a large selection of merchandise is available on our online store.

Personal Care Assistants
Personal Care Assistants are always provided complimentary admission when accompanying a paying visitor to the museum.

Service Animals
Guide dogs, service animals, or service animals in training are welcome. All other animals are prohibited.

Discounted Admission
Discounted admission is available by request for Museums for All, ACCESS Card, and SEPTA Key Reduced Fare card holders. The discount is $2 admission for up to four guests for daytime general admission. Visiting guests must present their valid ID at our Admissions desk upon arrival. Admission is to be paid by the guest not through their benefits card and is only available in person.

Discounted admission is also available by request for guests with a disability. The discount is $2 admission for the guest with the disability. Personal Care Assistants are always provided complimentary admission when accompanying a paying visitor to the museum.

These discounts are not valid for our annual haunted house fundraiser, Terror Behind the Walls.

Know Before You Go
Use our printed maps (available on site) and online tour to help find your way through the site.

Climate
Since most of the historic site is not climate controlled and has limited running water, we recommend checking the forecast on the day of your visit to prepare appropriately for the weather. This includes dressing for comfort and bringing or purchasing bottled water. Sandals, flip-flops, open-toed shoes and high heels are strongly discouraged. The following spaces are climate controlled:

Restrooms
A portable restroom trailer is available at the beginning of the tour route (near audio stop 1). Both the men’s and women's facility have baby changing stations. There are six steps to access these units. Please feel free to use the restroom that is most comfortable for you regardless of gender identity or expression.

There are also portajohns located at both the beginning and end of the tour route, at audio stops 1 and 10. Both locations feature an accessible portajohn.

Quiet and Rest Area
A recharge station with free WiFi, phone charging, and climate control is available to all visitors. The recharge station is wheelchair accessible. Benches throughout the site provide rest areas. If you need a quiet space or a place to rest, please talk to a staff member.

Language Materials
Printed translations of the audio tour are available in English, German, Italian, Chinese (Mandarin), SpanishFrench, Japanese, and Portuguese.

Maps of the main audio tour route are also available in English, German, Italian, Chinese (Mandarin), Spanish, French, Japanese, and Portuguese.

Guests With Limited Mobility
Many visitors with special needs visit Eastern State Penitentiary every year. That said, the penitentiary complex is not fully ADA compliant. The building is nearly 200 years old, and is a National Historic Landmark. Sections of it may never be fully accessible. The tour route is equipped with ADA compliant ramps and meets most ADA guidelines.

The following areas are not currently ADA accessible:

  • Museum Store. This area is only accessible by a set of three steps. You can visit our online store to purchase some of our most popular merchandise.
  • Prisoner Visitation Area. This area is only accessible by a set of three steps. Here, visitors today can view a brief video about Eastern State’s history. Similar content is also available on “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour.
  • Admissions Desk. This area is only accessible by a set of three steps. This section of the penitentiary can easily be bypassed; simply consult a member of our team.
  • Synagogue and Jewish Life Exhibit. There is a small step to access the synagogue and adjoining exhibit. This space had fallen into near total ruin during the penitentiary’s abandonment period. Today, it marks the first truly restored space in the historic site. You can learn more about the synagogue and Jewish life at Eastern State here.
  • Catwalk in Cellblock 7. There are 18 stairs to access the catwalk of Cellblock 7, offering visitors an elevated view of one of Eastern State’s original cellblocks. This section of the tour route can easily be bypassed.
  • Restored cells. There are a few stabilized cells located throughout the historic site (Cellblocks 1, 2, and 7) that visitors are invited to enter. These cells are only accessible by stepping over an eight-inch threshold.
  • Underground Punishment Cells. This space is only accessible by a steep concrete stairwell comprised of 9 steps. The underground punishment cells were used for solitary confinement of prisoners who violated the rules. Today, this space is included in our Hands-On History program.
  • Artist Installations. Some artist installations are located inside cells, which are only accessible by stepping over an eight-inch threshold. You can view current artist installations here.

Distance
The main audio route requires about 2,300 feet (0.44 miles) of walking.

Wheelchairs and Tri-Foot Cane Chairs
Wheelchairs and cane chairs are available to use free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Mobility aids are available upon arrival at the penitentiary entrance and at select locations along the tour route. The wheelchairs have footrests, can accommodate up to 500 pounds, and the seat dimensions are 22” by 18”.

Captioning
Our Accessibility Committee is working to add open captions and to provide transcriptions so that all videos and films onsite are accessible. All films in our Prisons Today exhibit have open captions.

Digital Equipment
The digital equipment used for "The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour includes special features for those with sight, hearing and mobility impairments. These special features include raised dots that indicate the number five on the keypad, color-coded and shaped control buttons, compatibility with hearing aid T-switch, lightweight design with comfortable carrying strap and telephone-style keypads with backlit buttons.

Sign Language Interpretation
Sign language interpreters are available by request. Please email Guest Support at [email protected] at least two weeks prior to your visit to request an interpreter.

Large Print Materials
Large print scripts of "The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour are available free of charge in Admissions.

Verbal Description Tours
Verbal descriptive interpreters are available by request. Please email Guest Support at [email protected] at least two weeks prior to your visit to request an interpreter.

We strive to make the penitentiary and our programs and exhibits accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities. We value your feedback and ideas. Please share your thoughts with our Accessibility Committee Chairperson:

Brett Bertolino
Vice President, Director of Operations
[email protected]
(215) 236-5111 x212

2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner