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Accessibility

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site offers a wide range of services and accomodations for our visitors.

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, there is a parking lot neighboring us at 22nd St & Fairmount Ave. Parking costs vary. For exact pricing, please call Parkway Corporation at (267) 765-3665.

Additionally, you can find parallel parking bordering the penitentiary, including two accessible parking spots located on Fairmount Avenue directly in front of the penitentiary’s entrance.

Eastern State is so large that it occupies one full city block. Bordering Eastern State on the west (to the left if you are facing the entrance) is 22nd Street. On the Eastern State side of 22nd Street, parallel parking is free and unlimited. The same is true of Brown Street, which borders our back wall. Again, parking is free and unlimited only on the Eastern State side of the street. If you choose to park anywhere else in the neighborhood, just exercise caution and read all signs.

Eastern State Penitentiary is also accessible by public transit. Visit our Directions and Parking page for information about alternate transportation options.

Entrance
The admissions area is only accessible by a set of three steps. This section of the penitentiary can easily be bypassed.

Service Animals
Service animals and service animals in training are welcome at Eastern State. Emotional support animals, pets, or any other animals are not permitted. The ADA defines service animals as dogs that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals under the ADA.

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

Discounted/Free Admission
Discounted admission is available by request for Museums for All, ACCESS Card, and SEPTA Key REDUCED FARE card holders. These card holders will be granted $2 admission for up to four guests for daytime historic tours or Night Tours: Summer Twilight. Visiting guests must present their valid ID upon arrival. Offer not valid for Halloween Nights.

Upon request, visitors with a disability will receive $2 admission for daytime historic tours or Night Tours: Summer Twilight. Offer not valid for Halloween Nights. Paid Personal Care Assistants are always provided complimentary admission when accompanying a visitor with a disability.

Philadelphia high school students may use their student ID to gain entrance to Eastern State during daytime tour hours for FREE, thanks to STAMP, a city-wide initiative led by Art-Reach. Offer not valid for Night Tours or Halloween Nights. For more information, visit www.art-reach.org/STAMP.

Know Before You Go
Plan ahead by reviewing our site map before your visit. This accessibility map highlights accessible paths throughout the penitentiary and indicates the locations of any stairs/steps, ADA ramps, outdoor terrain, benches, and accessible street parking spots.

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:


Terrain/Walking Surfaces
Eastern State Penitentiary has both indoor and outdoor spaces for guests to explore. The outdoor spaces are mostly poured concrete, with occasional gravel areas. Additionally, there is a baseball field with outdoor terrain, mostly grass. There is an accessible boardwalk on top of the outdoor terrain which allows access to our exhibit Prisons Today. Inside the cellblocks the floors are stone. Both inside and outside, terrain can occasionally be uneven. 

Restrooms
Restrooms include a three-stall restroom trailer with flush toilets and running water (located near the start of your tour) and two port-a-potties (located near The Big Graph at the end of the main tour route). One stall in each area is ADA accessible. 

Quiet and Rest Area
A recharge room with free WiFi, phone charging, and climate control is available to all visitors. The recharge room 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.

Audio Guides
Our audio guide units come equipped with a set of over-ear headphones and are fully sanitized between uses. The auxiliary (aux) port on the audio guide units is not standard and will likely not be compatible with other wired earbuds or headphones. If using the headphones we provide is uncomfortable or impossible for you, you can find the audio files for our first ten tour stops as well as written tour transcripts here on our website.

The volume on all audio guide units may be raised or lowered within a set volume range. People who are hard of hearing or who experience sensitivity to sound may wish to adjust the volume level to better suit their needs. The up and down volume buttons are located on the left side of every device.

Language Materials
Translations of the audio tour are available in English, German, Italian, Chinese (Mandarin), SpanishFrench, Japanese, and Portuguese. Need another language that is not listed above? Click here to access a webpage with the full text of Eastern State's audio tour, and use your browser's translation feature to translate it from English to other languages.

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

Visitors With Mobility Aids
Many visitors who use mobility aids, including both manual and power wheelchairs, 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.

This accessibility map highlights accessible paths throughout the penitentiary and indicates the locations of any stairs/steps, ADA ramps, outdoor terrain, benches, and accessible street parking spots.

The following areas are not currently ADA accessible:

  • Prisoner Visitation Area. [Temporarily Closed] 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. [Temporarily Closed] This space is only accessible by a steep concrete stairwell comprised of 9 steps. The height clearance of this stairwell is roughly 5'5". 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”.

Sign Language Interpretation
Once a month, we offer an ASL Guide-Led Tour and Discussion. Upcoming dates and times are as follows: February 18, 2024 at 10:30 am, March 23, 2024 at 10:30 am. More dates to be announced soon!

An Eastern State educator leads this 75-minute tour in partnership with an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter from Hands UP Productions. This program includes both ASL and voice interpretation. Visitors from the D/deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing communities are welcome to attend. The ASL Guide-Led Tour and Discussion is included with standard admission, subject to availability. Due to limited capacity, the best way to secure your spot is to purchase timed tickets online in advance.**

**D/deaf and hard of hearing visitors who wish to utilize our accessible, discounted admission programs (e.g. ACCESS Card, Museums for All, etc.), which must be redeemed on site, may reserve a spot on an ASL Guide-Led Tour and Discussion by emailing [email protected] in advance of their visit.

In addition, American Sign Language interpreters are available by request. Please email Guest Support at [email protected] at least four weeks prior to your visit to request an interpreter.

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.

Assistive Listening Systems
Induction / hearing loops that transmit sound directly to visitors with T-coil compatible hearing aids and cochlear implants are installed in admissions and the museum store.

Sensory Bags
Sensory bags are available to use free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Ask a staff member at the penitentiary entrance. The bags contain noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, a glitter jar, and other fidget toys.

Sensory Friendly Touch Tours
Private, guide-led sensory-friendly touch tours are available by request for people who are blind, who have low vision, or who have sensory sensitivity needs. These small group tours are typically scheduled for 9:00 am before the historic site opens to the public. The educator leading the tour uses elements of verbal description, guided touch, and sighted guide techniques. In addition, sensory backpacks are made available. Please email Guest Support at [email protected] at least four weeks prior to your preferred date to schedule.

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

We strive to make the penitentiary and our site, programs, and exhibits accessible to all visitors. We value your feedback and ideas. Please share your thoughts with us.

Shelly Sickbert
Director of Operations and Visitor Services
[email protected]
(215) 236-5111 x226

2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner