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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, 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.

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

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.

Discounted/Free Admission
Discounted admission is available by request for Museums for All, ACCESS Card, and SEPTA Key Reduced Fare card holders. Card holders will be granted $2 admission for up to four guests for daytime historic tours. Visiting guests must present their valid ID upon arrival.

Upon request, visitors with a disability will receive $2 admission for daytime historic tours. 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 for FREE, thanks to STAMP, a city-wide initiative led by Art-Reach. For more information, visit www.art-reach.org/STAMP.

These discounts are not valid for special events like Night Tours or Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary.

Know Before You Go
Use our virtual maps to help find your way through the site. Click here for a daytime tour map. 

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 and our museum store. Inside the cellblocks the floors are stone. Both inside and outside, terrain can occasionally be uneven. 

Restrooms
A three-stall portable restroom trailer with running water is available at the beginning of the tour route (near audio stop 1). One stall 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.

Language Materials
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:

  • 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”.

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

On the last Sunday of every month at 10:00 am, we offer an ASL Guide-Led Tour and Discussion. 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.*

*Please Note: 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 the monthly ASL Guide-Led Tour and Discussion by emailing [email protected] in advance of their visit.

In addition, 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