The first time I became aware of the needs of handicap access I was pushing a baby stroller and noticed uneven sidewalks and looming staircases. However, a few years later I was pushing a 200-pound man in a wheelchair and those issues became major obstacles and my eyes were fully opened.
We are fortunate in the U.S. to have the ADA laws that require accessibility for the public, but even here we have incomplete attention to the details. Last summer I was in New Jersey with some friends and we decided to attend a Blues and Wine festival. As we drove up the parking attendant noticed the handicap hangtag and routed us to a parking lot where a handicap van was waiting to drive us to the entrance. That was great but that was as far as their attention went. They dropped us off about 300 yards from the entrance and access was over uneven grass. There was a paved roadway right to the entrance but they had it blocked. It was apparent to me that none of the organizers of the event had ever had the experience.
LESSON LEARNED: Check the website for the event or call ahead and check accessibility.
Planning a vacation for accessibility takes more diligent research and verification by phone or email of places planned to visit and stay. Many major tourist sites have sections on their website where they provide access information. For example, here is the link to the information provided by Disney World.
But be diligent in your research. I recently found a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem that touted itself as “Handicap Accessible” but scattered throughout the description of the tour is “there are steps and the handicapped person needs a strong helper.” This is not, I feel, handicap accessible.
LESSON LEARNED: Take the responsibility to plan your trip fully for all members of your party. Take your time and research fully.
Cruising, if the ship and ports visited are prepared to welcome you, can be an easy way to explore. Although not the only cruise line that considers access, Royal Caribbean Cruises takes pride in its provisions. You can read about how they have access on board and help provide accessible shore excursions. They are not the only cruise with attention to accessibility, so find where you want to go and then do the research on the ships available and attitude of the service provided.
LESSON LEARNED: An organization that acknowledges accommodation for accessibility will be able to help with issues.
People who travel by air need to inform the airline at the time of reservation about any accessibility issue. I ordered an electric cart to help transfer between gates, for example. However, things did not go smoothly and the cart was gone by the time the flight attendant let us egress the plane. We missed our connecting flight and while the airline gave us vouchers for a meal and got us on the next flight, the stress was ridiculous, especially since I had communicated our needs early and often. There is a government agency who wants to know about issues like this, especially while they are happening. Sometimes we still have to fight, but at least in the U.S, we have the law on our side.
LESSON LEARNED: Use all the resources I can to achieve my goal.
Of course, there are travel operators who will sell you tours. This one is one of many that provides all kinds of travel information. Remember to carefully consider if a packaged tour is right for you. A custom trip planned for ALL the aspects of your life can be planned. Call me.
LESSON LEARNED: I am more than my physical accessibility issues! I have lots of interests and I want a trip that will be interesting and FUN!!!