Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wildflower center has an accessible trail

One trail at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas is accessible for wheelchair users. That trail also happens to the center's longest, at 1.25 miles. (Photo of bluebonnet by Michael Dana, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

Letter writer clashes with seniors on bus

Older folks and people with disabilities are often seen as allies when it comes to getting more accessible facilities. But maybe not in this person's neck of the woods.

Queensland train system gets $29 million upgrade

The Queensland, The Netherlands government is spending big bucks -- $29 million -- to improve accessibility on Citytrain cars and stations.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Are scooters for disabled travelers only?

Is it wrong for people who otherwise are able bodied to rent an electric wheelchair just to cut down on walking? That seems to be the question raised by this Associated Press story about just that trend developing in Vegas. The mobility rental company people quoted in the story I think have the ultimate answer. You can't discriminate against anyone. If someone wants to rent such a device to cut down on their walking, they should be able to. Seems lazy to me, but not unethical. I just hope there's enough of the scooters available to those who really require them and would have limited or no mobility without them. What do you think? (Photo of Las Vegas strip by Markus A. Jegerlehner via

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Virgin Blue sued over carer policy

Virgin Blue is back in the news for its policy of requiring that some disabled passengers travel with a care taker. Two Australians are suing over the policy. The airline says it is a matter of safety. Robin Banks, of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, who is assisting the plaintiffs disagrees. "We say, you know, it's no less a safety issue for anybody who flies," Banks said. "You know, in an emergency, you don't know who's going to end up incapable of following instructions, and you know, hopefully nobody will, but our clients are no different from any other person who's flying - they may need assistance and they may not." (Photo by Nashir Khan via

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Web hotel booking service sued for discrimination

Is an accessible hotel room an option to you, like say a larger bed? If accessibility is a necessity for your travels, you might want to follow a lawsuit that has been filed against The plaintiffs in the case, two dancers with disabilities, contend ought to guarantee that a reserved room will be accessible when requested, and that to not do so is discrimination. Currently, an accessible room is simply treated as an optional amenity. The point of the suit sounds reasonable. I typically don't use a third party service like when making reservations, preferring instead to book directly with hotel companies themselves. To my experience, accessibility is treated as an option by most everyone. In fact, I find it fairly difficult to book an accessible room that will also accommodate the rest of our family of five. Just because of the nature of my son's disability and his size right now, we can work around this for now. But I often think that just getting a proper room booked for someone who doesn't have that option must be a pain.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Air travel for the elderly, disabled examined

Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne has written a thorough piece on the state of air travel for older folks and those with disabilities, including some recommendations for the future. A couple of his key observations:
-- "Disabled persons are now recognised as agents of their own destiny and not objects of care and are considered as being equally involved in the decision making process with regard to their general welfare. The welfare of the disabled air passenger should therefore be necessarily associated with the recognition and dignity that has now been accorded to him."
-- "Guidelines need to be formulated in regard to the acceptance by the airline of elderly and disabled passengers who claim that they are self-reliant and do not therefore need an escort for the duration of their air travel."
The whole article is here. (Photo by Richard Van Binsbergen via

Monday, May 21, 2007

Alcatraz gets elevator

The National Park Service has spent $3.5 million on a renovation of the infamous former prison on Alcatraz Island. Included was an elevator to improve accessibility for visitors with disabilities. (Photo of Alcatraz cell block by George Zimzores via

Victoria improving accessibility

Victoria, Canada is working to improve accessibility there before it hosts the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. "We thought this was a tremendous opportunity to tell the disabled community worldwide, but especially North America, that we're accessible and we would like you to come and visit," said Claude Richmond, B.C.'s minister of employment and income assistance. Will it be worth the effort? "I'm told that if we got 10 percent of the disabled tourism market from the U.S., that's worth $2 billion," minister Richmond said. Sounds worth it to me. (Photo by Keith Paine via

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Special needs tourism focus of Middle East gathering

They're talking about the traveler with disabilities at the Third International Tourism Development Forum for People with Special Needs in the Middle East this week. Lots of familiar themes are being sounded like:
-- People with disabilities are an important and growing segment.
-- Businesses that ignore this are passing on a large potential customer base.
-- Travelers with disabilities often spend more than the average traveler.
This report on the forum also lists several initiatives going on in the Middle East to attract travelers with disabilities:
-- Twenty check-in counters suited to travelers with disabilities are being installed at Dubai International Airport. Adding car parking for disabled travelers and training for staff is also underway there.
-- "The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in Dubai has made it mandatory for five-star hotels, more than 42 of the total 306 hotels operating in the Emirate, to customize about 2 percent of their rooms for people with special needs.
-- "Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, has recently provided the Dubai Airport with 10 mini-vans to be used as metered taxis for tourists with special needs and their family members."
Summing up the need for the fourm, HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) and chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airlines and Group said: “From the humanitarian viewpoint, the existence of more than 30 million individuals with special needs in the Middle East necessitates for the concerned parties, namely airports, airlines, hotels, transport and tourist agencies and others, to develop special services. It calls for the setting up of new facilities that cater to special needs people to enable them to feel part of the society."
Every region should have one of these forums!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New accessible train operating in Tuscany

"The Vivalto, a high capacity double-decker train, is now operating in Tuscany on the Florence-Prato-Viareggio line," says this press release. The train's carriages have low step-on platforms, areas with a "wheelchair securing hitch" and accessible toilet facilities. (Photo by Daniel T. Yara via

Travel writer peeved about poor accessibility

Think the needs of those with physical disabilities go largely unnoticed by the mainstream travel press? Then you might want to read this review of a resort in Nicaragua by Chicago Tribune staffer Jason George. Toward the end of his otherwise glowing review of the Pelican Eyes Resort in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua he writes: "The biggest peeve is that physically disabled travelers could have a very hard time getting around the property given its steep incline. Chris Berry, the hotel's owner, said some accommodations could be made, but calling ahead is highly recommended."
Thanks for caring about accessibility, Jason, even to the extent of getting peeved when it's inadequate!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Beach House at Half Moon Bay has accessible suites

The Beach House at Half Moon Bay is billed in this review as a "Cape Cod-style inn (that) offers an array of ocean-view rooms and beautiful grounds to take in the scenery." It also has three accessible suite among its 54 units.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rains reports on confidence building public trans Web resource

It can often be heard saying that people with disabilities ought to take advantage of the advances in public transportation accessibility. This is for no other reason than if we expect improvement to continue to be made, we need to show they will be used. Scott Rains at Rolling Rains Report has uncovered a campaign aimed at building the confidence of young people -- including those with disabilities -- to use public transportation in the UK. Visit and you'll feel more confident too. (Photo by Scott Liddell via

Manchester (UK) Airport to upgrade accessibility

Manchester Airport in the UK has announced the purchase of new accessibility equipment -- and perhaps even more important -- training for those working there on "passengers with restricted movement." Said Claire Longden, the airport's manager of ground services: "The decision to implement the service early gives us a great opportunity to improve the existing service in order to meet our customers' expectations for the future and to deliver an even higher quality service."
Yes improving accessibility is always about the future. (photo via

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Get Around Guide launches online store

Get Around Guide has launched an online store. Featured will be books and info related to travel by people with disabilities as well other items that seem like they'd be handy for travel. We're always browsing for new additions, so check back for updates now and then. The link is up at the top of the sidebar. Thanks! (Photo by Michelle Kwajafa via

Friday, May 04, 2007

Student traveler blasts the aisle chair

Stacy Ellingen, a student at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (yeah Wisconsin! Yeah Warhawks!) has traveled to 40 of the 50 states, Canada and Mexico. She is a wheelchair user and takes the airlines to task in this column for not finding a way for passengers to get their own wheelchairs into airliners:
Most airlines have accessible jet ways now, but wheelchairs still can't fit on the plane. The aisle chair they provide to get onto the plane is so small and little, that most people in chairs can hardly sit on it. Generally, people in chairs would much rather be able to take their chairs right onto the plane, and get buckled down there"
The obstacles don't deter Stacy, however: "
Thanks to my wonderful parents I've been to a lot of places and experienced more things that many people will never be able to. And for that I'm very grateful."

Everything accessible at Nickelodeon Hotel, say Morgans

Thinking of staying at the Nickelodean Hotel in Orlando? In this review, the Morgan family says it is accessible and shares a lot more detail.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Beach wheelchairs get plenty of use when available manufacturer claims

In this press release about Neatech's introduction of its Joy on the Beach wheelchair in the US market, are a couple of statements that should make beach resort operators take notice:
-- "During the past five years the JOB has been introduced throughout European beaches and resorts with incredible success. The Italian city of Ravenna, for example, provided 50 chairs to the beaches along their Mediterranean coast. City spokeswoman, Lisa Dradi, says that 'during the first month of use, 1,200 citizens and tourists used the beach chair to access the sea and relaxation on the beach.'"
-- "A similar response was experienced by the international tour operator Ventaglio, when it introduced 80 JOBs --branded with the company name and logo on the back--into 15 of its resorts. According to Monica Corbellini, director of accessible travel programs for Ventalio, bookings of disabled vacationers increased by 13,000 in the resorts utilizing JOB."
So why is a beach wheelchair not on the premises of every US beach front resort or hotel? (Photo of JOB chair in use courtesy of Neatech.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Futurist: Replace endurance design with universal design

New retirement authority PJ Wade has this observation in a Realty Times column about how airports work for people with less than ideal mobility: "Anyone who has visited an airport recently knows the 'physical endurance' design philosophy that persists in today's travel experience: long waits in line, long walks to everything, short distances between seats on the plane. Airport services intended to improve access for travellers with disabilities frequently reveal poor design, inadequate planning and consistent inconvenience." The solution? " Less physical endurance design and more universal design. (Photo via

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Study shows hotel Web sites lacking in accessibility

I almost always make a hotel reservation these days via the Web. If there are concerns about an accessibility feature, a follow-up by phone to the actual location to nail down some details may be in order, but that initial reservation is typically done through the Web for me. But a recent study of how the hotel industry treats its online customers shows plenty of room for improvement when it comes to how accessible hotel Web sites are to those with visual disabilities. The Customer Respect Group found: "Careful use of colors was an area of weakness with low contrast colors used at some point for text in 79 percent of the sites. Navigation bars and buttons fared the same with 71 percent of sites using some low-contrast colors (vs. 56 percent for cross-industry averages). Color contrast affects a very large number of site users including color blind, elderly and visually impaired users." Another stat from the study that I would say doesn't work in favor of travelers with disabilities is Customer Respect Group's findings on responsiveness. In its study, 12 percent of emails were ignored. That's bad for travelers with disabilities, because sometimes you need a little more info. and a quick email might be how to try to get it. The highest three rankings for accessibility (which Customer Respect Group calls attitude in their study) are (on a scale from one to 10) Marriott International, 7.5; Global Hyatt, 6.2; and Red Roof Inn, 5.7. (Photo by Alex via