Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Go ahead and play

Two of the most visited rest areas in Michigan will be getting new universally accessible playground equipment this summer. The new equipment will be installed at the New Buffalo welcome center on eastbound Interstate 94 and at Monroe, on northbound Interstate 75. Michigan believes it is the first state in the nation to build accessible playgrounds at rest areas. Hey, anything that can expend a little energy and serve as a break on a long car trip is welcome indeed.

Hit the beach -- in Wisconsin

Looking for an especially accessible lake beach in Wisconsin? Try Loon Lake Beach inside Copper Falls State Park.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More on Virgin Blue

Virgin Blue Airlines is defending it's policies that many people with disabilities feel effectively bans them from the carrier without a companion if they cannot perform certain task such as putting on an oxygen mask or evacuating themselves from a plane in an emergency. Lots of media attention from Australia for this controversy. A story from The Age here and a transcript of a broadcast story on the subject here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Push vs. lift

Katja at Broken Clay Journal posts on Virgin Blue's new policy on passengers who use wheelchairs. Staff now won't push the special boarding wheelchair down the aisle, but they will assist in transferring into the seat. On what universe does this make sense? I submit they're figuring so few will get past the first barrier that they won't really have to worry about the second part of the policy. Grrrrr.

All aboard!

If you're considering taking a trip on Amtrak, you might want to check out Scott Rains' peek into one of the rail lines accessible cabins.

Rolling in with suggestions

Scott Rains has a post with two suggestions for accessible destinations, one in Montana and one in New Jersey.

14 years old, cream, registration P719 EGM.

If you see this vehicle in the UK or Europe, call police. This family needs it back.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Walking, or maybe wheeling, around Chicago

The Universal Design approach to seeing Chicago might be an apt description for the approach of Walk Chicago Tours. Founder Terry Sullivan's motivation for keeping accessibility in mind when designing his tours was his daughter, a wheelchair user. "I said to myself there's a need here to address the concerns of the disabled because I don't think that anyone has openly solicited the disabled for their tour service,"Sullivan said. The biggest challenge in designing the tours? Intersections: "Despite the fact that the wheelchair is visible, I think most motorists think that they can go around the wheelchair," Sullivan told ABC7. "You have to be very careful at the intersections." Sullivan has the right idea -- throw open the door to everyone. (photo of Terry Sullivan courtesy of Walk Chicago Tours and Terry Sullivan)

To Houston ... and back

"There's no doubt that it's harder for disabled people to travel. Even with all the Americans with Disabilities Act features, it's just got its own set of challenges." So says Kathy Nichols early on in this column about her husband, who has MS, traveling on his own to a high school reunion in Texas. Despite all her anxiety beforehand, the trip went pretty well for Mitch -- except for being next to a crying baby on the plane and the hot, hot weather in Houston.
Sometimes "special" can be pretty regular.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Australian access

I've never been to Australia. Is it tough to find a place to eat there if you use a wheelchair or have other mobility needs? This article gives that impression: "Until recently Australian restaurants and cafes were not designed or built to provide disabled access. They did not incorporate wheelchair access; ramps and landings; accessible door widths; continuous travel paths and corridor widths; parking spaces and garages; lighting; alarm systems; and toilets." The article goes on to say the government is working to correct such problems in new and perhaps existing buildings.
Good move.

Shark sensation

A new exhibit named Shark Central is coming to the Newport Aquarium in Newport Kentucky. Apparently you can even touch some of the sharks and other critters. The exhibit is handicap-accessible exhibit and opens Friday.

Making a splash in Missoula

If you find yourself in Missoula, Montana with a desire to get wet -- perhaps by animals spitting water on you - then you're in luck. Missoula has two new splash decks up and operating this year. And they are "barrier-free and wheelchair accessible."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Travel as transformation

The experiences of Cheng Shu-yun in this Taiwan Headlines article show that travel can be a transforming experience. She relates her first time leading a tour group for a travel agency she worked for: "'It was winter at the time and the main focus of the itinerary was to go to South Korea to ski,' she said. Cheng said she recalls that upon arriving at the ski resort, she was not willing at all to get out of the bus. She was afraid that she would slip when using her crutches and would fall down, making a big scene. The Korean bus driver of the tour bus was adamant, however, that she take part in the activity and carried her over to the skiing area. He also took pictures of her so as a memento of the event. 'After I got back to Taiwan, it was if my world had changed. I no longer felt that I was limited,' she said."
Cheng also relates some of those gotta adapt to the situation experiences we can all relate to.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Best in the biz

OAG has given its award for best airline for people traveling with a disability to American Airlines. The award, new this year, was based on a survey of OAG customers. "Too often when traveling, those with a disability can find things more difficult than able-bodied passengers, which should not be the case," said Eddie Bell, chairman of OAG. "From the comments that came in via the survey it is clear how much people value the extra care and consideration that is shown by certain airlines. American Airlines is highly regarded for making disabled travelers feel comfortable and respected."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Middle East awareness

The potential in encouraging travel by people with disabilities received some recognition in the Middle east recently. From Khaleej Times Online coverage of a press conference on the Second International Forum for people with special needs in the Middle East to be held in Dubai on May 23:

"... Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group, has urged the players in the regional travel and tourism sectors and allied industry to acknowledge the economic and humanitarian significance of promoting tourism for people with special needs.

"'I call upon the public and private sector establishments to work with us as strategic partners, to set the marketing and services strategies that will lead to a blending of this special segment of society and encourage them to travel freely through providing the appropriate facilities and services in airports, hotels, airline trips, shopping malls and land transportation,' said Shaikh Ahmed in a statement."

Chicago Disability History

If you're the type who will make a trip to see a museum exhibit, consider this: The history of the disabled community in Chicago is told in a new exhibit created by some University of Illinois-Chicago professors. The Chicago Disability History exhibit will be at the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in the South Loop until Aug. 31.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The supply of accessible rooms

Keith Richards (no, not that Keith Richards), spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), says this in a recently posted article on "Tour operators have to realize that asking for a wheelchair-accessible room is not like asking for a room with a balcony or sea view." The article contains examples where people were not able to lock down an accessible room until eight days before their arrival and other such experiences. Myself, I'm knocked out at how difficult it can often be to get an accessible room reserved, even well in advance. This says to me that there just aren't enough accessible rooms out there. I suggest the demand is outstripping the supply, as the economists would say.

Not quite access to all areas

Jane Cameron continues to enjoy family travel even after one of her children became disabled. Here's how the Camerons got to the point where they still enjoy vacation trips, albeit sometimes different than what they might have done before. Cameron also includes some interesting insights into the future of the disabled traveler industry, such as: "Until major tour operators decide that the disabled market is worth wooing, it will remain difficult for families like ours to choose a suitable and affordable holiday. Given the diverse prosperity of countries worldwide, it is understandable that there are no international standards for wheelchair access. But travel companies could easily make clear in brochures and on websites what disabled facilities are offered. They should say what access is, or is not, available at airports, hotels and places of interest. Disability is a broad school: that transfer buses don't offer wheelchair access may be a major problem to one person and not to another. Simply ignoring disabled facilities is no solution."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Finest facilities

We went on a little trip during out children's spring break. My oldest daughter was playing with her high school band at several of the theme parks in the Orlando area. So, that's where the rest of the family headed too. We had a great time and saw a lot of cool things. But I just keep gushing to folks about something I saw at Sea World. No, I'm not talking about some aquatic mammal show, though they were very impressive. I'm referring to the bathrooms. What a great set-up they had for accessible stalls in the bathroom. It really was like a mini family bathroom, only inside the men's (and I assume the women's too) room. Plenty of space. And a sink and a garbage can right inside the stall. It was perfect for our needs. Way to go Sea World. Then coming home we stopped at a convenience store/gas station for fuel and other needs. And they had a similar set-up in their bathroom. Maybe this is a Florida thing. But it sure made life easier for us.