Accessible Travel – Where CAN I Go? ALL INCLUSIVES

accessible beach

If you don’t have a mobility restriction, a necessary question when discussing possible travel is “Where should I go?”  With a near endless list of possible destinations, the biggest challenge is deciding on your most desired locale.  Factors such as finances, weather, available activities, travel companions, personal preferences and many others will all play a role in your decision.

If you have a mobility restriction, most assume your choices aren’t nearly as numerous.  The factors affecting your decision are similar, but with two major additional issues: Can I get there? Can I be mobile once I’m there?

If you require a wheelchair to be mobile, you’ll likely avoid a trip that won’t allow you to access to the most interesting locations at your destination. Why go to an all-inclusive in Mexico if you can’t go on the beach? Why go to Venice if you can’t get in the water taxi?

I hope to shed light on the many options you have if you are in a wheelchair or have mobility issues while travelling. There ARE options, and over the past several years, the accessibility of many popular travel locations has been improving to the point that your mobility may not be the major factor in your choice of destination for your next trip.

tropical-beach

Today we look at the accessibility of All Inclusive Resorts:

All Inclusives/Beach Resorts

Most resorts will claim and maybe even advertise to be “accessible”. After reviewing more than a dozen such all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, here’s what I found:

– All of these resorts had rooms they deemed to be accessible, but none could guarantee the accessible room with your reservation. They suggested I request the accessible room and you would be more than likely to get it, but would not go as far to guarantee I could have that room. When I called a local travel agent to ask if they could reserve an accessible room for me, they gave me the same spiel – “No Guarantees”.

– 2 Caribbean Islands that receive the best reviews are Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This is likely since they are part of the United States and they must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires businesses to have ramps, elevators and accessible washrooms throughout the island, not just at the resort.

– The overriding sentiment seems to be that there is a lot more planning to do ahead of time when travelling to these resorts in a wheelchair:

You need to pre-arrange any special medical equipment with a local company (like this one in the Dominican) if you can’t bring something specific yourself (ie. a Hoyer Lift);

You are limited to when and where you can do off-site excursions due to lack of accessible transport in many cities, especially if you are unable to use a manual wheelchair;

There is often no guarantee you will actually get a room that is accessible, which may mean no showers, no sitting on the balcony, and maybe even no sleeping in a bed if the bed isn’t raised to allow for a Hoyer lift to transfer you.

– SPECIALTY RESORTS!!
Check out Freedom Shores. It is a 4-star resort on the Gulf side of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and the owner, Bill, is a quadriplegic that loves to travel. They feature 9 luxurious and fully accessible rooms and many more amenities:

  • Satellite Internet
  • Purified water
  • Laundry services
  • Beauty/barber service
  • Room service
  • Chauffeured Wheelchair accessible van with Braun platform lift and tie downs
  • Resort-wide wheelchair accessibility
  • Wide sidewalks right up to the beach
  • Nurses aides available 24/7
  • Wheelchair accessible deck/dive boat
  • Guided tours

Although Freedom Shores is the only example of a fully accessible resort I came across, I am hopeful that more of these resorts exist or will become more common in the years to come.  Please feel free to comment on this post with any specific experiences you may have had.

Always inform the resort you are going to of your special needs. Even if they are not known for being extremely accessible, they can often cater to your specific needs as an individual and may surprise you with their willingness to accomodate.

Resources:

Travel Ability – An amazingly helpful website I recommend all physically challenged travellers visit.  They provide travellers with a wealth of info, including the accessibility of different countries, cities, specific resorts, air travel, ground travel, as well as info regarding medical equipment rentals, emergency services, entertainment, and much, much more.

Going Anyway – This inspiring family blogs about their experiences travelling with their five children, one with Cerebral Palsy and requires a wheelchair. I especially enjoyed their DIY Travel Wheelchair post. A special thanks to elitok for recommending this site.

Rick Hansen – The Rick Hansen Foundation strives to make the world accessible for everyone, regardless of physical ability. Check out their planat app, where you can read and post reviews about the accessibility of places you eat, shop, sleep…

Next….Accessible Cruises!

Snow storms are good for business

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once you have kids, shovelling snow gets a whole lot easier

Snow shovelling injuries are very common when Mother Nature decides to insulate us with her fluffy whiteness. We see neck injuries, shoulder injuries, back injuries, and even knee injuries in the days following a big storm – not unlike the one we’re experiencing throughout the northeast today and tomorrow. Snow storms are good for business… But they don’t have to be.

Although we appreciate the business, we would rather you stay safe and healthy. Here are some tips to avoid those pesky snow shovelling injuries:

1) Stretch
Both before and after shovelling, it’s a good idea to loosen up up neck, shoulders, back, and legs. Take 5 minutes and make sure you are nice and loose before shovelling.

2) Plan
Take a look at your driveway and/or sidewalk and plan where you’re going to shovel your snow. You don’t want to move the snow twice so make sure where you shovel the snow the first time, is where you want it to stay.

3) Be a pusher!
If at all possible, don’t lift the snow to clear it, just push until the snow is where you want it.

If you HAVE to lift the snow, make sure you use good technique:
– feet hip width apart and slightly staggered
– keep the snow-filled shovel close to your body
– space your hand apart for leverage
– bend your knees
– tighten your stomach muscles (keep breathing!)
– NO TWISTING!
– walk to dump the snow, don’t throw it

4) Get help
If the job seems too big for just one person, ask for help from a family member or neighbour. If you’re stuck being solo, take breaks to make sure you don’t over do it.

STOP shovelling if:
– you notice discomfort or heaviness in your chest, arms or neck (may be a warning sign that your heart is struggling)
– you experience unusual or prolonged shortness of breath
– you feel dizzy or lightheaded
– you notice excessive sweating or nausea

If any of these symptoms persist, seek medical help.

Stay safe!

Accessible Travel

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This little guy walks along a path designed to allow wheelchairs access to beach chairs and an umbrella that would otherwise be inaccessible.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of travelling on a family vacation to the Bahamas. We had a great time, the weather was beautiful, the food didn’t kill us and the resort was wonderful.  That being said, I’m not in a wheelchair, and neither is anyone else that was travelling with us (or anyone else at the resort, for that matter). Because we required a stroller for our young children, I got a small peak into the world of those who need to wheel around when on vacation, and I must say, it wasn’t easy.

Now, a stroller holding 2 kids and maybe 20 pounds of beach toys is not nearly as challenging to maneuver as a wheelchair that could weigh as much as 200-300 pounds, obviously. So I need your help!  Email me (matt@aim2walk.ca) or comment below with some of your travel stories (the good, the bad, the ugly).  I want to read about your experiences with air travel, security checks, land travel, resorts, excursions…anything to do with seeing our world or just trying to relax away from home.  I am doing a series of posts on accessible travelling and your insight is the best research I can do.

Thanks in advance for sharing your stories.

Matt

Note: To insure your privacy, I will not use any names if your story makes it into our series on accessible travel.