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.
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.
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…