Action onlineMagazine of the United Spinal Association Accessible Destinations
Monday, May 1st, 2006
People with disabilities are traveling more than ever before in quest of fun, adventure, business—and accessibility.
By Tom Scott Did you know that American adults with disabilities spend $13.6 billion on travel each year? In fact, the amount of leisure trips and hotel stays of travelers with disabilities is up 50% from 2002.
These are just a few of the findings of a 2005 study by Harris Interactive in coordination with the Open Doors Organization (ODO), a Chicago-based nonprofit, and the Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA). (For more information, please visit www.opendoorsnfp.org. Copies of the 2005 market study are available by calling 773-388-8839 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The study reported that 69% of adults with disabilities (over 21 million people) have traveled at least once in the past two years, including: • 3.9 million business travelers
• 20 million pleasure/leisure travelers
• 4.4 million business/pleasure travelers Over 2 million adults with disabilities (7%) have typically spent more than $1,600 on travel outside the continental U.S. in the past two years. Additionally, 20% of adults with disabilities travel at least six times every two years. Despite the large amount of travelers with disabilities, there are still many barriers this population must face in the air, on the road, and at the hotel.
Air Travel––Easier Said Than Done Statistics show that 31% of adults with disabilities have traveled by air in the past two years (9.6 million people). A majority of these travelers reported encountering obstacles when dealing with the airlines (84%) and at the airports (82%). Cited obstacles included long distances between gates; inaccessible shuttle systems within airports; cramped seating areas on planes; difficulty navigating narrow isles; and long lines at the airports and ticket counters.
Car Rental Agencies––More Options Please . . . A total of 6.2 million adults with disabilities (20%) are likely to rent a car or van when traveling. Those surveyed said they would be more likely to use a rental agency if the car or van were delivered to and picked up from them.
Accessible Rooms In the past two years, 16.3 million adults with disabilities (52%) have stayed in hotels, motels, or inns and three out of five (60%) report that they encountered obstacles. Cited obstacles included doors that are heavy or hard to open; not enough room to maneuver in hotel rooms and/or bathrooms; and lack of availability of convenient rooms, such as on the first floor or near the elevator. Statistics do show, however, that accessibility has improved over the past few years.
Accessible Restaurants Two-thirds of adults with disabilities (64%) encounter obstacles at restaurants. Cited obstacles included not enough room between tables entry doors that are difficult to open or maneuver through and the lack of availability of desired seating.
Destinations When planning a vacation, individuals with disabilities want the same things as everyone else––mainly to relax and have fun. Therefore, the list of the most popular disability travel destinations within the US does not stray too far from the national trend. According to the Harris/ODO Poll, popular destinations include New York City (visited by 47% of those polled); Washington, D.C. (45%); Chicago, Illinois (44%) and Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Los Angeles, California (42% each). There are numerous reasons why these cities maintain high marks as disability-friendly destinations. The most important factor, however, is their overall accessibility. And although people with disabilities encounter barriers in even the most accessible cities, the good experiences can sometimes negate a few bad ones. So let’s take a quick look at some of the ways in which these popular destinations welcome the disabled population. (Resources included in this list are intended for informational purposes only and do not imply an endorsement by United Spinal Association.)
The Big Apple
In an urban area the size of New York, you’d expect accessibility to be paramount. And for the most part, a huge chunk of the Big Apple is accessible to travelers with disabilities. Whether you’re touring the city’s numerous sites, enjoying the nightlife, or dining around town, accessible transportation is a high priority. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) subways, buses, and railroads serve 2.4 billion customers per year. Its network has over 75 accessible subway and commuter rail stations which have features that improve accessibility for customers with visual, hearing, and mobility impairments. The MTA is continually striving to improve accessibility at more and more of its locations. Individual para-transit services are also available throughout the city.
• Big Apple Greeter
One Centre Street, New York, NY 10007
• Next Stop New York
185-08 Union Turnpike, Suite 108, Fresh Meadows, NY 11366
Touring Our Nation’s Capital
Washington, DC, is considered to have one of the most accessible transit systems in the world. DC’s Metrorail and Metrobus systems serve a population of 3.5 million within a 1,500 square-mile area. According to the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority (WMTA), 92% of the city’s bus fleet are either low floor ramped or lift equipped. In recent years, D.C. has purchased hundreds of new accessible buses with the goal of making its entire fleet accessible to its customers. D.C.’s trains and railway stations on its 106-mile system are 100% accessible, and railway employees and managers have received ADA customer service training.
21618 Slidell Road, Boyds, MD 20841
The Windy City
Many of Chicago’s most popular attractions, including the Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park, the Navy Pier, and the Field Museum can be enjoyed by wheelchair-users. All of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 151 bus routes are fully accessible, as are many of the city’s rail stations.
Accessible Fun and Sun in Florida
A majority of Florida’s main attractions, such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and the Kennedy Space Center get high marks for accessibility. Kennedy Space Center has alternate format visitor guides and wheelchair accessible tour buses, and hosts disability awareness days. Several of Florida’s numerous resorts and beaches rent all-terrain wheelchairs. There are also accessible boat tours, hiking trails, fishing piers, and state parks throughout the state. Twelve major transit agencies operate in the state, each serving over 2 million customers annually. A majority of these services are fully accessible.
• Orlando Trip Planner
• Fun and Sun
VIVAViva Las Vegas
All of the hotels and restaurants in Sin City are accessible; however, some have better accommodations than others. It’s always good to plan your trip to the Strip wisely. There are also numerous accessible transportation and wheelchair rental services available.
2370 Corporate Circle, 3rd Floor, Henderson, NV 89074
Travelers with disabilities have a lot of accessible entertainment to choose from while visiting Los Angeles. There are hundreds of theatres, sports and music venues, and theme parks to enjoy. The most popular destinations include Disneyland, Universal Studios, the Los Angeles Zoo, and Six Flags Magic Mountain. There are also numerous accessible hiking trails, state parks, national forests, and nature preserves. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) provides fully accessible services to its riders, including accommodations for three-wheel scooter-chairs, power chairs, and small four-wheel chairs. Approximately 200 bus and rail lines are included in the Metro system.
(Other California) • Access Northern California
1427 Grant Street, Berkeley, CA 94703
• Access San Diego
P.O Box 124526, San Diego, CA 92112-4526
Looking for More Info . . . If you’d like more information on disability travel destinations, the Web sites listed below are excellent resources for all your travel inquiries:
• ABLE to Travel
United Spinal Association’s travel agency for members
• Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality
347 Fifth Ave, Suite 610, New York, NY 10016
• Emerging Horizons
(www.emerginghorizons.com)Tom Scott is editor.