By Kennedy, Andrea; Kennedy, Craig
Palaestra , Vol. 24, No. 1
Some Like it Hot
If you're like us and you live in a cold winter climate, taking a warm-up winter vacation is vital to recharging your batteries. So where do you spend your spring break for some of the best access without having to spend more of your few allotted vacation days on the road than on the beach?
Warm Stop #1--Orlando, Florida. Take your pick among the Florida wheelchair-friendly destinations; with the aging population retiring in the southern-most tip of the U.S., you can bet you'll be able to find accessible options. Whether you're looking to adventure, sport, sight-see, or hit the beach, Florida's got you covered. But for families looking for universal access at every turn, the highlight of this state is most definitely Orlando.
As you may or may not know, the growing sub-city of the Disney Resort area has been accessible for over fifteen years. Hotels sprout up as quickly as the plants do in this warm climate, and the newer they are, the better the access. But it's not just the lodging that's dependable in fantasyland. The majority of the rides are accessible, as well. There are wheelchair access and trained staff at every location in all parks, from Disney and Epcot to off-resort parks like Universal and SeaWorld. During our visit, every ride we wanted to try was accessible, including the upside-down tummy-tamers like the Hulk and Dueling Dragons at Universal, and no one batted an eye at getting Craig into the ride and parking his wheelchair there for our return.
As for transportation in the area, no matter where you're staying, the accessible tram system will transport you throughout the resort, and if you decide to hail a taxi, fear not, they've got minivans. Don't miss the side activities either; try airboating with Big Toho Tours, golfing at any of Disney's six accessible courses, or kayaking with Adventures in Florida while in Orlando. The fun doesn't stop at Disney, and a ten-day vacation holiday is almost not enough!
Warm Stop #2--Caneun, Mexico. Each year Mexico makes great strides on improving access for people with disabilities. With frequent inexpensive flights from dozens of U.S. destinations, Mexico welcomes visitors with open arms. Having seen five of this country's top destinations, we still recommend Cancun for the best access.
Top rate resorts offer accessible lodging by the handful. From familiar names like Marriott and Sheraton to luxury all-inclusive resorts like the Riu and Paradisus chains, your options are unlimited for finding access in the area.
Transportation used to be an issue for Cancun, where hotels provided bus transfers from the airport on busses without lifts. But accessible transportation is now possible thanks to vehicle rentals through www.CancunAccesible. com (yes that's one S in Spanish). Although this website is in Spanish, you can email them for an English translation. This tour company can also help with lodging, medical supplies, and more. We hear renting vehicles in the area with hand controls is soon to be established, as well, but get a set of portable hand controls and you're free to rent anywhere you like!
Another highlight of this area is the ferry system, also fully accessible. Take a ferry to Cozumel or Isla Mujeres for a breezy ride in the sun and a day of exploring something new. If you're interested in Mayan ruins, skip Tulum (which is small anyway) and visit Xel-Ha. About 75% of this facility is accessible, including the lazy river and swimming with the dolphins.
Mexico is perfect for a week's worth of a sunshine warm-up for spring break, but book it early, as everyone else thinks so, too.
Warm Stop #3--Bermuda. Still within reach of a day's travel, Bermuda slides into third place for access with grand improvements in the last three years. Like Mexico, a lack of legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, has stalled improvement in the past, but as of July, 2007, Bermuda adopted the National Policy on Disabilities, which will continue to encourage accessibility improvements, thanks to efforts of the Bermuda Physically Handicapped Association (BMHA). …