Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Travel Industry Starts to Break Down Barriers for Disabled Travelers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Travel Industry Starts to Break Down Barriers for Disabled Travelers

Article excerpt

MORE AND MORE DOORS have opened to disabled travelers in the four years since Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

One reason is the travel industry has discovered that travelers with disabilities represent a virtually untapped market.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, noted that 43 million people in the United States had disabilities, about 17 percent of the population. He added that their "potential investment to our tourism industry will undoubtedly benefit the economy." Harkin was chief sponsor of the ADA, which Congress passed in July 1990.

Writing in the introduction of "Fodor's Great American Vacations for Travelers with Disabilities" ($18), Harkin notes that before ADA's passage, "an entire group of people endured discrimination in many areas of life, including travel." The ADA "addresses discrimination specifically with regard to public accommodations and services, such as hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and other similar establishments," he writes.

The guide gives complete accessibility information on hotels, restaurants, attractions and destinations, and is probably the most comprehensive ever written for travelers with disabilities.

The writers note, however, that the travel industry must do a lot better.

"Owners of a growing number of hotels, restaurants and other buildings seem to realize that change is in the air and are currently modifying rooms and public facilities on their own. There have been more accessible rooms built in the United States in 1993 than in the previous century. Still, the travel industry has a long way to go before it lives up to the spirit and the letter of the ADA and gives people with disabilities an equal opportunity to travel," it notes.

If you have a disability or are traveling with a person who does, the guide offers these tips:

When calling a lodging, make certain the person taking your information understands your specific needs. Make sure there's accessibility not only in your bedroom but in the bathroom and the hotel's public facilities.

Ask for the lowest floor on which accessible services are offered. …

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