Top Vacation Spots and Travel Tips for People with Disabilities

If you are making travel plans for this holiday season or thinking about a trip any time in the coming year, here are some ideas for easy, safe and fun destinations. Below you’ll find a list of some of the most accessible vacation spots for people with disabilities to visit.

But first, here are some handy tips to keep in mind before you hit the road or hop on a plane:

  • If you’re taking a plane, ask for bulkhead seating. Positioned at the front of the plane, these seats are far easier to get in and out of.
  • Make sure your hotel is accessible. Call ahead of time to address your needs. (Smaller hotels with less than 10 rooms are not required to follow ADA standards.)
  • Make sure your transportation is accessible for your particular needs — a rental car with hand controls, a van with a wheelchair lift, wheelchair-accessible taxi service, etc.

Now for the fun part — picking a place to go!

CITIES

Denver: A highly wheelchair-friendly city with a completely accessible mainline metro transportation system. The Regional Transportation District recently expanded its bus and rail options, making all of them wheelchair accessible with priority seating. The city also offers an Access-a-ride program that takes wheelchair riders anywhere within a three-quarter-mile radius of its transit system.

Denver is not only a great place to visit but also an ideal city for people with disabilities to live. It has particularly strong advocacy support. In addition to including two Centers for Independent Living (Denver CIL and Atlantis Community), this city is home to the headquarters of ADAPT — “a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.”

Seattle: The Emerald City is ranked again and again as one of the most accessible places in the U.S. Its accessibility is largely made possible by its public transportation system. While other major cities such as New York and Boston have older railway transits, Seattle did not start operating its first rail system until 2009, so it is built to comply with ADA standards. In regard to other transportation, the King County metro bus system has been accessible for 20 years, thanks to the efforts of the Washington Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities. The city is also brimming with accessible attractions such as the Seattle Museum, Pike Place Market and the iconic Space Needle.

Las Vegas: This city is not only a vibrant vacation spot; Las Vegas is also bustling with ADA-standard transportation services and accessible places to stay. Most of its famous casinos have ramps, wheelchair-accessible slot machines and hearing devices at live shows.

AMUSEMENT PARKS

Disney World/Disney Land: These iconic theme parks are famous for being especially accommodating to people with disabilities. They offer accessible “fast pass” ride passes, wheelchair ramps to attractions and accessible resorts and transportation services for people with wheelchairs or other mobility impairment devices.

Morgan’s Wonderland (San Antonio, Texas): The only theme park in the world in which every single ride is accessible to guests with disabilities. This park’s attractions were created based on principles of sensory integration — a form of occupational therapy in which special exercises are used to strengthen a patient’s sense of touch, balance and space.

Holiday World (Rural Indiana): This Hoosier favorite has been voted the most family-friendly theme park in the USA for several years. Better yet, your experience here comes at a much lower cost than that of other theme parks. Although the park is currently closed for the winter, a season pass would make a great Christmas gift!

BEACHES

Key Largo, Florida: The beach is highly accessible via ramps and wooden walkways. It’s also easier for travelers with disabilities to go snorkeling and diving here. A few local companies — such as Tranquil Adventures — specialize in offering ocean experiences for wheelchair users. Tranquil Adventures is a charter, tour and cruise operation. “What sets this venture apart from others is that it is configured to cater to people with disabilities, rather than just let them tag along if they can somehow get aboard,” the website states. Boats feature lifts for easy transfer on and off, allowing for a safe, easy sea adventure.

Stearns Park Beach (Ludington, Michigan): Here, you can find beach wheelchairs at the Hamlin Lake and the Lake Michigan beach houses as well beautiful, accessible boardwalks. Disability Connections of West Michigan and the City of Ludington partnered to build these walkways. The north one starts at the sidewalk by the north concession stand, covering the 300 yards down to the water. The south boardwalk starts from the concrete walkway and continues to the pier and beach area. Money was raised to build these walkways through various donations, including a $10,000 anonymous gift. As its website states, Firebird Laser Engraving of Ludington “etched the names of donors and special messages onto the boards, so generations to come can appreciate the beach and the community support that made this project possible.” This may not be the best beach to visit if you’re planning on traveling this winter, but it would be good to keep in mind as a summer spot!

Hanauma Bay (Honolulu, Hawaii): Frequently ranked as one of the top three most wheelchair-friendly beaches you can find in the U.S. In addition to soft sand and crystal clear water, Hanauma Bay offers wheelchairs free of charge to visitors with mobility issues.

PARKS

U.S. citizens or permanent residents with disabilities are entitled to an “America the Beautiful-National Parks and Federal Recreational Land Pass-Access Pass” — a free lifetime entrance pass to all U.S. national parks. In addition to the holder, this pass is good for up to three other adult passengers in a private vehicle. The pass also provides a 50 percent discount on some of the facility and service charges such as camping, swimming, parking and tours. For more information about national park opportunities, visit http://store.usgs.gov/pass/general.html.

These are just a few of the many options for people with disabilities. Don’t get discouraged about vacationing; this is proof that your limits can’t stop you from having fun this holiday season, or anytime of the year!