Jennifer ~ December 6th, 2011
This past summer I spent a long and grueling but wonderful week at the Mouse’s House- Walt Disney World. The trip was a gift to my daughter from her Gram and I got to tag along. My mom is not the world’s most knowledgeable traveler so I got to arrange and handle everything- not such a bad price to pay for a vacation I must say. But in my planning I thoroughly drilled my mom to see if she could handle long days of touring in July- which meant lots of walking and July Florida heat. I suggested to her on more than a dozen occasions leading up to the trip that she should rent a scooter. While she is relatively healthy, she leads a rather sedentary life and I knew she’d have a problem getting around especially in the scorching July heat.
Within a half hour of us arriving to our first park it was clear that she couldn’t handle the walking. While the mind was willing, her body wasn’t. But she was too embarrassed to rent a scooter as she wasn’t ‘handicapped’, she just had ‘knee problems’. Within an hour I had to wave down a Cast Member (the fancy name they give to the Disney Employees) for a wheelchair. My mom finally broke down and said she’d rent a scooter after my daughter gave her the guilt trip that all grandkids just seem to know how to do from birth.
The next morning I went down to the concierge and talked to them about what mom needed and a speedy scooter complete with baskets and drink holders was delivered within the hour. Not only did I get great service from our hotel but the company they recommended was superb as well! That day of touring went so much better and after a couple hours my mom said she could have kicked herself for not having done it sooner.
Because my mom was using a scooter I was able to get a glimpse into the daily life of someone with mobility challenges.
The Parks: In my humble opinion, Disney is ahead of most other places I’ve ever been too regarding accessibility! The shuttle buses came equipped with folding ramps which made it easier to get on and off. Out of the dozen times we took one of them to a park and back to the hotel, only a hand full of drivers were ‘jerks’ and either acted like they were being put out by lowering the ramp or were just clueless. When you got to the park most Cast Members went out of their way to help my mom and were friendly. My mom learned that many of the rides were not accessible through the normal queues and there were ‘secret’ entrances that were accessible and oh, by the way, cut the wait time on a lot of attractions.
The Bathrooms: Talk about the merging of accessibility and beauty! Many of the bathrooms had decor that corresponded with the area of the park that you were in. When we visited Epcot we had lunch in the country of Mexico and the bathroom was beautifully decorated and accessible.
While not everything in Disney was the perfect idea of inclusivity, they are light-years away from other destinations that I’ve been to! Good Job Disney World!
Jennifer ~ August 2nd, 2011
I’m so EXCITED!! I’m off on another adventure this weekend.
We are going camping in one of Connecticut’s lovely State Forests and I can’t wait! This will be our second camping trip this year and also the second time where I am camping with just me and my daughter. Yes, I’m defeating the stereotype! Women can absolutely be competent campers setting up a complete campsite without assistance!
With the camping trip just a couple days away I’m in the process of getting all the gear ready (tent, camping stove, lanterns etc) and I began to wonder about accessible camping. Is there such a thing as accessible camping equipment? If not, how could existing equipment be modified to accommodate someone with various challenges?
First up… the Tent. It protects you from the elements and provides a bit of privacy. It is a necessary item when camping unless of course you have an RV or are really trying to â€˜rough-it’ out there.
The Problem? While tents that you can buy in the store now are much easier and quick to set-up they don’t exactly meet accessibility requirements. The poles would be tough to assemble if you had arthritis or limited hand strength and if you have difficulty with hand-eye coordination, then fishing the assembled rods through the fabric to erect the tent would be almost impossible. How do you reach up that high to put the tent fly on the top if you are a wheelchair user? And what about stepping into the tent? I can’t begin to tell you how many times I tripped getting in and out, so how would someone with a depth-perception problem maneuver?
The solution!! Many campsites now have primitive cabins that you can rent out for a bit more than a traditional campsite eliminating the frustration one might experience in setting up a tent. And if you are camping in the state of Massachusetts you can camp in something called a Yurt. No, it’s not a slang term used by Cousin Vinny referring to a young person, it’s an accessible building specifically designed for camping in the Great Outdoors! It features a hard-packed level surface and even has accessible picnic tables. And if you are determined to sleep in a tent, try an accessible Freedom Tent. It features a patented zipperless door and space to store your mobility aid!
If you hear nature call and have a yearning to get back in touch with the environment- don’t let your physical challenge stop you! With a bit of thought and planning you too can defeat the stereotype and be an independent camper. Just watch out for Yogi and BooBoo!
Jennifer ~ July 26th, 2011
I’ve written before that I just love living in New England and after having spent this past July 4th weekend in picturesque northern Vermont, it has further solidified my sentiments. Vermont is one of my favorite places to visit as it has a slower leisurely pace and is full of history and charm- not to mention tons of small vendors selling their homemade wares at quaint roadside wagons and country stores. And nothing speaks of history and charm like staying at a charming Bed and Breakfast! Vermont is full of these lovely establishments but I was quick to notice this past weekend that many are not very accessible.
I can understand that many of these small business owners don’t have the capital to invest as many of these homes can be hundreds of years old and making them accessible would be quite costly. But… they are missing a large and growing population segment that has disposable income and appreciates the quintessential charm that classic New England has to offer.
A stay at a Bed and Breakfast is an experience you have to have at least once in your lifetime and I was happy to find this morning a few websites that list a number of accessible Bed and Breakfasts throughout America!
It does not give specifics as to what extent these places are accessible, but it does give you a starting point where you can investigate further. Have you stayed at an accessible B&B that you’d recommend?