DisabledTravelers.com Travel Blog » Bus Accessible Travel /1/blog Interesting information, reviews, and pictures in the world of accessible travel... Tue, 30 Oct 2012 01:47:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3 Disabled Access: Chicago, Part 2 (Back by Popular Demand) /1/blog/2010/02/22/disabled-access-chicago-part-2-back-by-popular-demand/ /1/blog/2010/02/22/disabled-access-chicago-part-2-back-by-popular-demand/#comments Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:22:11 +0000 /1/blog/?p=381

Chicago Cityscape
Photo by: Nate Brelsford (Stock Exchange)

Hello, everybody! After taking a tour through the Disabled Travelers archives, I realized that one of our best-received recent articles was Disabled Access: Chicago. Now, I don’t usually do this, but since so many folks are queuing up to head to the Windy City and want more info about it, I thought I’d give the city a second look. Definitely read the original post for some great access guides, but in this post we’ll be going a bit deeper and searching out wheelchair accessible hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Let’s go!

Active Diner starts us off with a list of wheelchair access restaurants in Chicago. This includes dozens of listings, each including descriptions and photographs, and many with actual reviews by restaurant patrons. There’s something for everyone, with seafood, Italian, Mediterranean cuisine and more all available in an environment friendly to handicapped travelers and those who require mobility impaired access.

Though not created with accessible travel in mind, the website Metromix can help you find bars, clubs, music venues, movie theaters, restaurants and more. These listings do include information on accessibility. Though it can be somewhat sparse, I’m always in favor of providing a resource that will put readers in touch with great places to go. For our purposes, try Metromix Chicago. For another great site from an on-the-street travel perspective, try the wheelchair accessible entries at the Chicago Traveler blog.

From Disabled Travelers’ very own comment section comes a handful of useful handicapped travel resources I’m happy to mention. Visit WheelchairTraveling.com, a site for planning accessible travel, for some great photographs and Chicago attractions. If you find yourself in need of wheelchair or scooter rental, you can try out Howard Medical, a company with 30 years of experience providing medical supplies in the area.

There are a number of terrific attractions throughout Chicago that are wide open to wheelchair users. Among these are the historic John Hancock Center with its famous observatory, and the Art Institute of Chicago. For outdoor fun, check out Millennium Park. This fantastic space is one of the most beautiful attractions in all of Chicago, offering art and architecture, as well as natural splendor. There are many wonderful things to discover, and events are held regularly. This entire 24.5 acre space is accessible, with free wheelchair rental at the visitors’ center, and there is no entrance fee.

When you’re trying to find an accessible Chicago hotel, I suggest trying Travel Intelligence, a newer index of hotel features and reviews. I found the site intuitive and easy to navigate, and the company claims that the reviews are written by professional travel writers. Can’t confirm that independently, but I did find the reviews to be better-written and more informative than average, so it’s worth taking a look

Hope you’ve had fun on our second visit to Chicago. Remember, we’re here for you, so any time you want more information, just let me know. Coming up in March, I’ll be doing destinations in Asia, as well as some fun vacation spots throughout the States, and keeping the Disabled Travelers Mailbag close by for viewer questions. Adventure on!

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Accessible Ecotourism Guides and Articles /1/blog/2010/01/15/accessible-ecotourism-guides-and-articles/ /1/blog/2010/01/15/accessible-ecotourism-guides-and-articles/#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2010 14:00:00 +0000 http://disabledtravelers.com/blog/?p=261 Photo by: Luis En (Stock Exchange)  San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica
Photo by: Luis En (Stock Exchange)

Howdy, all! Welcome back to the Disabled Travelers blog.

We’ve been to a lot of different places since I joined the team here a few months – we’ve seen some of the best in wheelchair travel where it’s hot, cold, high, dry, and wet. We’ve pushed the boundaries and gone a long way, and now I’d like to cover a topic that’s near and dear to me, accessible ecotourism. Ecotourism usually means getting in touch with nature, but it can also involve volunteering and really becoming aware of the community while you’re there. This kind of experience has long been the preserve of young folk, and handicapped travel is starting to embrace the opportunities, too. Let’s have a look …

Responsible Travel is a great place to start on any ecotourism journey. They review and catalog the best in socially responsible tour operators, accommodations, and more. Accessibility is part of the criteria in many cases, and I was happy to see that the community includes plenty of handicapped travelers. One good article on disabled travel is right here: Holidays From a Chair – A Different Perspective. There’s even a forum, where quite a few discussions on accessibility and informal access guides are taking place. All of that happens at the community forum, I Know a Great Place.

GoToStCroix.com offers extensive information on one great destination, St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are articles for every aspect of enjoying St. Croix, including – yes, and thank you – info on wheelchair accessible accommodations and activities. This is reliable stuff, much of it courtesy of a wheelchair user and long-time resident of St. Croix, Michael Rodenhaven – who has his own page about living the good life on the island. His motto is “Adapt, Adjust, Overcome & Enjoy” – and it sure looks like he’s done it! I recommend checking it out, even if St. Croix isn’t on your itinerary.

One of the ultimate destinations for ecotourism is Costa Rica. This is thanks to the simple fact that though Costa Rica is a relatively small country, it contains almost 6% of the world’s known animal species. Thanks to the huge conservationist interest in the region, and the great tourist trade, there’s more in the way of accessible transportation and attractions. The Real Costa Rica has the hookup on disabled travel in the country. Apparently, there’s a fairly formidable fleet of wheelchair taxis. According to the blog at the same site, accessible bus travel is still a little rough, but laws are being enforced.

For more general interest information on a whole slew of destinations around the world, I’d like to recommend Bradt Travel Guides’ article index. There are plenty of pieces here on mobility impaired access and world travel, from the general (“Traveling With Limited Mobility”) to the rather specific (“Access Africa.”) Bradt is a respected source for all kinds of travel information and even runs an annual contest for travel writers. Another highly recommended source for Europe, the British Isles, Australia, Asia, and more. For expanded options, Gray Line offers accessible buses and even trip planning.

And that brings us to the close of today’s visit. Next time, some great resources for disabled air travel and dealing with airlines. After that, I have some trip planning resources I’m excited to share. Until then, in honor of Mr. Rodenhaven and with no infringement intended: Adapt, Adjust, Overcome & Enjoy!


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Handicapped Travelers’ Resources All Around Scotland /1/blog/2009/12/09/handicapped-travelers-resources-all-around-scotland/ /1/blog/2009/12/09/handicapped-travelers-resources-all-around-scotland/#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2009 14:00:06 +0000 http://disabledtravelers.com/blog/?p=170

Dundee Steeple Church
Photo by: Colin Brough

Hello, everyone, and once again, happy holidays from the Disabled Travelers blog! Today I’ll be continuing on with my access guide for the United Kingdom by discussing disabled travel resources in Scotland. This is a great destination that no tour through the UK should be without. So without further ado, here we go …

The single biggest event in Scotland is the annual Military Tattoo, an awesome parade with bands, performers, and more in the shadow of famous Edinburgh Castle. The Tattoo’s organizers offer special wheelchair seating and vehicle permits, as well as a personal PA system and audio description of the event for those with hearing and visual difficulties, respectively. The Tattoo is a very popular event, typically attracting over 200,000 spectators a year, and it’s pretty rare to see something like this with such extensive accessibility and disabled travel features, so check it out! The Tattoo will take place this year in the month of August.

Throughout Scotland and Wales, the disabled person’s railcard is just as good as it is in England, so take advantage of the discounted fares. ScotRail is the railway service in Scotland, and offers assistance at rail stations and alternate transport for unstaffed rail stations, as well as other accommodations. All ScotRail trains have wheelchair accessibility ramps and most have designated areas for handicapped travelers in wheelchairs. ScotRail and other public services in Scotland are particularly proactive about assisting hard-of-hearing and deaf disabled travelers, as this recent news article from Wellsphere’s Hearing Loss and Deafness Community demonstrates.

In the past, Scotland’s rugged, rural landscape has proven difficult for some disability travel purposes. In recent years, though, a few new initiatives and a new awareness among local hoteliers has definitely changed things for the better. Disabled people are now entitled to free bus travel throughout Scotland. Unfortunately, the current entitlement is only for residents, but wheelchair accessible hotels are definitely multiplying across Scotland’s beautiful countryside. Here’s one selection of holiday cottages with wheelchair access, and a few more hotels and B&Bs, including one right on the picturesque shores of Loch Ness – where you just might spot the famous sea monster.

Accessible Scotland is part of the country’s official tourism board and offers verified accommodations and activities in a variety of locations. Disability Help Scotland is a nonprofit organization and information clearinghouse for news and information that affects handicapped people (and naturally, handicapped travelers) through the nation. Naturally, if you’re journeying through Scotland you might be interested in playing the ancestral sport: golf. If so, I have good news for you: disabled people have their own golf course in Scotland. This course is in Edinburgh, the heart and capital of the nation. While Edinburgh itself has no access guide I could find, you might benefit from the disabled passenger resources from Edinburgh Airport.

If you want a tour operator to help you in your rambling around Edinburgh, and even some other major cities in the UK, try Can Be Done, which operates wheelchair accessible and disability friendly tours in Edinburgh, London, Dublin, Paris, Tenerife, and many more places in the UK, continental Europe, and the Mediterranean.

In my next installment, I’ll be wrapping up our whirlwind tour of the United Kingdom by uncovering the best disabled travel resources in that unique and picturesque land, Wales. Until then, keep adventuring, and we’ll see you soon …


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Wheelchair Travel Options and Accessible Tour Operators Around London /1/blog/2009/12/03/wheelchair-travel-options-and-accessible-tour-operators-around-london/ /1/blog/2009/12/03/wheelchair-travel-options-and-accessible-tour-operators-around-london/#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2009 14:00:38 +0000 http://disabledtravelers.com/blog/?p=161

One of London’s famous underground tube stations

One of London’s famous underground tube stations

I don’t know about you, but the holiday season always makes me think of my favorite spot in winter – Oxford, England. If you’ve never been to Europe (not that most Brits would consider the UK to be Europe precisely) then it’s a great place to start, and December is a great time to go. The weather tends to be fairly mild by comparison with much of the U.S., and accumulation of snow is very rare. Besides that, and more importantly, England is the gateway to a whole new world of disabled travel and wheelchair travel.

Handicapped travelers in the UK and much of continental Europe can expect the highest standards of accessibility and a huge number of accessible travel options for public transportation, including a network of rail, bus, and wheelchair taxi services that can make the far near – for example, on a good day it’s only a few hours by train from the southern tip of Britain to Glasgow in northern Scotland! So, today it’s all about Britain, particularly London – with Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to follow soon.

Probably the best place to start is with the major airports around London, where most travelers will begin their journey. There are two international airports serving the city: Heathrow and Gatwick. Heathrow’s special assistance page lays down their accessibility standards and services for travel with a disability, including lots of great information on planning your trip. Both Heathrow and its sister airport Gatwick are equipped with wheelchair access facilities you would expect, such as ramps, accessible roll-in bathrooms, and accessible elevators. Gatwick’s special needs page lays out the same information for that airport, and in much the same format.

Directgov is a web resource provided by the UK government to centralize all the information on public services. Here’s their informational page on disabled travel by train. In the UK, trains are a public institution and you can get virtually anywhere by using the train, or at worst, a combination of train and bus. Within most municipalities, taxis are widely available, including wheelchair taxis. The Directgov website can help you understand the services available for disabled travelers throughout the UK and also has some disabled travel resources for planning a trip to mainland Europe. If you plan to do a lot of travel by train, you should learn all about the disabled persons’ railcard, which entitles disabled travelers and their attendants to discounted fare throughout Great Britain.

Transport for London is an accessibility guide for public transport in London, including tube (subway), rail, and taxi. Notably, all licensed black cab services in London are now required to use fully-equipped wheelchair accessible taxis. Because of srict training and licensing standards, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever encounter an unlicensed taxi in London, but just in case, you can book a licensed accessible taxi ahead of time. If your travel plans will take you into Europe, you’ll want to visit Eurostar’s special travel needs page to plan your journey – Eurostar connects London with Paris and Brussels, and all Eurostar trains cross under the legendary Chunnel.

So you’ve made it to and through London, one of the most metropolitan, historical, and accessible cities in the world. The only thing missing is accommodations, and the city has a truly wonderful range of those! Through Direct Enquiries, a database commissioned by the London Development Agency, you can learn about the accessibility features of over 100 hotels in and around London. This is a great resource which allows you to search hotels according to the exact features you need: there are over twenty options covering amenities like roll-in showers, accessible car parking, guide animals welcome, and various facilities for the deaf, blind, or hard-of-hearing.

Exploring all the accessible tour providers for Britain’s major cities could (and will) take up a whole separate post, but there’s a great introduction available on Visit London’s Accessible Tours page. This includes resources for wheelchair taxi tours, accessible walking tours, fantastic wheelchair accessible riverboats, and more. For a brief overview of facilities for visitors with reduced mobility at various London attractions, see British Tours Ltd, which also offers guided tours for handicapped travelers.

A little later on, I’ll be going further afield and discussing other great destinations in the UK. Dublin is one of my particular favorites, so expect a full access guide soon. Until then, keep adventuring!


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Wheelchair Accessible Bus, Charter, and Train Options in the United States /1/blog/2009/12/01/wheelchair-accessible-bus-charter-and-train-options-in-the-united-states/ /1/blog/2009/12/01/wheelchair-accessible-bus-charter-and-train-options-in-the-united-states/#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2009 20:43:21 +0000 http://disabledtravelers.com/blog/?p=154 12-1 Blog

The skyline of Boston, a city known for its many wonderful transportation options

Welcome back to the Disabled Travelers blog! Don’t look now, but this could be shaping up as an especially hectic year for those planning to travel for winter holidays or New Years. Airlines are often backed up, and inclement weather might be a nuisance. But remember that disabled travel doesn’t have to be limited to air and sea. Plenty of handicapped travelers are finding ways to get around with accessibility-enhanced trains, buses, and charters. In the U.S., these can sometimes be the “forgotten” travel options, so I’d like to talk about the latest in wheelchair travel “on wheels.”

There are a lot of small, regional bus lines and relatively few companies with national scope here in the United States. The situation is reversed in Europe, where buses are a way of life and wheelchair access is often a basic feature. Greyhound Buses is one of the great national lines, and it’s very clear and forthright on its policies for disabled travel. Handicapped travelers are more than welcome, as are service animals – but there are some combined weight and maximum height requirements for wheelchairs, so be sure to check them out. Greyhound has service areas and routes throughout the States, and can even get you to parts of Canada and Mexico.

Coach USA is an option for scheduled bus services, city-wide sightseeing tours, and charter bus rental throughout several states, including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and parts of the Midwest and Canada. According to its fleet information page, each type of bus in service is ADA-compliant, and the only catch is 48 hours notice concerning your needs. Since it’s always wise to contact a charter service well in advance, this shouldn’t be a problem for most folks.

Megabus covers major urban areas mostly in the north, including New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Washington. This company seems a tiny bit less forthcoming, requiring you to contact customer service and confirm that wheelchair accessible buses are available for your intended travel. It is also not quite clear whether personal attendants are admitted free, at a reduced rate, or at full price. I’ll point it out for now, but with a grain of salt until I hear a little more. Let’s hope the disability access is just as good as the rest of these services!

As far as the west coast goes, there are a variety of tour operators and other services, but a lot of them are focused on major destinations like Las Vegas. For traveling in the San Francisco Bay area, Bay Area Rapid Transit is useful and boasts a variety of features for handicapped travelers. BART is a government initiative, and generally speaking, any publicly-supported bus service can be expected to be more accommodating and have fewer barriers to accessibility than a private company you don’t know well. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada even offers door-to-door paratransit and various forms of passenger assistance to mobility-impaired riders; all benefits you may qualify for even if you’re only in Nevada temporarily.

For those looking specifically for a charter bus service, USA Bus Charter is a good option, with ADA-compliant wheelchair accessible buses in major cities throughout the United States. For more general tips on your rights as a handicapped traveler, you can search the official website of the U.S. Access Board, a federal agency that promotes accessible design, for accessibility guidelines pertaining to vehicles and structures. This includes Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines for which compliance is mandatory – the government also provides a great resource website for ADA information.

No offense to bus tour operators, but unless you opt for a high-end charter, trains tend to be more comfortable over long distances. What Greyhound is to buses, Amtrak is to trains. Kind of terse, I know, but I’ve had good experiences with them, and I feel like we can trust Amtrak. For those looking for more general information on disabled travel and choosing an accessible rail provider, Scootaround Mobility Solutions offers a great disabled traveling tips page on how to make your train trip smooth and easy, even if you’re traveling a long way.

That’s it for buses and trains in the U.S., but that’s not all for the subject. Wait until I show you how easy it is to get around in wheelchair accessible buses and trains throughout major destinations in the United Kingdom! Until then, keep adventuring … and don’t miss the bus!


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