Kalin’s Chronicles: Travel for the Physically Challenged

A former CNN colleague is wheelchair-bound, but doesn’t let that stop her from traveling.  In fact, she even went tandem sky diving – something I am still trying to get the nerve to do.  So as we celebrate National Disabilities Awareness month, let’s look at how the travel industry has been changing to accommodate the physically challenged since the 1990 passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

One of the most accessible destinations in the United States is the capital — Washington, D.C.  The pedestrian-friendly city has very well-established and well-maintained curb cuts for wheelchairs throughout the tourist areas, a very accessible subway system, and the Smithsonian Museum complex has sign interpreters for the hearing impaired.

Even theme parks like Walt Disney World are becoming more and more accessible to travelers with disabilities.  Last year, the first theme park designed specifically for travelers with disabilities opened in San Antonio, Texas.  Morgan’s Wonderland caters to mental and physically challenged tourists, but has rides and attractions for people of all ability levels.  It even has swings that accommodate wheelchairs.

Airports and Amtrak are also more accessible to passengers, and even have web pages with specific information for travelers with disabilities; for example this page from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport – one of the busiest airports in the world.

Hotels and cruise ships are leading the way with accessibility, with amenities like:  room entrances wide enough for wheelchairs, bathrooms accessible to wheelchairs, acceptance of guide dogs, closed captioning on televisions, assisted listening headsets, telecommunication devices (TTD), materials printed in Braille or large text, blinking lights on doors and phones for the hearing impaired, grab bars in tubs/showers, and Braille letters and numbers on doors and elevators.

Here are a few websites that cater to travelers with disabilities:











Got any stories about your experiences as a physically challenged traveler?  Please share them with us.  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.