Traveling Thoughts Through a Different Set of Eyes


A teenage girl was rolled in a wheelchair out to the plane in front of the other passengers, picked up and fireman carried up the steps into the plane and placed in her seat. All the time she and her travel companion had a big smile. They thanked the worker who carried her and sent a smile to the little crowd who couldn’t help but watch.

I’ve met folks who travel with small oxygen bottles in backpacks, or even disguised medicine or other medical needs dressed up as a child’s large doll. There way the fellow with a fancy decorated cane or individualized crutches. These satisfy the physical needs but also become conversation starters if said person wants them to be.  

Two peepholes in the door - one lowered

Two peepholes in the door - one lowered

This trip to Cabo San Lucas, I decided to be distinctly more aware of handicapped access in tourism. I have a daughter with a disability, so over the years I have become somewhat of a “pro” and have taken a real interest in handicapped access in tourism. I visted Sherton Hacienda del Mar The hotel I stayed in had two rooms designed for this still new market. The expectation of the USA laws is not to be confused with the rest of the world. 

Other countries appear to deal with the mobile impaired as business issue: we want their money so we accommodate whenever we can. Several months ago I was in a hotel in Mexico. I asked about the HA rooms and was shown a distinctly designed room.     This hotel seemed to find good

No lip entry to shower

No lip entry to shower

designs for ramps, golf carts and dietary accommodations. When I checked out one the guest rooms, I found low sinks, no lip access to the shower, low light switches, but a sill somewhat higher than the door sill made it somewhat difficult to enter the room. The exterior stair ramps were somewhat too high in the rise and would be difficult for a wheelchair, mobility device like a walker or cane or one with a shuffle step walk. The nosing on the steps was worn away which made it difficult to judge the step distance for those with poor eyesight. The distance between the beach and the restaurants was slightly too distant but a room change could fix that up. The hotel also had a golf cart that could be used for intra campus travel.  

It got me to wondering just how difficult it must be to get through TSA and the carry on inspections with all that medicine. Do you always travel with an able bodied companion? The planning seems to me to be extremely detailed for a plan A, then you need a plan B with Plan C formulated on the spot. Does travel for different handicaps require totally different planning or is it just easier to stay in the USA and drive, always mindful of where the next bathroom stop is.  

It seems to me that handicapped travel takes about 5 main steps to organize.

#1 Understanding your needs and abilities and how to describe them.

#2 Equipment needs in terms of transportation at each stage.

#3 Medical needs, backup and verification. Be totally self contained for the duration of the trip.

#4 suitable travel companion. Follow orders, help with luggage, equipment, tickets etc.

#5 be open to changes in plan A and B and invent C along the way.

Is private car travel the easiest way to start since you can control most issues within of the transportation? Next is ship (cruise) travel and then travel by plane. How about locations? Keep close to home to learn the ropes then enlarge the circle in terms of travel time and locations.

Extensive accessible showering system

Extensive accessible showering system

The variety of travel needs is great so perhaps a few questions should be answered by the tourist before booking a trip. Like how much of a distance can you walk? What exactly does “Handicap accessible bathroom” mean at this establishment? What do you want to experience and what help- do you think you’ll need to experience it. Start a discussion with the sales rep so you both are on the same page as to your needs. Perhaps hire a tour guide like AIS who will take the time to explain in detail what you are looking at or passing by and will arrange stops for sightseeing within you abilities. 

On a recent trip to Richmond Virginia, The Hotel Jefferson was kind enough to permit me to photograph one of its accessible rooms. The main driveway style entrance was on the same level as the banks of elevators that could get me all areas of the hotel. I found that the lower level by only of the two elevators which was good to note since I was having breakfast on the lower level. They have several accessible rooms but they

No saddle on the entry door

No saddle on the entry door

must be requested in advance. The entry door has a lowered security peephole, no “step-over saddles” in the main doorway, bath and shower. The bath and toilet have standard bars but the shower has an extensive showering system. The room had the closets with open access. In short the hotel appears ready to accommodate every traveler.

These details will be so helpful to consider to any disabled traveler. Assess your needs, and remember to ask questions, even small details before you arrive.

Written by guest writer: Donald Anthony

Donald Anthony is a new guest writer for We are happy to have him on our team. His expertise in travel, ADA/ acessibility issues, and photography will show to be an asset to our readers.

  • Ahmie

    Ah, but what about the physically disabled parent traveling with small children? THAT is totally beyond the ability of many people to wrap their mind around – I need to constantly balance my physical access needs with the needs of a young child, a preschooler, and an infant. Handicap accessible hotel rooms typically only have one bed, so my kids have to sleep on the floor (they’re too little for a folding cot that we can’t stick bed rails on to keep them from rolling off or getting their fingers/toes stuck in).

    My secret? For shorter stays, I often go for the standard room instead and forego bathing until I get back home or to an accessible bathroom. If the standard room doesn’t have a sink counter close enough to use as a lever to get up from the toilet, I take my cane in with me. And I count my blessings that I’m not entirely confined to a wheelchair. My children have never been on a plane, we drive everywhere we go. I don’t know when I’d be ready to try to deal with an airport with them and my own limitations much less a plane!