USA Travel Access for the handicapped
We decided to create this page on the USATourist web site as a resource for travelers with disabilities. Several people have sent us e-mails asking specific questions about traveling in the USA for handicapped persons. We attempted to answer each of them but usually found it difficult to locate useful information. Here is some of the information we found thus far. We will add more as we discover it.
We don't know if you would consider the USA a very friendly place for handicapped travelers. Over the past few decades, our country has made much progress in creating easier access for people with various handicaps, but many inadequacies remain. Wheelchair access has been built into many public buildings and on many street corners. Convenient parking is reserved for handicapped drivers in most public parking lots. Braille signs have been installed in many public elevators, and hearing impaired captions have been added to most television broadcasts. Nevertheless, a lot of places are still not adequately equipped for handicapped access.
Nearly every city in the USA has one or more shuttle services that transport visitors from the airport to nearby hotels. Many of the shuttle services can provide handicapped access or will know someone who can. Check the internet for airport transportation in the city you intend to visit, and then contact the transport company in advance to determine if suitable transportation is available.
Parking sign for people with disabilities
The Centers for Independent Living have offices or representatives in most US cities. They are primarily for the benefit of local handicapped residents, but they always have someone that can provide visitors with information about transportation access in their city. We suggest you check one of the Internet telephone directories for the Center for Independent Living in the city you will visit.
Most city public transportation systems have some provisions for handicapped access or have a Para transit system to provide door-to-door transportation. Most cities will offer these services to handicapped visitors from out of town, but may require you to prove eligibility beforehand. Contact the public transit authority in the city you intend to visit, and inquire about the availability of handicapped access and requirements for use. The charges are usually minimal.
If you wish to rent a car with hand controls, one may be available from a major car rental company in the city you will visit. Contact several major car rental companies well in advance to determine availability. If you wish to rent a scooter, contact the local Center for Independent Living to find a rental source, or use this link to a company that has Wheelchairs, Walkers & Scooters rentals in many cities across the USA.
Hotel Accommodation Access
Many hotels profess to have handicapped access rooms, but the standards vary greatly. To be certain that the accommodations will be suitable, you must contact each hotel directly. Do not trust the information that you receive from the central reservation people in hotel chains. Most of the reservation agents will be located in another city and will not have seen the hotel rooms. Insist on speaking directly to an employee at the hotel and ask them to describe the accessibility features.
When you reserve a handicap accessible room and confirm it with a credit card, that hotel must provide you a suitable room when you arrive. If a hotel does not have a suitable access room available for your reservation, they must find you suitable accommodations at the same price.
If a hotel advertises free shuttle service to the airport, they must provide suitable access. If their own vehicles are not suitable, they must find other access at no charge to you.
Blind or Visually Impaired Travel Access
All restaurants and cafes in the USA have regulations prohibiting pets. Most transportation facilities, entertainment attractions and shops also have policies prohibiting pets. We are not a pet friendly country.
Service animals such as guide dogs or signal dogs are always exempt from such prohibitions. All restaurants, transportation facilities, shops, entertainment attractions and public buildings must allow service animals to accompany their owners. Unfortunately, a few states such as Hawaii require a quarantine of all service animals before entry. Check the requirements before you travel.
Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Vernon Wiley
Photo Description: Over the past few decades, our country has made much progress in creating easier access for people with various handicaps, but many inadequacies remain.