The Opening of the First Accessible Wharf for Gondolas


Venice, March 2016 the opening of the first accessible wharf for gondolas in Venice, in front of Piazzale Roma, Fondamenta Cossetti. 

This project created by the non- profit organization Gondolas4ALL, represents the first landing place able to allow people with different kinds of disabilities to get on and off a gondola. 

Enrico Greifenberg and Alessandro Dalla Pietà, the two founders of this association, have been dreaming of this project for more than 20 years. In 2012, they decided to apply themselves to the realization of a permanent structure, in order to allow anybody to enjoy an exciting gondola tour. 

The Tourism Department of Veneto Region decided to support their project into the Project of Excellence in Tourism “ Development of Social and Accessible Tourism”. 

After being guest at the stand of Veneto Region at the event Gitando.all in 2014 and at MOVE in 2015, Gondolas4ALL, as the only and exclusive subject of this initiative, has received funding aimed to cover in part the realization costs. 

Fabio and Nicola Domeneghini of Fadiel Italiana & SMDM, Roberto DeCarli of Rein, Lucart Group, Pierluigi Moro and Silvia Dabrilli of Studio Moro Architetti, supporters of this project since the beginning, have completed the work.

 Marco Maggia, owner of Ermitage Bel Air Medical Hotel and the city of Abano Terme supported the project with a contribution.

In 2015, Honorable Domenico Rossi Secretary of State to the Defense, invited Gondolas4all to Rome giving them the support of the Ministry of Defense. 

In September 2015 in Madrid, invited by Fundacion Once, they presented Gondolas4ALL at the 5th International Congress “Technology and Tourism For All”. 

In the same period, Gondolas4ALL filmed in Venice “Smart Aarhus in Documentary on Sustainable Cities”, a documentary about the best practices in 24 European Cities, selected by Kryzistof Baczynski Europe commission Architecture,Urban Plannig Engineering. 

The new service will begin in about a month after the training of new professionals and final tests .

The project is seeking public support to raise about 80,000 ( eighty thousand ) Euros . 

You can support Gondolas4all through the following link http://www.gondolas4all.com/sostienici/

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New wheelchair helping people enjoy the sun, sand and water


 

Parks Victoria’s Chief Executive, Bradley Fauteux today launched a new Lasher beach wheelchair now available at Tidal River.  The Lasher beach wheelchair is the first of its kind available for public use in Victoria and was funded by the People and Parks Foundation. 

Parks Victoria was awarded the 2015 National Disability Award which recognises the valuable contribution organisations and people make to improve the lives of people with disability in Australia.  Parks Victoria has a total of 11 all-terrain Trailrider wheelchairs and ten child and adult beach wheelchairs available to explore Victoria’s parks as well as the new Lasher beach wheelchair. The wheelchairs are located at key parks across the state including Dandenong Ranges. Grampians, Cape Conran, Point Nepean and Wilsons Promontory. 

Mr Fauteux said the Lasher beach wheelchair is different to our other park beach wheelchairs in that it can be operated independently by people with paraplegia and leg amputations without the need of a carer. 

“For the first time in Victoria, more people who visit this beautiful part of the world at Norman Beach in Wilsons Promontory National Park, can enjoy the sand and water which so many visitors without disabilities often take for granted,” said Mr Fauteux.

“Spending time in the natural environment, in places like our magnificent parks, is good for our mind, body and soul, and Parks Victoria is committed to making our parks accessible to everyone.”

Mr Fauteux said Tidal River is one of our most popular destinations and Norman Beach is one of the most accessible beaches for visitors with disabilities in Victoria, so it makes sense to have a Lasher beach wheelchair available at Tidal River.

“Tidal River also has accessible park accommodation allowing visitors with disabilities can extend their stay in the park. The Lasher beach wheelchair and the other all-terrain wheelchairs available at Tidal River can be booked through the Visitor Centre here at Tidal River.”

Global advocate for inclusive tourism and Co-founder of Travability, Bill Forrester said that the world, and the ability to experience it fully, should be accessible to everyone and congratulated the People and Parks Foundation and Parks Victoria for making the Lasher wheelchair available at Tidal River.

“We see National Parks as a key pillar in the developing market of Accessible Tourism and as a critical element of the health and wellbeing of the world's population regardless of an individual's ability,” Mr Forrester said.

“Parks Victoria are an acknowledged world leader in outdoor accessibility. The Lasher beach Wheelchair adds another level of mobility independence to an already great set of accessible facilities at Wilsons Promontory.”

Connect with nature through your favourite park.  Healthy Parks Healthy People.  For more information about Parks Victoria’s commitment to making parks accessible visit http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/visit/improving-park-access-for-all

 

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Launch of the new self propelled beach wheelchair at Tidal River

Additional Links:

ABC News: Beach wheelchair at Wilson's Promontory gives better experience for people with disabilities

PhotoAbility: Image Gallery

 

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Station Pier - Melbourne's Cruise Ship Terminal


Station Pier was originally known as Railway Pier and was first openedin 1854. It played a key role in Victoria's history and through the mid to late 1800's saw the arrival of the first visitors keen to seek their fortunes on the goldfields and then the settlers. It saw off the first contingent of Australian troops headed for the Boer War. In October 1914 16 ships left Station Pier for World War I. Again in 1940 troops headed for the European, African and Pacific theatres of World War II from Station Pier. Post the Second World War many thousands of the migrants that came to Australia's shores and gave Melbourne its rich multicultural diversity first set foot on Australian soil at Station Pier. The pier and its unique Gate House are heritage listed.
Today Station Pier is Melbourne's premier cruise ship terminal and is also host to the Spirit of Tasmania ferry service from Melbourne to Devonport. It also plays host to visiting naval and tall ships. Unlike many cruise ship terminals, Station Pier is not located within a freight terminal. The pier is constructed directly off the beach into Port Phillip Bay at the historic and cosmopolitan suburb of Port Melbourne, giving visitors stunning views from their ship and the chance to wander along the beach side board walks directly from the end of the pier.
Station Pier is 15 minutes from Melbourne's CBD.
The pier is open to the general public from 6am to 9pm daily (for pedestrians only). However, the pier is closed to the public during cruise ship visits, some naval ship visits and other exceptional circumstances.

Accessibility
Terminal Building
 
During cruise ship visits entry to the pier is via the left side gate for initial security. The path down the pier is level and smooth with a road crossing about half way down to the cruise terminal. The cruise terminal is the second building on the pier and there is a set of elevators just past the main escalators. The terminal is on the first floor with a small cafe accessible toilets, and a gift shop prior to the main security checkpoint and gangway entry. The tidal movement in Port Phillip bay is only approximately 18 inches, gangway slope will alter greatly during your visit. Depending on the ship and gangway configuration assistance is on hand for wheelchair users.

Drop off and pick up procedures
From the main gate and security checkpoint it is approximately 500 metres to the cruise ship terminal. Drivers are permitted to drive onto the pier and drop passengers with a disability at the terminal building. On return the procedure is more complex. Passengers with a disability must arrange with the ships purser for a pick up at the terminal building. The passengers name will then be added to the security gate register. The driver of the pick up vehicle will need to quote that name to be allowed through the security checkpoint. As it is a pickup zone only prior arrangements will need to be made to contact the driver when the passenger has cleared customs and is ready to be picked up.
Please note: These arrangements must be made with the cruise line. Station Pier is not manned when there are no ships are in port.

Access to the City
There are two public transport options to the CBD. There is an accessible shuttle bus that operates on weekdays from the cruise terminal to the arts precinct in the city near the Flinders Street Station.
An accessible tram service (route 109) operates from the Beacon Cove terminus right into the centre of the centre with stops along Collins Street. Route 109 operates flat floor roll in trams from elevated tram platforms. Each platform has a 1 in 14 ramp at one end for wheelchair users. The accessible stops are:

  • 8-Parliament/Collins St (Melbourne City)
  • 7-101 Collins St (Melbourne City)
  • 6-Melbourne Town Hall/Collins St (Melbourne City)
  • 5-Elizabeth St/Collins St (Melbourne City)
  • 1-Spencer St/Collins St (Melbourne City)
  • 124A-Casino/MCEC/Clarendon St (Southbank)
  • 129-Beacon Cove/Light Rail (Port Melbourne)

The Tram terminus is a pleasant 10 minute walk/roll from the cruise terminal. On Cruise visiting days an accessible bus shuttle operates from the terminal to the Beacon Cove terminus.

When ships are in port public transport tickets can be purchased at Station Pier. For further details and ticket prices contact Public Transport Victoria http://ptv.vic.gov.au

 

 

 


accessible vehicleAccessible Sightseeing Tours.

TravAbility offers a full range of day and half day accessible tours of Melbourne and surrounds to suit your in-port time.

We operate modern vehicles and can cater for couples and small groups.

Accessible Transfers to and from the Port are also available.

Suggested Destinations:

  • Moonlit Sanctuary and Cranbourne Botanical Gardens
  • Melbourne City Sights
  • Yarra Valley Winerys
  • Dandenong Ranges and Puffing Billy
  • Phillip Island Koala Conservation Centre and Penguin Parade

Call us for availability and prices 1300 722 683 or internationally on +61 4 1769 0533

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The City of Gothenburg, Sweden, has Published a new Brochure on its Accessibility


Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city and was founded in 1621. Gothenburg has the largest port in the Nordic Region and a wonderful archipelago, but it is also known as the city highly regarded as a venue for major sporting events, entertainment and culture. A former industrial city, Gothenburg evolved into a city of creation and innovation and now in to a city of commerce and education. 

Gothenburg was the proud winner of the Access City Award 2014. The annual competition is organised by the European Commission and awards European cities that have shown exceptional good work with addressing accessibility issues. The competition is intended to recognise cities that have high goals and have a holistic approach to creating an accessible environment for everyone, with a focus on people with disabilities. The City of Gothenburg’s efforts to integrate people with all types of disabilities in the society made it 2014’s winning city.

 

The city’s aim and vision 

The City of Gothenburg has a political aim to make Gothenburg accessible for everyone. The accessibility work taking place in the community goes hand in hand with the disability policy and to create a city for all. 

The vision for Gothenburg is an accessible city where every citizen in Gothenburg has the same opportunity of taking part in the life of the community. Gothenburg should be the best city in which to live and everyone in the city should feel proud to be a citizen of Gothenburg. 

The City of Gothenburg has launched its new brochure outlining the systemic approach it is using to create a city for all.

Download the guide

 

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Angkor Wat in a Wheelchair


Centuries ago in an ancient world, kings were building magnificent temple complexes. King Suryavarman II wasn’t exactly thinking about wheelchair accessibility when he built Angkor Wat, the largest temple complex in the world. Although Angkor Wat can be difficult to climb even for an able bodied person, it didn’t stop these adventurers from Belgium using their wheelchairs!

Cambodia is a beautiful country. It's incredible landscape is covered with unspoiled natural beauty, splendid rice fields, palm trees, countryside with mountains in the back ground, empty beaches, bustling markets, vibrant cities and ancient temples forming a harmonious whole. Above all this, its people, their charm and warm-hearted hospitality make Cambodia an attractive place to visit.

The group of 7 guests using wheelchairs arrived at the Lotus Lodge hotel in Siem Reap and were greeted by Mitch St.Pierre. Mitch is the owner of Lotus Lodge and also happens to be in a wheelchair. Mitch arrived in Cambodia after a career in politics and filming a documentary for CBC television in Canada. After showing the hotel grounds and around to the guests from Belgium, it was time to enjoy some cold drinks by the swimming pool. Cambodia can be quite hot and humid being that it is technically a jungle.

 

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The group in front of Lotus Lodge 

The Lotus Lodge hotel has made many efforts in making the hotel as wheelchair accessible as possible. The Lotus Lodge is one of the very few hotels in Siem Reap that is on the ground level in it's entirety. There is a ramp that was built to get from the lobby to the rooms, and there is also another ramp to climb the few steps to access the restaurant & lounge area. Mitch went on to show them the common method of transportation in Cambodia, a Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is basically a trailer being pulled by a moto-bike. It may seem difficult to get into for someone using a wheelchair but everyone in Cambodia is more than helpful. With the help of two people can easily help one into a Tuk Tuk. Fold up the wheelchair, store it securely inside and away you go! 

Although Cambodia has a very dark recent past, things are quickly changing. Hotels and tourist facilities are popping up everywhere. It's a place for adventurers, backpackers, families, and archaeologists to name a few. You can spend days exploring ancient temple sites, take it to the sky in a Microlight Aircraft, trek through jungles to watch unique wildlife species, travel by boat through remote floating villages and flooded forests, off road in the countryside in old vintage military jeeps, swim at the waterfalls of Kulen Mountain, a conservation center, butterfly center, zip-lining and so much more. 

The group of 7 from Belgium were true adventurers at heart. Although challenging, a tour through the floating villages was arranged. With the help of Tuk Tuk drivers and the always friendly locals, the group went down the bank to the rickety wooden boats on the water that would take them through a beautiful scenic ride through to a village on the Tonle Sap Lake, home to families who eke out a living on one of the most abundant inland fisheries in the world and way of life. The flooded forest here is also fascinating, submerged for half the year, the trees have learned to adapt and are an invaluable part of the ecosystem.

 

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Although Cambodia is home to the most disabled people per capita, facilities and resources for the disabled are almost non existent and only provided by NGO's. The sad reality is that many disabled people in Cambodia do not have the proper resources needed for rehabilitation. Overall, the guests from Belgium had a wonderful experience. It was an experience like no other and in the end the guests were able to give back by donating a Quickie wheelchair for a Cambodian in need. 
For more information visit www.thelotuslodge.com & www.decalage.be 

 

About Mitch St. Pierre

Mitch is a film-maker, community leader, world traveler, public speaker and Candidate for National Membership Secretary for the Liberal Party of Canada. 

Traveling to over 40 countries in his wheelchair has given him a broad view of the world. From the jungles of Colombia to the megacities of Asia, Mitch has experienced it all. 

Mitch's first film aired nation wide on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Current TV in the United States. Mitch has filmed in the most remote regions of the world, typically focusing on human rights issues. 

Mitch has also been a strong advocate for conflict regions which is what inspired him to get involved in politics. Politics has allowed Mitch to meet prime ministers, presidents and many influential policy makers.

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PushLiving.com Owner Deborah Davis Goes on a Spanish Adventure


What is a girl to do, when she falls in love and has to travel 4600 miles to see her new love??

Well, first time I laid my eyes on a Oracing wheelchair, I shared it on my facebook page as if it was a girls favorite new designer shoes, hot actor, or some other highly coveted thing we love. For this “Push Girl”, this chair has all the hot good looks and stable, strong build a girl can depend on! Plus, that mysterious and exotic foreign birthplace…well…I was looking for something uncommon, and was tired of the same old chairs “next door”. This girl craved some variety! So I set my sites on how to make my way to Spain and met my new love in person!

I began with trying to find a home swap. I didn’t want to have to pay for a hotel and airfare, so I started scouring all the sites I have in the past…homeexchange.com and Home for exchange.com. (It is the lack of accessible properties or reliable information on accessibility on these sites that inspired TravabilityProperites.com, where one can swap, rent or buy accessible properties worldwide.) I had to figure out where my new love lived and try to find something close by,a hard task, made even more difficult as I needed a wheelchair accessible, or at least reasonably so…property. No luck when I need to go in May, yet it would appear the entire country went on holiday, just not until July and August. Nobody was leaving in May. Then my wise Australian business partner told me I should fly into Barcelona rather than Madrid (they were about equal distance away from Gandia where my love was waiting for me.) He said I should not miss the opportunity to tour Barcelona, as it was the home of the 19?? Paralympics and had made great strides in accessibility. 

So I started a new search for swaps in Barcelona and got lucky! A young, hip couple wanted to come to south Florida in August and said I could have their apt in the city in May. No car, but close to public transit and an elevator to reach apt. A nice tub for a soak after a long day of sightseeing…I am in!

I quickly booked my tickets as the flight went up $300 in one day and only 2 seats left on direct flight from Miami to Barcelona. I was flying alone for my first time internationally, and meeting a friend there so I didn’t want to deal with a layover. 13 hours was bad enough! Whew!

American Airlines did a superb job at handling me and my wheelchair…even though my rigid frame Quickie Gti didn’t fit in to the cabin closet as it always does on most plane configurations…they took my Spinergy wheels off and stowed them and took the rest of my titanium chair and put it under the plane in baggage hold. It came back in perfect shape and the staff was so nice and friendly and made me feel very comfortable on my first long flight solo. I was even given bulk head seat and they now have a special check in desk for those who require special assistance …so I didn’t have to wait in line to check in.

Miami International also has a policy now that allows those with disabilities to drop off their luggage curb side and self-park while they hold your bags for you. Clearly I couldn’t be expected to drag my 70 pound bag full of 11 days of shoes, wardrobe, makeup and toiletries from the parking garage ☺ 

So I dropped of bags, headed for short term parking where it is free with modified vehicles with hand controls, parked, put my backpack on my back of chair, my duffle bag on my lap with all my “must haves” that will stay with me in flight. In case my bags are lost or delayed or in case of an “accident or illness—I have all needed supplies and meds, change of clothes, patch kit for Roho, extra tire tubes in case of flat, Roho air hawk cushion for my long seat ride, blow up neck roll, file with FAA guidelines for wheelchair passengers, and all my documents/numbers and itinerary for trip. If anyone wants a full check list I have developed for use on trips over the years, write us at Deborah.davis @pushliving.com and I will email.

I then go and checks bags, and have the nice wheelchair assistance folks do their job and escort me to my gate. They help me through security, which I need as they get me through with ease, and wait for me with my stuff while I get my friendly TSA pat down, I never had I had a unpleasant experience with those great folks whose job is to do this for wheelers, and I have done this many times. They are kind, and follow procedures with respect and dignity. That has been my experience. I also make a point to be exceptionally nice to them and thank them for a job well done.

So I arrive in Spain and meet my friend at baggage claim, rent a car and head right out to Port Olympia were we sit in the sun and eat fresh seafood tapas and have a glass of wine. After, we take a much needed nap, wake up late, hungry and decide to take rented car out to city and find some food. Note to first time visitors to Spain…they eat late...but not past 1am! And they have many surprise police road blocks that test you for drinking. AND they actually want you to have an international driver’s license. If you don’t, they will impound your car. 

So be sure, to get one before you go. And take a cab or public transit if you plan on drinking on a night out in Barcelona. Parking is difficult downtown anyway. 

The next day, we set out for the Familia ____but ended up enjoying the sunny day and the row of outdoor cafes lined up in the center of Gaudi Avenue. Outdoor market, cured meats and warm Spanish scarfs were in just the thing for this Florida Girl!

 

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Later we asked a cabbie for a recommendation …and he took us to a great Restaurant known for it’s fresh seafood and celebrity visits, right near the ocean called Salamanca http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d1007529-Reviews-Restaurante_Salamanca-Barcelona_Catalonia.html. They serve Black Paella, the best wines and have a classic ambiance and excellent service. They have an accessible restroom located in the back. I went outside to find the easiest entrance into the door.

The next day we went back to the Olympic Park and had lunch at one of the best seafood restaurants…El Cangrjo Loco. You can sit downstairs or upstairs with the view…but no elevator inside…or bathroom upstairs. To access upper level with views of water, you need to go to upper level of the plaza and approach the restaurant from that level. 

 

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We then went for a long walk along the ocean boardwalk…and were amazed at the ramps and wooden pathways across sand for closer water access on the beach all throughout the way.

 

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Later we went to La Rambla - Barcelona, where they have the most fabulous statues of Lions.

 

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You are highly encouraged to walk the Old Town or Gothic Town. Barri Gòtic - the Gothic quarter — at Barri Gothic - Barcelona. We were seeking a famous Jazz club, but found the venue had steep steps leading downstairs. They offered to carry us, but I was not keen. So we had plenty to do, in this amazing area with smooth and easy paved streets and so much fascinating things to explore. The Barri Gòtic is adjacent to the northeast side of the Ramblas, the famous street to stroll. 

 

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The next day we head out to Barcelona Zoo. My admission was free as was my companion. What a surprise!
I loved the elephants and they have a ramp to a high platform you can over see them from and right below are a pond of enormous hippos! They are such amazing creature up close!

There is not much there in way of food, so we walked across the street and found some outdoor cafes. We then made our way to another famous area-La Rambla Catalonia, where we were set to meet the most experienced accessible travel guru in Barcelona, Alan Broadbent of Disabled Accessible travel (good name huh..great for google search) http://www.disabledaccessibletravel.com/https://www.facebook.com/disabledaccessibletravel

His company is the main provider of accessible travel services in Barcelona and what a world of knowledge and history is this man! We had a lovely dinner at an outdoor café with Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft, who was doing a sabbatical in Spain, learning Spanish while living a single female in a $5000 a month accessible condo wheeling distance from all the best shopping and restaurants. Alan taught us all about the Catalonia culture and its influence in Barcelona. One fact that made such an impression is he told us that Spain’s President made a pledge that he wanted the country to be the most accessible country in the world. Let me tell you, so far, I am very impressed. 

The next day we decided to take a hop on hop off Bus that was accessible and had taped guided tour info via provided ear buds. We started at Port Olympia…and had a drink at the famous and incredibly designed Hotel Arts Barcelona on the pool side patio overlooking the port.

 

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After you can cross the street and grab the bus. We stopped at the Maseu Blau Museum where we looked at the Poisonous things exhibit. It’s amazing we are all not dead yet with all those things crawling around!

 

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Next stop was Tibidabo, where we attempted to get a cable car to the Tibidabo teleferic station … We got off and couldn’t find our way, so we just started pushing up a very steep hill up a toney neighborhood until we saw a bus stop and a young man who was searching for the same place. He asked the bus driver and we found that we could take this bus, with an accessible ramp to the top where we could then take the ____ to the top of Tibidabo. The ____ was closed at 4:00 but we found an adorable little cliff side bar with a look out that was worth the trip! Note: we later found out that the Blue cable car that was advertised on Bus Tour to take us to Tibidabo is not wheelchair accessible.

 

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Next, we walked from the last stop on the bus tour back to Old Town for a reserved Authentic Spanish Flamenco Show in an amazing old building with a candle lit courtyard and traditional old style furnishings and paintings. Espai Barroc is located on the opposite side from the Museu Picasso (which by the way—if you visit you don’t need to wait in long lines if you are a wheelchair user, there is a separate ticket window). http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187497-d606659-Reviews-Espai_Barroc-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

 

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The streets are very smooth in Gothic Town as well as most everywhere we went throughout Barcelona. I didn’t bring my Freewheel for this trip and frankly didn’t miss it.

Now we are off for the main reason I came to Spain…to go to the seaside town of Gandia to pick up my new love…a love I have spent months developing and communicating via email. I selected the dimensions, the height width and the perfect custom color. My new love...an Oracing ridged frame suspension wheelchair with custom side guards, tapered front end, ergo seat with strips, leather frame protectors and even an original design push bar with padded handmade leather padded grips.

 

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We were greeted by Felipe Garcia, the owner and a brilliant c-56 quadriplegic design and production genius who has built this company and built a team of the best from all over the world to come to Gandia and make custom wheelchairs, bikes and sport chairs. Bike-on.com is a dealer and who I purchased my new chair from with the help of dedicated and patient representative Stephen Feldman.

We were able to book the 4 star RH Bayren Hotel & Spa for less than $100 per night with an accessible room that had a gorgeous roll in shower. Ramps from the Hotel Pool to the boardwalk lead us to a smooth surface stroll on the famed beachfront. I recommend the Barracuda restaurant, as they have great casual food, wifi, a ramp and an accessible bathroom. Do not forgo the Spa massage here, with its sophisticated décor, well trained masseuses, and reasonable prices. After a 5 hour trip from Barcelona, it was just what I needed. For a great dinner, head a few blocks North from the Hotel to La Pizzeria, which contrary to its name, is an excellent upscale Italian restaurant with a ramp!

While in Gandia and while the most excellent team at Oracing where making some final changes to my chair, we were encouraged to drive south another 40 minutes to port town of Denia…where we had a fabulous meal at The Port Restaurant. Now this restaurant did not have an accessible bathroom and the only on I found was not quite so…with scary boarded ramp steeply entering in a storage room where the fully accessible bathroom was located. Loll!

 

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When we got back to Oracing, just after 5pm, my chair was ready to take home. We doubled kissed our hosts Felipe Garcia, Owner and his fabulous production team goodbye and me and my new love took our long 5 hour journey back to Barcelona. On the way we stopped at the most scenic view on the southern side of the city where we stopped to take in the sun setting on a most successful trip. 

 

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We found an amazing little restaurant by using our rental car’s’ navigation system to select nearby restaurants. We just picked one in close proximity that we liked the name of and took a chance and followed our guide. We showed up at the La Cupula, and to our surprise we arrived at an accessible, cliff side, breathtaking, movie scene like location. We panicked a bit as we sat down until we saw that the prices were not going to break the bank!

 

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The following day we decided to take the car out of Barcelona for the most scenic and amazing drive I have ever experienced. …but not one for the faint of heart! As you drive the windy two lane mountain side road up to the Monastery of Montserrat, you will want to go slow and take in the breathtaking views!

Once you get to the very top, you can park, but I did not see any reserved spaces for wheelchairs, so I would recommend you get dropped off close to the entrance, as the parking is located below a steep climb up a slope.

The sun came out, and we enjoyed the lookout, the architectural wonder of this landmark Benedictine abbey and basilica. Tip: A little trolly—no ramp but they carried me in, will take you up to the main entrance. A good thing as the wind was blowing, and I was freezing up there! They have a funicular- a steep Incline you can take to the top of the mountain from the station there, and if you are inclined, a mass, a black virgin statue (not accessible) and a boys’ choir.

 

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The final day I was back at terminal 1 and was pleasantly surprised that the airport police said we could park our car at the entrance for as long as needed so I could be assisted with my luggage into the terminal for my flight back to Miami. Another special wheelchair assistance desk awaited me, and I was told I could take my old chair back free of charge as it was “medical equipment.” YAY.

So, as you can see, there is much to fall in Love with about Spain. Barcelona and Oracing both did not disappoint, and I recommend both for the best of PushLiving!

 

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YOU Better BELIZE It!!


I figured I could wait till a week out to book my hotel for the last leg of my trip to Belize. I had already booked the first half of trip in the Northern Jungles, and was undecided as to what part of the country’s coastline I wanted to visit for the last four days of my week-long visit.

I then discovered a surprising and time consuming truth. Belize is not exactly accessible to tourists in wheelchairs. Seriously folks, very little has really been done to open up this beautiful country to travelers with disabilities. Apparently, there are only a handful of hotels that have even a single accessible room. 

Even Frommer’s.com concur

“Most disabilities shouldn't stop anyone from traveling. There are more options and resources out there than ever before. However, in general, there are relatively few handicapped-accessible buildings or transport vehicles in Belize. A very few hotels offer wheelchair-accessible accommodations, and there are no public buses, commuter airlines, or water taxis thus equipped. In short, it's relatively difficult for a person with disabilities to get around in Belize.” Read more: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/belize/272883#ixzz2lOk0AET3 

I loved this travel bloggers assessment which I read prior to seeing the proof myself:

“The fact is, most of Belize simply isn’t accessible for people with limited mobility. Or just for those of us who aren’t as spry as we used to be. 

Hotels almost invariably are built elevated from ground level. Walkways at jungle lodges or even at regular hotels are cobblestone or rough boards or loose gravel. Often the best rooms, those with the views, are on the top floors, up several flights of stairs. 
I can count the number of hotels in Belize with handicap-accessible rooms on the arthritic fingers of one hand – Calico Jack’s in Placencia, the original SunBreeze in San Pedro, Hok’ol K’in in Corozal Town, and maybe a couple of others. Aside from elevators in the high-rise hotels in Belize City, the Radisson Fort George, Renaissance Tower and the Princess, and the little one atCorona del Mar in San Pedro, here are almost no elevators anywhere in the country. 
Even the new condo developments in Placencia and Ambergris Caye are going up two, three or four stories without elevators. (Surely, developers will figure out the average buyer of a US$600,000 condo is not going to be a 20-something marathon runner, but more like a retired couple with a hip replacement or two?)
I understand the problems of building in a hurricane- and flood-prone environment, on sand, on remote hillsides. I realize there are no laws requiring access for those with less than perfect mobility.
In today’s world of aging Baby Boomers with bum knees, though, there’s a market for hotels and condos with easy access. Somebody is going to figure out that wide doors, access ramps and elevators sell. Even if it’s not mandated by law, it can make good economic sense to make new construction in Belize accessible to everyone.” http://www.belizefirst.com/RamblesAroundBelize2008.htm

Banyan Bay www.banyanbay.com, located on San Pedro Island, was one ocean front hotel that was recommended and available (overlooking the pool - not ocean - as is typical for “handicapped rooms” are found to be placed in least desired locations), but I decided that I really preferred to go south to Placencia. A web search came up with Roberts Grove (http://www.robertsgrove.com/) which prides itself on having an accessible room for those with disabilities. While they were incredibly gracious and helpful, by the time I was ready to book, the room was already reserved. Another wheeler was going to the resort that same week and they were going to have to build a ramp for him to a non-designated first floor room. They offered the same for me, but the bathroom wasn’t accessible and they had a shower, no tub and no shower chair, so I declined this trip. 

I looked to Hotels.com and used their search option for “Accessible room.” A few hotels that met my discerning criteria - including accessible rooms - came up! YAY! I found one I liked, The Placencia http://www.theplacencia.com, and called the agent to book it. I asked him to contact the hotel directly to determine which “room category” was actually the one where the accessible room was. He put me on hold for quite a long time and came back to assure me it was the junior suite (the lowest value - again, this is typical) so I said great, book it! I actually celebrated with him as I had already spent two days looking for a truly accessible option. I had inquired on Kayak.com, Trip Advisor, read blogs, scoured through vacation rentals, all major booking sites, and Googled various keywords until my eyes blurred - but I refused to give up. I wanted to find and support a property that actually made the effort to provide some accommodation. I am like a dog on a bone when I want to find something, and I wasn’t about to settle for some two star hotel in Belize City with the only available accessible room in the country. So after I hung up with Hotels.com, I immediately sent an email to the hotel directly (as is always my practice) announcing my booking reservation and confirming I will actually be requiring the accessible room option that I requested. (Strange that these booking engines will consider wheelchair rooms that we specifically book as “requests,” thus making them not guaranteed. How exactly is that logical? I know in California now you can book a room in that category specifically - good for CA!)

I must have celebrated too soon because I then got an email from a nice lady representing the company.

“Thank you for choosing The Placencia Hotel.
I received a booking request for a Junior Suite.
Unfortunately this room is not wheelchair accessible,
And this room has only a waterfall shower no tub.
I would not say any of our room are accessible. We have
Had several guest in the past that we have accommodated
Be making an adjustment in the stairs but this would be only
In the Master Suite first floor. We would be happy to
Do the same for you but will only work in a master suite.”

So, I agreed to pay an additional upgrade fee (per night) for the room that I could use. Hotels.com even agreed to credit me the difference and I was VERY impressed with how they handled this major miscommunication. When I got to the Placencia, I found they had built me a steep, but workable (unsafe and not possible for most - but doable for us), ramp. They even greeted me upon my arrival at the steps of the entrance to the lobby and checked me into my room. They then built a ramp to the pool area (three steps up, which was doable with help, but they wanted to build it for me anyway).

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That evening, they called my room and made the offer to carry me up a full flight of winding stairs to the restaurant for dinner. I agreed and two security guards met us at the stairs upon our arrival. 

They further accommodated us by allowing us to order from any menu and eat wherever we wanted on the property (with them bringing the food to us).

Overall, the room was large enough and could have met most accessibility standards and could have been fully usable by most if they had made just a few minor adjustments.

Simple grab bars, a shower chair for the tub, and a raised toilet would have made all the difference.

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But that is basically the story throughout most of Belize, or any country that has not yet figured out the incredible economic opportunity of Inclusive Tourism. Belize is becoming a major destination for retirees, and investors are driving rapid development and home/lot and time share sales… but it is missing the boat by excluding (outright and blatantly) anyone with a mobility impairment that does not have a full entourage to lift them into tubs, planes, and automobiles. Of course, many people cannot be lifted without injury to themselves or others and/or prefer not to be. 

Where are the accessible buses, taxis, tours, accommodations and public spaces?

Let’s start at the international airport, shall we?

There were no accessible restrooms in sight; the one you first come to upon arrival had one door removed, so I could at least get close to a toilet bowl, however, the seat was too low to transfer, so it’s a good thing I didn’t need to!

On my return, I did find a larger stall I could enter and actually shut the door at gate 5, but again the seat was too low. How simple would a few accessibility signs and a few extra toilet seats and bars and doors be? I can tell you from experience that these larger bathroom stalls are coveted and appreciated by ALL travelers. Rarely will a person who needs these stalls find one available that is not occupied, even when all other stalls are open. So, clearly, they are preferred by all.

There were some roughed out concrete ramps… not built to a proper slope (1/12 per ADA) or smooth enough to not proceed with caution, but hey…. at least SOME effort was made there.

My first stay was at the Maruba Resort (http://www.maruba-spa.com/), which I found to be the perfect jungle experience and loved the colorful and detailed “ethno” themed décor and amazing grounds. I was able to roll around the resort on mostly stone paved walkways and had a direct stepless entry into the room. Again, while the bathroom was workable, no actual accessible features were provided. I just happened to be able to just squeeze my chair through the door and had the strength to get off the low toilet seat (though I did begin to fall once, I was saved in time.)

They did make some crude efforts at accessibility and had gravel pathways to pool decks, steep and incomplete ramps to pool area bathrooms and dining area and no steps to rooms.

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The resort is known for the spa, and the massages were truly the best I ever had. Don’t skimp; treat yourself to at least one treatment a day if you do visit. They also have a hot mineral bath that was my favorite place to go each day after a dip in the pool or a night cap. It was worth the very bumpy, one hour drive via the resort provided transport. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who cannot tolerate jarring… but if you do make it, the welcome rum punch is well deserved and you will find you need the massage! It is a great experience and three days was plenty of time to relax and regenerate. 

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I actually got car sick on the bumpy ride back, so we decided to fly to our next destination rather than rent a car and drive as was planned. We booked a flight with Maya Island Airlines and I was literally carried onto the 12 seater plane for the 45 minute journey to the southeast island of Placencia. 

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No worries about chairs being bent up in the storage hold, they just put it on the floor (unsecured) by my feet. Two quick and fun landings later in this small aircraft, we were at the Placencia airport, a tiny airport with no ramp to enter the building upon my arrival. 

Prior to my arrival, I had written to almost every hotel and tour operator on the island of Placencia, and only a handful bothered to reply. I must say most of them were quite humorous (if you have a sense of humor), but some may view them as quite insensitive. I didn’t have the time to properly reply, but if I could, my reply would be what’s written in italics below. Too blunt, you think??

“Deborah, we would love to help you, but I am guessing that our facility is not the best for your use.” Bathroom is fairly small, definitely not room for a chair inside. Stall shower.” No, a bathroom is really best for my use, but thank you for your reply.

- "You could maneuver anywhere on our grounds – sand paths to the beach.
- Our lodge (lounge, dining room, gift shop, office) is second story with stairs only for access. If you think this would work for you, please let me know. We would love to help you enjoy a stay at (name withheld), but definitely do not want you to come and be uncomfortable due to our facilities.” If you would like us to be comfortable, why not make the changes to facilities?

“We have to make you aware that the resort is built on sand with no concrete walkways and no designated pathways, and all the rooms are elevated with steps which do not have rails. The interior is split level, and also inside the rooms and in the restaurant which is also split level, there are no rails. The resort is reachable by boat only which requires our guests to step in and out of boats with a certain level of mobility. Unfortunately, based on these features, the resort cannot be qualified as accessible. “ I would have to agree. Seems to me you know exactly how to fix these issues now. Will you?

“Greeting from Sunny Belize! I would also like to mention that all our ground level rooms do have couple steps before entering the room.” Ever consider building a ramp??

“Thank you for your interest in (name removed). We currently have a ground floor unit which is Pool/Garden view. There is 1-2 steps to get to the door. I am not sure if that would work for you guys. Our common grounds consist of 2 levels.” It would work much better with a ramp ;)

“We would love to have you with us. However, #$%^@@@ would be very difficult to get around with a wheel chair as all our rooms are off the ground. We also do not have bathrooms that are wheel chair accessible. Access to the resort is by boat only and it can be a bit challenging getting on and off the boats. However, if you believe that this is not a problem, then please let us know if you have alternative dates as we are already full for the requested time frame." Thank you but I do believe that would be a problem.

Come on now, are WE having FUN yet?? ;) How about ONE more for good measure??

“Thank you for your email inquiry for #%^#%# Resort. We recognize you had many options of resorts on the island and are honored that you selected (blank) Resort.

Unfortunately we do not have any accessible rooms. Upon entering the unit there is a step and the doors are not wide enough for wheelchair. Belize is a challenge and especially Ambegris Caye.” It is a “challenge” only because you built it that way. Ever think you could make it less of one with a small investment in some structural changes? Ask me how and we would be happy to show you.

Ok, all the “fun” aside, the one thing I learned in Belize, which was actually the most impactful on me, is regardless of how intentionally or unintentionally inaccessible and excluding the country is, they are some of the most helpful, willing and friendly people I have ever had the pleasure of overcoming “challenges” with. There was nothing that was impossible to them. Literally nothing was refused. I was pulled in and out of boats, my chair held over head and walked from ocean to deserted islands, and provided with a private snorkel guide to assist me via the amazing crew at the Splash Dive shop. 
(http://www.splashbelize.com/). 

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I had three of the strongest most fit men literally mule carry me up a forest mountain and attach me to not one, but eight zip line platforms and take me tandem through the longest zip line in all of Belize (http://www.bocawinaadventures.com/). I would not recommend the zip line for most as it is eight separate platforms and lots of hiking and climbing, steep inclines with gravel, dirt and wobbly pathways made of stones with cut off tree trunks in between. I am 128 lbs and I just about killed my poor guides who literally carried me the entire course. One or two zip lines would have been sufficient. I had no idea in advance of the actual course, and I thought I was going to be raised to just one platform and go down one zip line. This is the kind of thing an experienced disabled specialized tour guide would have been able to provide some knowledge on beforehand and could have advised not only what was feasible, but also what was safe and reasonable based on individual limitations. Let’s just say I was sore and exhausted - as I am sure was the whole crew! 

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I would definitely recommend anyone going to Placencia to contact my tour organizers Roam Belize Tours
(www.roambelize.com) who personally made all arrangements, met us at our hotel and drove us the hour drive (a drive that was a highlight of the trip as you get to see the countryside) to the zip line at the Bocawina National Park. Julie was the first person to respond to my inquiry with many providers simply ignoring my emails. 

Smiles, love, warmth, and an infallible spirit of hospitality are what make this country worth the effort if you think you can pull it off.

They could benefit both economically and culturally from an inclusive travel consultant, like those that TravAbility.travel (http://travability.travel/services.html) could provide. They can train tour providers, governments and tourism entities on how to make the small efforts that could make all the difference in the world to travelers who make the effort to come and visit their country. 

One example is Robert’s Grove. I was fortunate enough to be a guest for dinner hosted by the Sales Director there, and I was pleasantly surprised that I could roll all the way from the parking area to the back pool deck and from the walkway to the restaurant (outdoor seating only as there was a step to the main indoor seating area) and pier. 
The bathroom in the main dining area was not accessible, and when I asked if there was a possible alternative (a girl can dream), I was told to go to a bathroom behind the registration desk that may work. To my surprise, the employee restroom would have worked IF they made the door open outward. So this small change (along with a raised seat and a grab bar) would give this restaurant a wheelchair accessible restroom for guests. What a concept! Especially since they actually have an accessible room they promote on their website: “ Ask about our accessible rooms.” (http://www.robertsgrove.com/)

While I was unable to visit Robert’s Grove during daylight hours and actually see one of their accessible rooms, I found the atmosphere and beauty of this ocean side resort, as well as its food and service, a MUST book for a return visit. 

Belize has SO much potential, and it is growing so rapidly, that they could really seize this opportunity to become a great option for Americans, Europeans and Canadians with disabilities (who are used to being treated as equals and will want, and expect, to have a great inclusive experience). I truly hope they will take the lead of other countries who may not have such laws in place that require access, such as Ecuador and Barbados who have specialized tourism operators (such as Equador For All, Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB)) who know and understand the needs and desires of visitors with disabilities. A simple accessibility survey that can be self-assessed, some basic site reviews and consultations by those who actually know what can work, organized free training for those businesses and providers who want to learn about customer service for people with disabilities provided by tourism boards, and examples of what and how to create inclusive experiences are the road maps to a HUGE opportunity for Belize. 

I snorkeled, zip lined, swam, visited the village, and contributed to the economy of Belize. I am only one of MANY of thousands (adults with disabilities or reduced mobility spend an average of $13.6 billion a year on travel in the US alone) with disabilities who would take that opportunity if just a little effort was made to show us we are valued and welcomed.

The paradise that is Belize and the “Everything is Possible” attitude of their exceptionally gracious and genuine people should be available to all. I hope to see great strides made in this country toward accessibility and accommodations for all.

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Sweden: The Land of Peace, Equality, Flowers and Smiling Children


by Deborah Davis

Our trip began with an arrival night dinner in Stockholm at the coolest, hippest restaurant in town, Sture Hof. The food, service, and atmosphere were a great first welcome. Even the bathroom was perfectly accessible, a nice surprise being I am so spoiled living in Florida, with one of the best accessibility codes in the world.

 

The next day we started out on foot from our centrally located Rica Hotel www.rica.se through the main plaza shopping area and saw beautiful public art work throughout the city.One in particular was quite profound, depicting a pistol tied in a knot so it could not shoot. Sweden has not been in a war in 200 years and this is a great piece which reflects that philosophy.

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The last war Sweden was in was with the Norwegians. The peace document was signed 14th of August 1814.

Then it was onward to “Gamla Stan” (Old Town Square) the 13th century original town, which has been preserved from medieval times and has so much to explore. I knew it was “old” and therefore not going to be as accessible as the city, but was armed, ready to take on the cobbled streets with a strong husband, a young daughter and a freewheel attachment. Let’s go!

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The exciting and architecturally fascinating entrance into Gamla Stan

The Old Town of course has steps. We kept wondering how disabled people managed back then, then we remembered that medical technology did not enable most with traumatic injuries or birth defects to survive long enough to be a part of society. These (pictured) were minor--most were more than two up.

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These were some of the less cobbly stone roads and slopes to climb in “Old Town” section of Stockholm.

The Nobel Museum, quaint town squares, great shopping, restaurants, the Stockholm Cathedrals and the Royal Palace make this section of Stockholm a MUST see for any tourist who can manage it. An electric wheelchair would be great here, but the only issue would be then getting into the facilities as there are no ramps. I was fortunate to be able to be carried up the steps of the places I wanted to go. 

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Gamla Stan Square medieval architecture

We went to the many museums this richly cultural city had to offer and they were all fully accessible and treasures! We went to the National Museum (elevator pictured), The Royal Coin Cabinet at the base of the Royal Palace, the Vasa (pictured below), and the Moderna Museet. My then teenage daughter was very interested in art and history so I was happy to give her those experiences! 

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Accessible entrance to National Museum in Swedish. It is also written Nationalmuseum  
The only difference is that in English it is two words but in Swedish only one word.

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On the walk along the river from City to Skansen, the Vasa Museum and Gröna Lund Amusement Park. Looking onto Djurgården Island.

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View from the waterside restaurant on Djurgården
We walked (and rolled) here from our hotel.

The Vasa Museum is astonishing and one of my favorite experiences (other than the Ice bar!). This 17th Century warship sunk on its maiden voyage--a huge embarrassment and tragedy as it took them 9 years to build it and was the most expensive project ever undertaken! It was a total loss. They found it and raised it 333 years later! You will be able to view how it was preserved and restored with all its intricate carvings! They took us to the front of the line with the wheelchair. It was a very moving and profound experience. 

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The back of the Vasa Warship. To read more about the lessons learned from this historic failure: http://faculty.up.edu/lulay/failure/vasacasestudy.pdf 

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Here is a replica of the ship that sank and is now fully restored in the Vasa. 

Then there was the real (albeit short!) highlight of the trip: The Absolut Ice bar! It was fully accessible and even with my lack of temperature control, I was able spend enough time to taste two of the famous flavored iced cold vodka due to the super insulated parkas that patrons get to wear.

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Absolute -5 degree Celsius Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel https://www.nordicchoicehotels.com/Nordic-Resort/Nordic-Sea/Featured-amenities/ICEBAR/

The food, while expensive in US dollars exchange rate, is one of the most pleasurable things about Sweden. Fresh, no hormones, no chemicals, farm raised food is an expectation of these savvy Europeans who have regulated the industry intelligently. They also have a large percentage of Vegans and Vegetarians in the population, so these options were always readily available.

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Vegans will Love Sweden!

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The Swedish meatball was a restaurant favorite, we had it at least four times!

The subways are accessible, clean and quite beautiful with public art on walls and ceilings. They were easy to navigate and no drama with broken elevators or lifts (unlike Paris which is literally a nightmare.) 
The streets are clean and flowers are alive and thriving wherever you look. Strange as it is almost like the wizard of Oz here as you cannot find a dead flower anywhere…trust me, I looked!

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Even the animals are beautiful and happy here…and I made sure I documented them (this has become one of my favorite photographic specialties.)

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In Stockholm, there are so many ethnic restaurants-they love international, diverse foods--this one was Pakistani buffet, yum. 

Many parts of city are easily walkable, for those who have partners with good walking skills. Expect some blisters the first days for walking companions so tell them to wear comfortable shoes. I was riding free of bumpy cobblestones and on some hard pressed dirt paths with my freewheel, and the help of some pushing, and was able to get to many places right from downtown without having to take transportation. We walked to all the following sites from our Hotel:

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Deborah with daughter Hannah at one of the many sculptures in “Old Town”

Gamla Stam (Old Towne),The National Museum, The Vasa, Djurgården Island, The Gröna Lund, The Royal Theatre (though closed in Summer) ,Skansen, all the downtown shopping, The famous water side harbor, and The Royal Palace.

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The fresh market square for flowers and shopping directly outside of the Rica Hotel Stockholm

The Grand Hotel, next to the Royal Place on the Harbor is a must see. If nothing else just to have the fancy porters help you use the lift and visit the most elegant bar wood carved where you can sit and have tea or a drink overlooking the harbor…dreamy!

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The lift the Grand Hotel and the Harbor View from the seating area of the lounge

Then you can plan day excursions via the subway to the outlying cities like Sodermalm. This was once considered "working class quarters" but is now a Bohemiam part of town that has great hip restaurants and boutiques! We loved it! 
But before you do anything I recommend you get your bearings by taking a sightseeing boat ride to learn about the layout of the land and the history of Sweden.

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They have an accessible boat…Under the Bridges Boat Tour and I really enjoyed that experience and learned so much I would not have been able to otherwise.

You must take the Under The Bridges Boat Tour to get a shot like this.

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Or this:

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Sweden has 9 million residents. Sweden & its beautiful old architecture were untouched by WWll.

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This is a swimming area--they have won awards for their water quality many years in a row. This lake freezes solid over in winter and people walk across from one island to the other! 

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View from the boat ride of the world famous Gröna Lund Amusement Park! We rode the Blue Roller Coaster twice!

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We actually did these steps at Gröna Lund Amusement park until we realized later there was another way in on the side of park with no steps…(you should probably go into more detail) 

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You must try the Beer Garden at the Gröna Lund. We meet new Swedish friends who taught us the value of a shot of Jägermeister! Full of herbs and vitamins, they said.

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Gröna Lund. My daughter is up there!​

Then we were on to Skansen http://www.skansen.se/en/kategori/english “Skansen is the world's first open-air museum, founded in 1891. Here you can stroll through five centuries of Swedish history, from north to south, with a real sense of the past all around in the historical buildings and dwellings, peopled by characters in period dress. Some 75 different species and breeds of Scandinavian animals are represented at Skansen – more than anywhere else. There are traditional breeds of cows, pigs, horses, sheep and goats, geese, hens and ducks. And there are wild animals such as brown bears, wolves, seals, lynx, wolverines and elks.” It was my daughter's favorite place in Sweden and I highly recommend it to families of all ages.

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Skansen - the world's first open-air museum​

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Deborah in the Skansen Lemur cage where you can get up close and personal and climb the tree house. 

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Then there are the Lemurs! Skansen Farmstead, a 75 acre miniature Sweden history replica.

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Traditional Dance performance was lovely in the open air seating area in Skansen 

The people of Sweden are respectful of all their citizens and it shows. They are environmentally, gay, disability, pet, and vegan friendly as well as being open to all cultures and races. The children all seem happy and carefree as do those residents we met and got to know during our visit. It is a model country and remains my favorite travel destination to this date.

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VisitEngland Announces New Marketing Campaign to Develop and Promote Accessible Tourism


Todays announcement from VisitEngland is a significant milestone in recognising the economic and social significance of Inclusive Tourism. England like the rest of the western world, has an ageing demographic that is already impacting the demand for accessible holiday experiences. Worldwide now there are over 1 billion people with some form of disability and with friends and family there are over 4 billion or almost a third of world's population directly affected by disability. The tourism industry has been slow to react to the changing demographic and re-examine its product and service offerings despite repeated projections of the market share of inclusive tourism reaching 25% of the total tourism spend by 2020.

Many people often mistake Inclusive Tourism for access, and believe building ramps and "accessible" bathrooms in compliance with legislation is the end of the matter. Travelers with a disability are the same as any other traveller and they travel to see and experience the world. (see Deborah's great personal article) Why the tourism industry believes any traveller would be content to sit in their "accessible" room for their holiday defies the service culture of the industry and shows the the disabled traveler is not seen as a customer. It is not about building infrastructure, but building experiences and product and that has to start with a destination not a ramp. VisitEngland, with today's announcement have taken a significant step to leverage the cultural awareness created by the London paralympic games and in so doing create for the British tourism industry a signifcant competitve advantage. Other countries need to take a good look at the underlying reasons and the economic significance of Inclusive Tourism or they run the risk of being left out of the fastest growing market in tourism.


VisitEngland's Announcement

VisitEngland today unveiled plans for a national marketing campaign to promote accessible tourism in England next year. The national tourist board will work with five destinations to develop exciting itineraries with top class accommodation and attractions that provide a warm welcome for all visitors including those with access needs. The campaign, a first of its kind, will be promoted through marketing activity starting in late Summer 2013, and is designed to highlight the fantastic tourism experiences on offer to all across the country. 

VisitEngland will work with Leicester Shire Promotions, Visit Brighton, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Bath Tourism Plus and Chester & Cheshire to identify tourism businesses in their area that provide particularly excellent levels of service to visitors with access needs – such as those with hearing and visual impairments, wheelchair users, older and less mobile people and people with pushchairs.

The national tourist board will then work with the destinations and businesses to ensure that they all meet the same high standard of accessibility, focussing on key issues such as customer service and visitor information. This will incorporate a number of VisitEngland’s tools and resources, such as Access Statements and online disability awareness training. 

The campaign is funded by £100,000 from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) plus contributions from partners. It will provide a cost-effective opportunity for English destinations to showcase their accessible tourism businesses and attract more visits from disabled travellers and their companions; a sector worth almost £2billion a year to the domestic tourism industry*.

Paralympic Medallist and TV Presenter, Ade Adepitan, commented: 

“VisitEngland’s accessible tourism campaign is a fantastic example of Paralympic legacy. Promoting destinations in England which are easily accessible and cater to the needs of disabled visitors should inspire all of us to take a break here at home, with the peace of mind that our specific needs will be met so that we can enjoy our holidays to the full.”

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, commented: 

“The RGF money is a huge boost for accessible tourism in England; these new itineraries will showcase the best this country has to offer to all visitors, regardless of disability. We know that accessible tourism in England is worth almost £2billion, and we want to harness this growing, high-value market to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs.”

This marketing activity is phase two of a three-year investment project called ‘Growing Tourism Locally’. Funded by £19.8million from the RGF, the project aims to generate £365million in additional tourism spend over the three year period and inspire more Britons to take more holidays at home. The project should help to stimulate employment to grow jobs in the tourism sector by 9,100 over the three years.

The total investment of the three-year campaign will be approximately £41m including £19.8m from the Regional Growth Fund, £9m from VisitEngland, £12m leveraged from the national and local tourism sector.

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Cape Town South Africa


by Deborah Davis

Our Journey from Florida to Cape Town started In Johannesburg. Due to an extremely long flight with a required de-boarding and refueling in Dakar, I needed to stretch out and lie down and take a hot bath! The perfect place to do this ended up being the Hotel Inter-Continental Hotel, located right within the Joburg Airport. All we had to do was collect our bags and walk across the airport road to this elegant, modern and upscale hotel for a much needed recharge. A wonderful dinner in the hip dining room, and a beautiful accessible room made this a great start to my introduction to SA! 

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Early the next morning, we took a flight to Port Elizabeth, a good kick off point for the Scenic Garden Route drive to Cape Town. The Garden Route drive is nothing less than an exceptional experience that provides the window to why South Africa is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It is approximately 8 hours from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, and every mile is photo worthy. So get you camera ready, you will want to take nonstop pictures along the way!

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First stop is for lunch in Jeffrey’s Bay. This Beach is popular with surfers and with a strong push up a steep hill; I was able to dine at the “Kitchen Window” which gave me my first SA dolphin sighting! 

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We decide to break up the full day drive with a stop in the quaint coastal town of Knysna along the famous “Garden Route” to get to Cape Town. The lovely Protea Hotel had an accessible room, yet unfortunately the view was not of the amazing water views, but down to the parking lot. This happens often when it comes to accessible rooms, as they tend to be placed in the least attractive locations on a property. We really need to advocate trying to change this! 

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From Knysna, we had only 4 more hours along garden route to Cape Town with more outstretched lands to take in, and farms that make you understand why the meat and food taste so good! All natural and no chemicals, just grass feed, free range, local and healthy! 

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We arrive in Cape Town! While the original hotel we had booked, The Ambassador Hotel, had one of the most amazing cliff top views directly down onto the ocean and rocks below from the hip restaurant, the actual designated handicapped room was across a busy street from the main hotel. I just could not bring myself to accept the possibility of being run over while crossing the road in a wheelchair. After it took me a 22 hour plane trip from Florida, a short flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth and an 8 hour drive to get here, I had no intention of staying anywhere that I did not feel completely comfortable or safe.

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So the Hotel referred us to a partner Hotel that they knew had an accessible room available nearby. “Wonderful!” I thought until I learned the option came with a price tag: R6000 rand a night (that was $600 US at the time)! “Ok I said, I don’t care, it is one night, it is the only accessible room available (at very short notice and that was nearby, in town). I am ready to settle in, let’s go!

The Victoria and Alfred Hotel: Our Unplanned but Fortunate Alternate Oasis

This Hotel ended up being the piece de la resistance of the trip. The view, I believe should hold a place on the list of “The Best Hotel Views in the World”. The "handicapped accessible” room's view is revealed via two outward opening large bay windows looking down directly onto the harbour and waterfront and then up to the most breathtaking Table Mountain in the distance.

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"Welcome to the Victoria and Alfred Hotel Madame"! We found a disabled parking spot right in front (used my FL handicapped tag), and a bellman came to greet us at our car and brought up luggage. A small elevator right off the lobby took us up to the 2nd floor of this 3 story former shipping warehouse built in 1904, and converted in 1990 to this luxury hotel. It is named in honour of the Queen of England and her son, Prince Alfred
“This landmark hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and offers spectacular views of the working harbour and Table Mountain. Walk in the utmost safety to some of the finest retail outlets from designer stores to restaurants, craft markets, cinemas, boat cruises to Robben Island and entertainment in the amphitheater.”

http://www.newmarkhotels.com/hotels/victoria-alfred-hotel

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Double wide hallways lead to the extra-large rooms that are best described as “elegant contemporary”. The windows beckon you and open outwardly with the white billowing sheers giving way to the sights, sounds, and views that make this room, and this experience worth the splurge!

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If you want a shower, then the accessible room has one with a small pull down wooden slate bench seat, or if you want to soak, a large tub with grab bars. The bathroom toilet is a good height for transfers, and has grab bars, but there is a folding door track that is a little awkward to go over and position yourself next to toilet-but it is definitely doable!

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The rate comes with breakfast and champagne mimosas you can refill yourself from chilled Moet and Chandon bottles in a large ornate silver basin…nice touch! Sumptuous buffet, and made to order a la carte eggs, bacon etc. will leave you feeling like you definitely got your money’s worth, and a nice relaxed start to the day . There is outdoor and indoor patio seating, with small chandeliers over tables and bright fresh flowers in the vases. To access the dining room via wheelchair, you need to go outside the front entry off the elevator and down the outside ramp toward the waterfront and either stay on the outside and dine along the waterfront, or enter a door on the same level to sit inside the enclosed sun room. 

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The location on the waterfront harbor is perfect for just strolling around and exploring the smaller boutique shops featuring local artisans, visiting the other large and glamorous hotel properties located near (but not directly on, like the V&A) the waterfront, and taking in the numerous authentic African street performances that take place throughout the large quayside complex. You can walk to the Two Seas Aquarium, The Victoria Wharf shopping complex, a folk art complex, Nobel Square (Peace prize laureates Statues in bronze) or the many restaurants to choose from. I suggest you do not skip going to the top rated Belgian Den Anker restaurant and have the pot of beer infused mussels, salmon plate, French fries (called “pomme frites” and served with mustard mayonnaise instead of ketchup-which, if you must have, you ask for “tomato sauce”) and Belgium chocolate sundae! TO DIE FOR!!!! Here is a link to their Terrace menu: http://www.denanker.co.za/Terrace_Menu_Den_Anker.pdf

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After the waterfront, the real must see attraction is the big beauty that makes up your window, the glorious Table Mountain. A fully accessible, exciting lift takes you up, up and away, all the way to the very top for a walk around the mountain’s flat top surface pathways. The views from that 3567 ft. (1087 meters) height are what can usually only be described by pilots and mountain climbers. Awesome!

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After Table Mountain, continue up to Stellenbosch and stay the night at one of the accessible resorts there, spending at least a day taking a wine tasting tour of the many fully accessible wineries in the region. The region puts out a guide book that will highlight those wineries that are accessible: http://www.cadek.co.za/swr/. Breathtaking beauty, fresh and sumptuous delicacies on outdoor balconies, and charming, elegant and visually stunning winery views are a treat to all the senses. This wine region, which is said to be the start of the longest wine route in the world, is a must not miss minimum one day and overnight excursion from Cape Town.

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