Hluhluwe – An unsploit gem on the African Coast

by Bill Forrester

Two and a half hours north of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal lies the Elephant Coast on the north Indian Ocean coast of South Africa. The Elephant Coast stretches from St Lucia in the south to Kosi Bay in the north and encompasses a vast array of activities from Big 5 game viewing, whale watching, bird watching, encounters with hippos and crocodiles, turtle tracking, scuba diving, visits to cultural villages in the heart of the Zulu Kingdom or just relaxing on the pristine beaches of the Indian Ocean.
The region has a conservation ethos with the HluhluweiMfolozi Park and lake St Lucia having been under formal conservation since 1895. In 1999 the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was inscribed as South Africa’s first world heritage site.
The Elephant Coast has one other feature that statistics alone cant cant convey, if is a feeling of stepping back in time and immersing yourself in a culture of Africa that has been forgotten and overly commercialized in other parts of the country. It is both safe and extremely friendly. It final great advantage is that it is an extremely accessible destination that allows a wheelchair tourist to experience the majesty of Africa’s big game.
Hluhluwe is the oldest and second largest game reserve in South Africa and contains the mandatory “Big 5” (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). It is world renown for saving the White Rhino from possible extinction and today has the largest population of Black Rhino in Africa. The park gives a feel of a true African adventure with its rolling hills dense forest and thornveld valleys. The park is open to private vehicles and has good roads throughout. Most of our travels were done with our car hired from Durban International Airport. We encountered herds of buffalo, giraffe, rhino, warthog, zebra and elephants with one very memorable close encounter. Driving is easy and well signed throughout, but often the best trick is to just stop by a river or waterhole and wait.
Accessible accommodation is available within the park at Hilltop Camp. As the name suggests it is a beautiful lodge perched high on the ridge line giving commanding views over the park. Apart from the rooms with roll in showers the main complex is very well designed with wide entrances and flat flooring throughout giving easy access to the dinning room and bar areas. The outside terraced area is two level with a very gently sloping ramp connecting both levels and giving a great place to relax over a drink and talk about the days encounters as the sun sets over the park. Accessible facilities are available within the complex both for overnight guests or visitors wanting a convenient place to stop for lunch or morning tea.
For those wishing to stay outside the park a beautifuloption is Leopard Walk Lodge located on its own 200 acres of private game reserve. There is a fully accessible chalet in a private bush setting. The lodge is fully catered in an open air dining room/bar with Zebras coming for their nightly feed right on cocktail hour.
Bonamanzi private game reserve and lodge is another outside the park option and it has a fully accessible unit. The lodge area is again very well equipped with level wide and smooth pathways connection all areas. The dinning facilities have easy access as does the elevated viewing area over the lake with gentle sloping ramps onto the platform. Bonamanzi is a private reserve and it has its own game drives including night drives. The open topped game vehicles are accessible via a purpose built wheelchair loading area.
If you are after a guided tour of the Elephant Coast Access2Africa safaris runs a series of inclusive itineraries from Durban including transport, game drives, scenic tours, activities and accommodation. We can put together an individual tour to meet your specific needs.
If you have ever wanted to experience the “wilds of africa” the Elephant Coast is a perfect and very accessible way to do it.

Jervis Bay Wild, An Accessible Whale Watching Experience

Jervis Bay is renowned for its natural beauty and extraordinary wildlife, such as dolphins, seals, sea birds, fairy penguins and migrating whales (from May through November). Rich in Australian history, Aboriginal culture and geological marvels, Jervis Bay is also famous for its diving, exceptionally clear water.

Experience the wonders of Jervis Bay on 18.5 metre catamaran Port Venture. She has five viewing levels, and has been specifically designed to suit all ages, especially those who are in wheelchairs or have a physical disability. Port Venture has disabled amenities on board and level walk/wheel on, and off ramp.

Guests with any type of disability can experience whale and dolphin watching, as well as be safely hoisted into the boom net or go snorkeling in the clear waters of Jervis Bay.

Once back on shore visit Jervis Bay Wild’s Portside Cafe to enjoy lunch or tea and a cake.  Portside has fully accessible amenities available.

Jarvis Bay Wild operates 365 days of the year and run a number of Eco tours consisting of:

Dolphin – all year round

Whale – mid-May to mid November

Summer – mid November to mid-May

Boom Netting – mid-November to mid-May

Twilight – December to April

Seal Colony – dependent on wind and sea conditions

Private Charters – to suit any occasion.

About the Shoalhaven

The Shoalhaven is situated on the South Coast of NSW and includes Jervis Bay.

Around the Shoalhaven there are many activities suitable for travellers of any ability, their families and their friends, making this region the perfect destination for people who may require some extra care and assistance with their access requirements. Whether fishing from an accessible jetty, admiring the spectacular pristine, white sands around the Bay, or out on the water in a fully accessible boat for dolphin and whale watching For those who are more adventurous a hoist can lift you into the boom net or off the back of the boat to go snorkelling with the marine life.

There is a large range of accessible accommodations options available.


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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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!


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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.


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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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:

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Johannesburg to Cape Town

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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.

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.

“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.”

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!

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!

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.

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!!!!

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!

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.

Kennedy Space Centre

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center is synonymous with man’s exploration of space from the early Mercury and Gemini mission, the Apollo Moon landings and the Space shuttle missions.The Kennedy Space Center offers travellers with a disability a fully accessible experience from the visitors centre to the bus tours of the complex.

Cooper Town Airboats

Florida Everglades – Coopertown Airboats

Located on the Tamiami Trail (US 41) about 11 miles east of the Florida Turnpike is small family run airboat operation, Coopertown Airboats. I was in Florida for the SATH World Congress and wanted to find an airboat operator that could take a wheelchair passenger out onto the Everglades so that I and Travability’s co-founder Deborah Davis could enjoy the experience.
After having spend the morning driving up and down the Tamiami Trail I discovered that most operators viewed an accessible airboat as one in which they were prepared to lift a passenger into.

The Coopertown experience was totally different, as they have two specially modified boats that allow a wheelchair passenger to roll right onto the front of the boat and back up against the front seat.

The following day Deb and I returned. There is disabled parking right at the front of the building with the airboat ticket counter off to the right. Through the gate and out the back is a small reptile park and picnic tables which we explored while the boat was prepared.

The roll down to the jetty is a gentle slope and a flat wide board is placed from the jetty onto the deck of the airboat. The boats will take two chairs. In our case with only the one it was backed up against the front seat allowing half the seat for the accompanying person allowing for conversation and a shared experience.

Once on the deck the chair is tied down with two ratchet straps to keep it extremely firm and secure. In addition to the chair tie down Deb was fitted with a waist harness that went around the back of her chair below the push handles and around her waist. The strong webbing belt was secured with Velcro that allowed for a quick release in the case of an emergency. The belt kept her secure in the chair. The big difference here was the attitude of the staff. Instead of just facilitating a person with a disability they had gone out of their way to modify two of their boats and thought about the issue of trunk control and been inventive in their solutions. Throughout they not only gave a reassuring impression that they knew what they were doing, but more importantly made us feel as if we were more than welcome.

After the initial apprehension had been put to rest we set off out into the everglades. Our guide was knowledgeable and entertaining with several stops along the route to spot the local wildlife and to explain the ecology of the everglades system. At one point we stopped at an island to allow me off to take some action photos of Deborah on the airboat making it a fun afternoon.

On return we stopped at their cafe for some frog legs and gator tails. The cafe does have one step at the front of it, which we managed easily and inside there is ample room with easily accessible tables. A portable ramp is available if required. The restrooms do not meet modern ADA standards, but there is ample room inside the male and female facilities for a wheelchair. There are no grab rails and the toilet height is low, something to keep in mind if you are visiting the facility.

Coopertown is the oldest operator on the Tamiami Trail having been in existence since 1945. An aiboat ride through the Florida Everglades is one of those “must do” experiences and here is an operator that not only accepts passengers with a disability but welcomes them from start to finish and has used their ingenuity to really make your outing and enjoyable and fun experience.

For more details contact Coopertown Airboats on (305) 226-6048 or email coairboat@aol.com. They are located at 22700 Southwest 8th Street Miami, FL 33194. Web site is http://www.coopertownairboats.com

Be sure to say you read this on Travability!

Icefields Parkway

One of the world’s top 5 drives

Often words like that conjure a degree of scepticism, but having driven Canada’s Icefield’s Parkway now four times, including once in winter I would agree that it is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. The Icefields Parkway stretches 230 kilometres from the delightful mountain town of Jasper descending into the Rocky Mountain trench paralleling the continental divide, flanked by towering peaks and ancient glaciers, to the stunning Lake Louise.

Athabasca Falls
The first stop along the way is the Athabasca Falls. The Athabasca River carries more water than any other river in the Rockies National Park system and while not being very high at 23 metres, the falls are a magnificent spectacle by virtue of the shear volume and power of the water going over them, and well worth the short diversion. The paths are paved but a set of steps after the first viewing point limites wheelchair travellers to that viewing point only, which is unfortunate as the best viewing is from the far side of the river.

Athabasca Glacier
A major highlight of this drive is a stop at the Columbia Ice Fields and a trip onto the Athabasca Glacier aboard one of the ice explorers. The Athabasca Glacier is the most accessible glacier in North America. Despite the fact that it is retreating at the rate of five metres per year it is still a massive glacier at over six kilometres long, a kilometre wide and, at its centre over 300 metres deep. The excursion on one of the giant six wheeled purpose built Ice Explorers takes ninety minutes and takes you right onto the Athabasca Glacier and a chance to walk on this massive moving river of ice. The coaches run from mid April to mid October. Since 1991 the service has been catering for passengers with disabilities. One quarter of Brewster’s Ice Explorer fleet that tour the Athabasca Glacier are extra-long, with special wheelchair lifts and can comfortably carry up to 4 wheelchairs at a time in addition to the regular 56 passenger seats. Shuttle busses that take passengers to and from the Ice Explorer are not wheelchair-equipped, so private specialty vehicles carry wheelchair passengers to the Ice Explorer. Brewster also hosts an annual training course to key staff members, for advice and instruction on accommodating physically and mentally challenged visitors. The Icefields Centre is located on the Icefields Parkway opposite the glacier. There is ample disabled parking with bays wide enough to accommodate side loading vans. Both main entrances to the Icefield Centre are equipped with automatic doors with interior and exterior sensors. The Centre has an elevator that services all four floors; the Glacier Exhibit Gallery, main floor, food floor and hotel floor. The grand view deck on the second floor has picnic tables designed for ease of seating and are also wheelchair-accessible. There are plenty of barrier-free stalls in both the women’s and men’s washrooms. On the ground floor and on the food floor there are ‘family room’ washrooms for people who need the assistance of a caregiver. All corridors and public areas are kept clear and unobstructed, and have no steps or elevation changes. All public doors are equipped with lever-type handles. Two of the hotel rooms are specially equipped to accommodate wheelchairs. All hotel rooms have two-part fire alarms that include a strobe-light alarm for the hearing impaired plus the usual siren alarm. All public areas in the Icefield Centre are non-smoking for the comfort of all visitors, and the health of those with respiratory concerns. There are no air-conditioning systems to introduce molds or bacteria; our windows really open for fresh mountain air!

Video Clip Notes
The Canadian Paralympic Committee and gold medalist Paralympic athlete Joanne Kelly joined up
with a group of Canadian travel retailers to announce a new program that highlights Canada’s
accessible travel experiences. The “Go Canada” program. The announcement took place on the spectacular Columbia Icefield at the unveiling of a fully accessible GO CANADA branded Ice Explorer vehicle. The massive Ice Explorer vehicle is part of the Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience, which takes visitors on a remarkable 90-minute adventure onto the surface of Athabasca Glacier, and is but one example of the accessible travel experiences available in Canada.
 (Courtesy Canadian Tourism Commission)

Peyto Lake
After a day of stunning scenery and unique experiences the Icefields Parkway has one final surprise. The final must do stop on this magnificent drive is a short diversion into Peyto Lake. This lake is simply breathtaking and one of the highlights of any trip to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The lake was named after one of the early pioneer outfitters, “Wild Bill” Peyto. The viewing area is a short walk from the car park just over the Bow Summit, which is a high point on the Icefields Parkway. The Lake is nestled in the deep glacial valley below and affords magnificent views back to the Rocky Mountain Trench across the Emerald green of the lake.
There is accessible parking in the upper level car park. The lower level one is too far away to be negotiated using a wheelchair. From the car park there is a level paved path leading down to the observation deck overlooking the lake. The path is wide but does slope down for its entire length of approximately 100 metres. The push back is long and arduous without some assistance made harder due to the altitude. The return trip is easy with the aid of a gentle push.

The Icefields Parkway is an easy day trip, but one that will reward you with some of the most awe inspiring scenery on earth.


Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant park is the third largest in South Africa. It is situated 72km by road from Port Elizabeth. Established in 1931 to saverds great wildlife viewing on well maintained roads throughout from the comfort of your own vehicle.

The park has several innovative features for the disabled traveller.

Accessible Discovery Trail

Close to the main park camp is the 2km PPC Discovery trail. From the two disabled car parking bays, that are wide enough to take side loading vans, the path winds through the thicket. The trail is made from a reconstituted plastic material called polywood, giving an extremely smooth ride for wheelchair uses. The path is interspersed with interpretive centres and displays explaining the natural vegetation and wildlife making up Addo’s bushveld. For the visually impaired the path is edged with ropes for guidance and at each interpretative centre the displays ar

11 Elephants on the brink of extinction, and is now home to more than 350 of them, 280 Cape Buffalo, black Rhino, a range of Antelope species, as well as the rare flightless dung Beetle. The park affoe also presented in braille.

Main Camp Waterhole

At the main camp there s a floodlight viewing area that overlooks the waterhole for night viewing. The viewing area is easily accessed via the main path from the car park down a smooth gentle slope. Barriers are at a height that makes viewing easy from wheelchair height.

Bird Hide

Another great feature of Addo is the bird hide situated just opposite the entrance to the viewing platform. Again the hide is accessed through a smooth pathway up a very gentle slope from the car park. Once inside all viewing slites have been design for a seated position. There is ample room either side of the provided seating for wheelchair users.

Accessible accommodation with roll in shower facilities are available at the main camp area. Addo can be very popular, especially in the main tourist seasons for it is advisable to book in advance. The park offers a truly great wildlife experience for people with disabilities.