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What Every Wheelchair Friendly Vacation Spots Should Have!

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Families around the world are looking for ways to organize a wheelchair-accessible vacation and create memories with their children. Despite things like the Americans with disabilities act, lots of places for kids are still not entirely accessible which makes wheelchair travel difficult for these families.

At Gowhee App we thrive to help ALL parents find places for kids globally. This is why you can find a Wheelchair Accessible filter for all locations.

Mapping out what families with a wheelchair user can and cannot do makes a huge difference in their planning. An app like GoWhee that has parents around the world contributing information is essential for accessible travel.

Where this gets tricky is when a family without a wheelchair isn’t sure what “wheelchair accessible” means. It’s easy to see a ramp and think, “Oh!  I can mark this place as accessible!” or to see a flight of stairs to enter and assume the building is inaccessible. But this is not always an accurate representation of the wheelchair user’s experience.

We asked an expert in accessible family travel, Jennifer from Wonders Within Reach, to share these easy ways to determine what Every Wheelchair Friendly Vacation Spots Should Have:

 

Children, one wheelrchair user in front of an wheelchair vacation sport
Picture from the Gowhee App: Jennifer's family at an wheelchair accessible theme park

No stairs to enter, or an alternate accessible entrance.  

In a lot of travel destinations, stairs are considered a part of the architecture or are culturally required as separation from street dirt. 

It’s easy to write places like this off when you see them, but don’t be too quick to assume

The world is slowly becoming more and more accessible.  A lot of these places have added:

  • a ramp on the side, or back, entrances for wheelchair users. 
  • If there is no level entrance, they may also have a portable ramp. Less common, but it never hurts to ask.  

(If they don’t, feel free to recommend one.  It would help families like mine to be able to visit.  Plus, they’re pretty cheap on Amazon.)

Unfortunately, there’s rarely appropriate signage to indicate the entrance. Here is what you can do:

    • If it’s a tiny shop, you can take a quick peek around back. 
    • If it’s a city block long gallery, just ask someone who works there and they should be able to tell you.
Picture from the Gowhee App: Accessible candy shop: Gardner's Candies

A “not-skinny” door.

Don’t overthink this one.  No one carries a tape measure to make sure the entrance is 32”! 

If it doesn’t look like a historically unique narrow entry, it’s probably fine.  If it’s a revolving door, ask someone if there’s an alternate entrance!

Checking doors might not be just about the front entry. Take a quick look at where your kids gravitate to, so you can give the proper feedback.

For instance: If most of the museum exhibits require steps or entering a narrow hallway, you could not it in the review.

 A single level or an elevator or chair lift is available.  

A full flight of steps to part of the main attraction is an accessibility killer. There’s no way around this one unless they have some sort of a lift.  Again, if you don’t see it – ask. 

Check for elevators! They often added on later and maybe stashed away in a maintenance closet (that’s not an exaggeration).

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The Gowhee network is present in 50+ country already such as the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, France, U.K, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Croatia, Greece… all locations are added by parents themselves. 

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 An accessible bathroom, and/or a family-friendly restroom. 

Pretty simple to find out.  If a location is otherwise accessible but doesn’t have an accessible restroom, I would put a note in your review.

Fully Accessible: Attractions/Exhibits/Trails/ Theme parks.

Getting in is only the first part of the battle.  Once you’re in, is it possible to get around and do what you came to do? 

Check for these simple things:

  • If it’s a shop, are the isles set up with enough space for a mobility device to get through?  Again, you don’t need a tape measure – you can tell if it’s cramped. 
  • Is there enough width to get into the exhibits, navigate the playroom, or roll down the trail

Remember: Just because the visitor’s center at a national park is accessible, it doesn’t mean they have accessible trails or amenities. 

Water chair available for pool use . Picture courtesy of Wonderswithinreach.com

Accessible Accommodations

Hotels/Airbnb/vacation rental

Although many hotels and resorts (big chains) and places like campsites have done the work to be accessible. Many smaller establishments and private vacation rentals will not have the official mention. That said some of these places could be an amazing option for families with wheelchair users.

Here are things you can look for while onsite:

  • If the hotel has “family rooms”, is there an ADA option for that room type?
  • Are the activities like the pool, game room, or kids club equipped for wheelchair users?
  • Are there levels, stairs, or steps without an elevator in the building or to access the building?
  • Is there enough space around the bed and furniture?
  • Is there at least one bathroom with a toilet and shower that is spacious enough to go in with the chair?
  • Is there a regular height table? (If all there is, is a bar top table make a mention in the review since the child/adult would not be able to sit and enjoy a meal with everyone).
  • Are there narrow hallways in the accommodation that would prevent the wheelchair user to go to essential parts of the home?

What about Accessible Playgrounds?

Thinking of playgrounds being accessible just because they are outside or in a fairly flat park, is a common misconception.

Do not put yes in the “wheelchair accessible” filter if you see any of these things on a playground:

  • Location accessibility does the playground requires stairs, rocky ground, or uneven surface to get to?
  • No parking nearby
  • No ramp for access on the structure.
  • Mulch playgrounds can be difficult for little ones in wheelchairs.
  • No Special need swing or play structure.

Other Details:

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Getting there and parking.

Of course, most of us have seen the blue street sign indicating a designated parking spot for people with disabilities.

But some attractions have no dedicated parking spaces and no place to park in front of the building. This should be noted with the “Parking” filter. If a family with a wheelchair user has to park 10 min down a cobbled street to get to the attraction they will need to know.

Also, remember to look for any other public transportation involved. Some places for kids put buses, trains, and boats in place to transport visitors from the check-in area to the attraction. Make sure that transportation also has the feature mentioned above before granting the “wheelchair accessible” checkmark.

Is stroller accessible the same thing as Wheelchair accessible?

Another misconception is thinking that just because you can roll your stroller, the place is accessible.

A wheelchair is not an all-terrain stroller!

And accessibility is about more than wheels.  For children operating a wheelchair, mulch and other uneven surfaces can be tough. 

If you’re on a trail, farm, playground, or something of that sort, consider this memo technique:

“Could I do it with a grocery cart?”

Would you be able to navigate the terrain?

 

 

To find wheelchair-accessible places for kids or share one on the app, select the filter:” wheelchair accessible”.

 

 

If you’re looking for more on what a wheelchair-accessible family adventure looks like, check out Wonders Within Reach!

Did we miss an important aspect of wheelchair accessibility? Tell us below

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