As a wheelchair user, there is a lot of information you need to know before taking off for a trip. Is the hotel or accommodation in which you’re staying wheelchair accessible and is it suitable for your needs? Wheelchair users generally have different needs, so it is a good idea to check that the accommodation meets your specific, individualized needs in order to be as comfortable as possible in your accommodation. If you are arriving by plane, what wheelchair taxis are available? Or do you plan to rent a wheelchair accessible vehicle to help you get around? Are there any other options?
As Orlando is a seaside destination, you will need to check whether or not the beaches in Orlando are wheelchair accessible. Some places have special dedicated beaches that are more accessible than others, so you may want to investigate your options. Look out for beaches that allow you to borrow a beach wheelchair for free – and make sure that they relatively flat, because from experience, I have borrowed a beach wheelchair on a beach that is gently sloping and getting up it requires 2 people to pull you! A beach wheelchair is usually water proof and will make a massive difference to your ability to engage with the beach and the sea. Be aware that some beaches wheelchairs are available on a first-come-first-served basis, while others are available to book before you visit. Find out what the protocol is for the beach you are intending to visit.
It is always useful to see if the local tourist agency as a specific section for visitors with reduced mobility requirements. Nowadays, many of the more forward-thinking tourism guides contain a special section dedicated to supporting visitors with mobility and other disability requirements. However, the amount of information varies greatly across the world. Some tourism guides have just one paragraph on a website page but some have a whole section dedicated to supporting visitors with mobility requirements. Florida is one of the latter and the Florid-able website is a great resource for wheelchair using visitors. This is a good sign that Florida is a region that has made positive movements in accessibility. I have often found that Muse developments are created by people who do not use wheelchairs themselves and it is always useful to read an actual wheelchair users experience to see if the location really puts its money where its mouth is!
A number of nature trails are wheelchair accessible due to the way they have been developed. They have wider access and are built on a sealed surface, which means they are fairly simple for wheelchairs to navigate. In the US, there is an app that focuses on trails that have been developed from old railway lines. It is called rails to trails and it will tell you which trials are wheelchair accessible need you.
Finally, a lot of people who visit Orlando want to visit Disney World. Modern buildings are usually designed with good accessibility, but what is it really like at Disney World? How have other wheelchair users found their experience? Are there any special facilities that I should access to help improve my experience? It is really helpful to read other wheelchair users experiences and tips as well as looking at the official Disney World information.
To save you a ton of time, many of the resources which you will need have been put together on wheelchairworld.org. Here is a good selection of those that are available for a visit to Orlando:
1. Visiting Disneyland? Make sure you go to guest relations and get your Disability Access Services (DAS) pass to make sure you don’t have to queue for rides. Check the Disney World attraction access list to see which rides are suitable for wheelchairs. Read example experiences from wheelchair users on wheelchairworld.org or this informative blog.
2. Read other wheelchair user experiences and reviews of Florida on wheelchairworld.org. A number of people have visited many places in Florida in a wheelchair and shared their experiences.
3. Check out Visit Florida's Florid-able guide. This is a useful guide from the Ministry of tourism.
4. Worried about accessibility? Orlando has appeared on one wheelchair users list of the world’s most accessible cities. The cities listed are all over the world, not just in the United States so you can see that Orlando is a global leader!
5. Looking for a wheelchair accessible beach? Curb Free with Cory Lee ranks Key Largo as one of the world’s 10 most accessible beaches. Beaches that come with a solid walkway are particularly good for wheelchair users and remember to look for beaches that rent beach wheelchairs.
6. Want to explore nature? Get the rails to trails app or look for trails in the Florida Conservancy on Google.
7. Need to hire a wheelchair accessible vehicle? Try the Wheelchair Accessible Van Rental in Florida. As the name suggests, this van hire is specific to wheelchair accessible vehicles in Florida.
8. Accommodation in Florida? Well, you could always try accomable.com for accessible homes, apartments, swaps and holiday rentals self-catering accommodations or accessatlast.com but if hotels are more your style then you could always try hotelaccessibility.com. If you use a regular search engine, make sure you contact the hotel first to ensure they have the facilities that you need. Don't believe what you read, always ask questions!
9. Do you want to hire a scooter or other mobility equipment? There’s a company called scootaround.com that have a huge number of locations throughout Florida. In addition to scooters, they also do other medical equipment like oxygen tanks.
10. Do you need wheelchair accessible taxi? Try Wheelchair Accessible Taxis. Although there is a drop-down menu for drop off, I spoke directly to somebody who assured me that you could choose the drop-off location.
Hope this is useful and happy travelling!
Orlando Florida image by Chad Sparkes