With traffic reports during the 4th of July weekend telling of jammed highways and RVs in abundance, it’s obvious that despite the rising gas prices people are still traveling. According to Access for All (AFA), a Minnesota nonprofit devoted to making travel easier for persons with disabilities, there are 126,360 travel/tourism jobs in Minnesota, thanks to the millions of dollars that tourists pump into the state economy. And with luck, statewide tourism will increase further now that AFA has created the Minnesota Travel Guide for Persons with Disabilities. Posted on AFA’s Web site, the guide details destinations, lodging and links to organizations who understand that people who are limited in mobility are not limited in the desire to explore. Before you plan your next getaway, check out the AFA and Access-Able Travel Source Web sites for access guides, travel tips and travel agents who are experienced in trip planning for travelers with disabilities. A little bit of planning could prevent a lot of headache (or heart break) on your vacation.
With the United Nations World Tourism Organization predicting travel to become the world’s largest industry by 2020 (according to AFA), the Minnesota travel industry would be shortsighted to ignore the needs of the disability community, which makes up 20 percent of the population. Part of responding to these needs is adapting facilities to allow for easy access and patronage. According to a recent General Accounting Office report, implementing the access provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act has increased revenues in the hotel and hospitality industry by 12 percent.
But “adaptive travel” goes far beyond ramps and wider bathrooms. Flying Wheels Travel will create a custom itinerary to ensure that every moment of your cruise to the Bahamas, tour of New Zealand or trip down the Nile is safe and accessible. They also provide scooter, wheelchair and oxygen tank rentals. Speaking of rentals, Wheelchair Getaways and Mobility Sales rent wheelchair/scooter-accessible vans to put YOU in the driver’s seat.
But you don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re in a far-away land. Wilderness Inquiry, a nonprofit organization, focuses on getting people from all walks of life to personally experience the natural world. Their guides, who specialize in traveling with people with disabilities, will take you on a canoe trip through the Boundary Waters, around the Apostle Islands in a kayak, and down the St. Croix River. The organization Fishing Has No Boundaries hosts events in Bemidji and the Brainerd Lakes area that open up the great outdoors for people with disabilities through the world of fishing. They also have adaptive equipment to aid the angler with disabilities, creating avenues of recreation for many who thought that because of their disability, they could never enjoy fishing.
Once you’ve reached your destination, explore off-road with a side-by-side tandem bike developed by Just Two Bikes in Hugo, MN. These resources will ensure that your trip is easy, safe, exciting and fun! n
Lisa Schmidtke is the President and Founder of House-calls Network. Their website, www.housecalls-network. com, contains a directory of resources that can help the growing population of seniors, disabled people and their caregivers live independently. Housecalls Network also sells aids for daily lving and adaptive clothing. Lisa Schmidtke can be reached by email at lisa @housecalls-network.com or by phone at 952-221-0722. Housecalls Network does not endorse any particular provider. They assume no responsibility for transactions between the readers of this article and listed organizations.
Resource Contact Information
Access for All: www.accessminnesota.org
Flying Wheels Travel: www.flyingwheelstravel.com
Mobility Sales: www.mobilitysales.com; 866-803-2200
Wheelchair Getaways: www.wheelchair-getaways.com; 800-642-2042
Access-Able Travel Source: www.access-able.com
Just Two Bikes: www.justtwobikes.com
Fishing Has No Boundaries: www.fhnbinc.org
Wilderness Inquiry: www.wildernessinquiry.org; 800-728-0719