Tropical Accessibility

There are many things I thought I would never see happen for wheelchair users that I turned out to be wrong about…

  • I never thought skiing would be wheelchair accessible, but it is.
  • I never thought African safaris would be wheelchair accessible, but they are.
  • But what I REALLY never thought would happen: wheelchair accessible eco-tourism. I am once again blissfully wrong!

Brazil has put effort into Accessible Tourism programs. These don’t just let you look at the amazing landscapes from afar, but actually engage in nature!

Different communities are making changes to vastly improve accessibility to nature. Now there are a wide variety of locations and activities disabled travelers can participate in. There are accessible hikes, beaches, and even water sports like rafting! Even the coral pools off Pajuçara Beach have become accessible using specially equipped boats.

Wheelchair accessible dirt ramp on ecotourIt is really neat to see how these groups take initiative and ingeniously make nature accessible while still respecting and conserving nature. For example, this ramp… I’m sure it would not stand up to ADA regulations but it preserves the environment, culture, and integrity of the entire experience. It’s these types of efforts that are so amazing to see (for me! at least!!)

This is such a good example of using resources you have available to make creative solutions. It in no way detracts from the natural beauty, but rather incorporates the beauty of a raw incarnation of human ingenuity. It stays true to the spirit of eco-tourism and offers disabled tourists an authentic experience.

What other opportunities have surprised you for being accessible?

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There’s an App for that!

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but I’m surrounded by people glued to their smart phones. They have pages and pages of apps to do anything they could possibly desire. But odds are they use those apps, like Google Translate, to make their phones say bad words in foreign languages. Thoroughly amusing, but surely there are apps that can be of greater use to you.

appsMy doctor is trying to get me to get an app to help manage my illness. There are apps to monitor blood sugar for diabetics, apps to make sure you take your pills on time, and so many more apps that are good for you…but they will forever remain with the little “New” ribbon displayed across the top. Why? They aren’t fun; you have a reputation to uphold; you are perfectly capable of taking care of yourself without this silly app; because they are just another way to remind you of your disability.

For the people out there who do use those apps: kudos! Keep up the good work, my friend. You are a better person than I.

For those who don’t take kindly to apps who try to tell you how to live your life…well, maybe you should check these ones out. They are the most interesting apps I’ve come across that I think can really help people with disabilities while still supporting your rep for being awesome.

FREE APPS:

HEARING IMPAIRED

  • Marlee Signs – Learn American Sign Language. 4.5 Stars. (The app and the first lesson is free. Additions lessons are $2)
  • Bio Aid – Processes sound and plays back over headphones for hearing impaired; processing is customized by user  and can cancel out background noise. Not Rated.
  • SoundHound/Tunewiki Lyrics – These two apps will listen to whatever song is playing, tell you what song it is and give you lyrics. Both recieved 4.5 stars but SoundHound has been around since 2010 and Tunewiki started only about 6 months ago.

VISION IMPAIRED

  • Type Braille Lite – Learn Braille. Not rated. (There are other learning braille apps but this one made the list solely because it was free. I’m having trouble with it–maybe I’m bad at braille or maybe there’s a glitch. Anyone else struggling with “space”?)

WHEELCHAIR USERS

  • Hailo – Taxi dispatched to your location, can request accessible cab. 4 stars. Currently services Chicago, Boston, London, Dublin, and Toronto. Learn more here.
  • Wheels on Wheels – Almost a year after Hailo launched, New York launched this “Accessible Dispatch”. No rating. But sounds promising.
  • Parking Mobility – locates handicap parking. 1.5 stars. Received great reviews since it launched in 2009, but appears to be abandoned after its last update in 2011. I tried it out to see for myself–great idea but clearly abandoned. I’m mentioning it so hopefully one of you brilliant programmers reading this will do something about it.

BATHROOMS

  • SitOrSquat – Finds Public Restrooms near you; you can filter results for handicap accessibility! 2.5 Stars. Many complain you have to connect to Facebook. But if you agree to their terms and agree to connect with Facebook, you have an option to “continue without logging in”. So be careful when you download it; your friends don’t need to know when nature calls.
  • WheelMate – also finds handicap bathrooms but is not rated.
  • Other countries can utilize similar apps like Find a Toilet (UK) and National Public Toilet Map (Australia)

TRAVEL

  • TripIt – A brainless travel planner: when you receive a confirmation email, forward it to a designated address, and TripIt will compile all that info in one place for a clean/no hassle itinerary. Brilliant! 4 stars. (This doesn’t have a special disability function that I know about, but this is a travel blog after all…)

Researching these apps, the disability niche on the App Store has been picking up, as you can tell by all the above apps that are so new they aren’t even rated yet! So this is what needs to happen.

  1. Try these apps! I have tried out many of these apps myself, so I’m not passing off lame apps to you. If you’re intrigued…download it! Try it out–it’s free!
  2. Rate these apps! It’s a shame that such a well thought out app like Parking Mobility no longer exists. It is probably because so few people used the app that they weren’t able to sustain it. So share and rate the apps you like.
  3. Make new apps happen! If you wish there were an app that could help you and others in your situation, do something to make sure that app comes into existence! If you’re a developer–create it. If you just have a great idea, tell others and rate similar apps and explain what you need.

I think the disabled market it under represented in the App Store and that might just be because disabled users don’t make their presence known as well as other users. So go ahead; make a fuss!

Have you tried any of these apps? Is there an app you’d love to see? Leave a comment!

Getting around your vacation destination

So you’ve arranged airport/flight accommodations and made reservations at an accessible hotel. But how will you get from Point Airport to Point Bed & Breakfast?

There are some accessible buses, trains and taxis. I’d never heard of paratransit though. Check out this site to find paratransit across the USA and even a handful of other countries! This is the most comprehensive directory I could find, but of course you can (and should) call up the public transit office at your vacation spot.

If public transit isn’t the way for you or you want the freedom to explore and hit the open road, you may be concerned renting a car. I came across Curt’s frustration that renting a car with hand controls are becoming increasingly difficult to request. Then there’s the added stress of adjusting to new controls and the uncertainty of their reliability. That’s what makes portable hand controls so genius!! I found several. Check out http://www.wheelability.com/ –this is by far the best site I’ve encountered for this type of product (even though its pricier) so it’s definitely worth your time to see if its right for you.
Highlights:

5 minute, easy set up
good for almost any automatic
fits in carry-on luggage (only 2.4 lbs)
free shipping in USA and satisfaction guaranteed!

It may set you back about $250 to $350, but especially if you are considering renting a car abroad, nothing compares to the ease of mind that comes from trusting your car. Not to mention, I imagine it is easier to request a car that you are familiar transferring into if you don’t have to worry about requesting hand gears too.