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Accessible Journeys

Shower shaming

Accessible Journeys

If anecdotal information is any indication of the true extent of inaccessible showers, as many as 80% could be off-limits to disabled hotel guests. WheelchairTravel.org founder John Morris has assessed hundreds of accessible hotel rooms, and he reports that ADA compliance is “rare” – particularly in the bathroom.

Local building inspectors don’t check accessible hotel bathrooms because they believe it to be an ADA regulation which is the responsibility of the feds, and the federal government doesn’t have the resources to inspect every hotel in America. Hoteliers, who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being in the middle of architects, contractors and regulators, get 100% of the blame for compliance issues. 

I’ve been a member of the Accessible Travel Club, a private Facebook group with nearly 13,000 members, for over two years. It is a group of disabled travelers who are both engaging and willing to answer questions about the destinations and hotels they’ve experienced firsthand.  After noticing a recent surge in the number of comments about showers in accessible hotel bathrooms, I decided to take a closer look and what I found was a revelation. 

Earlier this fall, Sylvia Longmire, a former Miss Wheelchair America and a prolific blogger, posted daily about a road trip from Orlando to Houston for a Formula One Grand Prix event and concert. She expressed frustration that five of the six hotel rooms had shower handles that were not reachable from the shower chair because they were not positioned correctly. She was forced to take sponge baths which made the trip stressful.

Variations in the design of “accessible” American hotel showers often makes them impossible to use for many travelers with disabilities.

John Morris, who also operates the Accessible Development Group consultancy, reports that although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a fixed seat on the sidewall of a roll-in shower, many hotels instead offer a portable chair.

“That’s what a lot of people are forced into… and you have no guarantee that it’s actually been properly assembled, or will be secure, or will even meet your needs,” Morris told USAE News, which first broke this story, noting that many portable chairs have much less surface area than ADA-approved wall-mounted seats.

Even “accessible” bathrooms are often improperly designed so that the fold-down shower seat is on the opposite wall from the showerhead, making it impossible for visitors already seated to access the water source.

It’s really something that should be addressed at the design stage or, at least during a renovation cycle when hotels could just move the chair from one wall to another.

Morris told USAE News that he visited a Miami airport hotel in September 2019. After being given a portable shower chair in his first room he requested another room. The next shower included a built-in seat, but no hand-held showerhead; he tried a third room, which offered a built-in shower seat and a hand-held showerhead installed out of reach of the seat.

“This same level of inconsistency, although it’s seen in this one hotel, is sort of an example of what people are finding across the industry,” Morris said.

In another Florida hotel, the roll-in shower had no seat and the hotel staff had no portable chair to offer — the manager brought Morris a lounge chair from the swimming pool, saying it was the best she could do.

Morris, who uses a wheelchair, has stayed in at least 500 different hotels, over 400 of which he estimates had unusable shower set-ups. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many hotels don’t offer accessible guest room or amenity photographs on their websites.

Debra Kerper, owner of Easy Access Travel, who is a wheelchair user and travel agent, recently stayed in a hotel where there wasn’t enough room between the shower and toilet for her wheelchair. At check-out she complained to the manager and they quietly offered her a refund. “My clients complain about this all the time,” she told me, which means it can grow into another factor that will affect hotel revenues.

“When a hotel does make their showers accessible, they earn loyalty from the community of travelers with disabilities, who become regular customers as the information is shared” on sources like Morris’ wheelchair travel blog, Morris told USAE News.

What’s amazing is that it’s not really the fault of the hoteliers as most don’t even realize they have this problem because these glaring flaws have been passed through the chain of architects, designers and construction managers undetected for 31 years. It’s another case of bureaucrats in silos not communicating with one another. 

City inspectors don’t inspect accessible rooms because it’s an ADA regulation and they believe it’s the federal government’s job to inspect accessible rooms, but the feds don’t have the manpower to conduct inspections, which is why so many hoteliers are shocked when they learn their showers are not compliant. 

Renovating a hotel shower can be complex–if you can even find someone to provide an estimate. 

TravelAbility contacted Dave Beerson Construction, a 5-star rated contractor, who specializes in accessible bathroom renovations, and was told they declined commercial bathroom work as it was difficult to provide a quote which could require expensive tile removal just to find what was behind the walls. Meanwhile, an interim solution for hoteliers may be the portable shower chair, but there is a maze of options on the market. Here’s a review of five top shower chairs on the market by Lo’Aid. However, moving forward, the problem needs brought to the attention of the people responsible for designing and construction during renovation cycle. 

This spring the annual Hospitality and Design Expo and Conference will be held from April 26 to April 28 in Las Vegas. This event presents a strong opportunity to raise awareness to a group of architects, hotel room designers, and senior-level executives about the pervasiveness of this problem, how easy it is to remedy, and to make the hotel guest experience more comfortable for millions of people. 

As the number of Baby boomers–40% of whom, according to Health Day, age into a disability after they turn 65–triples over the next six years, demand for inclusive hotel rooms will be even greater and more vociferous. They may even be able to avoid federal legal action in the future.

Accessible Journeys

Don’t let food allergies stop the travel fun

Accessible Journeys

Family vacations can be incredibly stressful, especially with children or relatives that have disabilities.
Kristy Durso, owner of Incredible Memories Travel, specializes in travel for people with disabilities. And she knows all about it— seeing as her family has a variety of disabilities. Her advice is to be prepared and to plan well in advance to make your next family vacation memorable and fun for everyone.
She details her family’s special needs: three of them on the spectrum, the youngest child cognitively and intellectually disabled, and a dearth of food issues among them. “I’m a wheelchair user and, due to gastroparesis, I have a special and limited diet,” Kristy confides. She is grateful that one of her kids has outgrown their food sensitivities, but her eldest child has 27 food allergies and her youngest must avoid gluten, sugar, and food dyes.
“When we travel it takes a lot of coordination and effort,” Kristy laughs, adding, “My husband is the only neurotypical person in our house.”
To make such complex vacation planning easier, she recommends seeking a travel agent who specializes in this kind of travel. Then it’s time to plan—the sooner, the better. For example, she notes that most vacation venues have a special diets department and recommends contacting them ahead of time with special dietary requests. Be clear about what that guest can or cannot have; chefs will usually be very accommodating of those requests. Most chefs care that their guests enjoy the meal and the whole experience. “It empowers the chefs to go off the menu and come back with creative dishes,” Kristy says, adding that when she finds a place that goes above and beyond, “I am going to go back again.” Such places include Beaches and Sandals—both great resorts with culinary concierge teams who she highly recommends. Also on her list of those who shine are Universal, Royal Caribbean, Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruises. “The level of care and respect that Disney showed our family was more than anything we expected or hoped for.”
It’s not only about food sensitivities, though. Kristy notes that there may be a family member who only eats particular foods or those with certain textures. Communicating to the culinary team ahead of time allows the chef to prepare, although she has experienced many happy occasions where their needs were met on the fly too.
With about 10% of the adult population having diabetes or food allergies, and increasingly more children with food sensitivities, this is an area of accessibility that can’t be overlooked. Dietary inclusion is an issue, and one that Kristy wants to ensure people are informed about. “There are people who want to travel and be adventurous who don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold. Speaking and sharing with people like me and my family is very important. We will bring our families with disabilities and food allergies to places, but we have to know that they are willing to step up their customer service and accommodate us.”
So, when her small son was missing out on a lavish Mickey Mouse cupcake, and the chef presented him with a big, beautiful bowl of berries slathered with whipped cream, it was a special moment. Kristy notes, “Our family works toward an attitude of gratefulness and appreciation for everything that we’re able to do in spite of our limitations.” And that might just be the best topping of all.
— Kristy Durso is the owner of Incredible Memories Travel and Founder of the Spectrum of Accessibility Program.
This October, the Incredible Memories Team is hosting an accessible family getaway at Beaches, Turks and Caicos. This stunning property also happens to have a staff that is autism certified by IBCCS. It’s no surprise that all the fully accessible rooms are sold out, but there remain regular rooms, which Kristy’s team can provide some modifications for. And of course, the chefs are busy conjuring beautiful menus for anyone with food allergies. Reserve your spot today

Accessible Journeys kalinago



Accessible Journeys

Retirement Travelers

Accessible Journeys

Location: United States

Name: John and Bev Martin

Location: United States

You Tube channel: Retirement Travelers (https://www.youtube.com/c/RetirementTravelers/)

Here’s their story. 

They share about how “We sold everything to travel the world” 

and Bringing a Big Guide Dog on an Airplane:

Accessible Journeys

Booking Specialists

Accessible Journeys

1. Exceptional Vacations LLC  www.exceptionaltrips.com 

2. Planet Abled www.planetabled.com 

3. Enable Holidays www.enableholidays.com

4. Travel for All www.travel-for-all.com 

5. Easy Access Travel www.easyaccesstravel.com 

6. Seeable Holidays www.seable.co.uk 

7. Tapooz Travel www.tapooztravel.com

8. Wheel the World www.gowheeltheworld.com 

9. Incredible Memories Travel www.incrediblememoriestravel.com 

10. Curb Free Travel www.curbfreewithcorylee.com 

11. Disabled Accessible Travel www.disabledaccessibletravel.com 

12. Sage Traveling www.sagetraveling.com

Accessible Journeys

Disability Holidays

Accessible Journeys

April 2, World Autism Awareness Day

May 19, Global Accessibility Awareness Day

May Mobility Awareness Month

May Older Americans Month

May 30, World MS Awarenes Month 

June 18,  Autistic Pride Day

June 21-24, Helen Keller Deaf Blind Awareness Week 

July: Disability Pride Month

July 26, 32 Anniversary of the Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act

August SMA Awareness Month

Sept 20-27 International Week of the Deaf

October Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October 15, Blind Americans Equality Day

December 3, International Day of Persons with Disabilities 

Accessible Journeys

Cool Innovations

Accessible Journeys

1. LookTel Money Reader – A voice App that identify currencies for people with low vision http://www.looktel.com/

2. AccessNow App https://accessnow.com/

3. Alinker – walking bike http://www.thealinker.com/

4. Omeo – 25″ Power wheelchair where users deploy core muscles to operates http://www.omeotechnology.com/

5. HikiApp – Autism dating app – http://www.hikiapp.com/

6. Trivida – removable wheel wheelchair http://www.trivida-info.com/

7. Huka Wheelchair Bike Duet – Drive wheelchair onto scooter bike and go http://www.huka.nl/

8. StopGap, Custom-designed ramps https://stopgap.ca/

NOTE:  Please add

AccessNow: Read a Mélange interview with Founder, Maaya Ziv

Alinker: Read a Mélange article from an interview with Founder,

Accessible Journeys

Able Eyes App

Accessible Journeys

Able Eyes circular blue, green, red, orange and yellow logo which reads: Able Eyes: Know before you go

The world’s largest database of virtual tours for accessibility is
now easier to access from anywhere, at any time!

Learn more about creating or adding an existing virtual tour to the database of “Able Eyes Accessible” locations at: https://www.ableeyes.org/about-virtual-tours/

Read more about Able Eyes here

Accessible Journeys

Do-able Dubai—where to stay, eat, and what to do

Accessible Journeys

Fred Maahs, Jr traveled to Dubai as a guest of Dubai Tourism in 2021, to review accessibility at various facilities for people with disabilities, known in Dubai as people of determination. He shared some recommendations with us.


The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina had a spacious room, making it easy to navigate my wheelchair through. The bed height was good at 23-24”so I had no issues transferring to it from my wheelchair. The bathroom was large, with a roll-in shower and huge soaking tub. Sink and vanity were accessible and there were grab bars in the shower and around the toilet. Sliding doors led to a 20-foot square veranda which was covered and ramped to the grass leading to a sidewalk. The beach was easy to get to. The Westin’s grounds are beautiful and accessible.  The property is massive and located right on an expansive beach, with lots of water sports. The many pools and shade trees helped us stay cool.  

The Jumeirah Hotel Complex sits directly on the Arabian Gulf. The complex is part of a group of luxury hotels owned by Dubai Holding, with its majority shares owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, and the primary founder of Dubai Inc. These resorts are all luxurious yet each with its own style and vibe. For the most part, each resort included properly adapted and accessible rooms. Its famous five-star Burj Al Arab hotel is the place to go for ultimate luxury. The Jumeirah complex features a man-made waterway running through its properties and boats to take you between resorts. The boats might be difficult to navigate if you use a wheelchair or have mobility issues, however all walkways are wide and accessible.


The Fish Beach Taverna restaurant is on the beach beside the Westin, specializing in Greek and Turkish food from the Aegean, Black, and Marmara Seas. It’s beautiful open-air setting, shaded by palm trees, feels like an escape to a Greek isle. The main seating area is accessible, but it could be tricky to be seated at a table on the grassy area. Select fresh seafood from a display of prawns, lobster, fish, squid, and octopus. A must try Dubai restaurant.

The French Riviera restaurant is on the beach at The Jumeirah Al Qasar hotel, with incredible views of a large pool on one side and the beautiful Arabian Sea on the other. Spectacular.


Visit the gold and spice souk market in old Dubai. We navigated through the market easily although some shops had a single step, so if you use a wheelchair or have a mobility impairment you will need help. This place is full of artisans and others selling their produce, spices, and wares, but also has a high-end market that sells gold and jewelry. 

Al Shindagha Museum is in Old Dubai, next to Dubai Creek, and is very accessible. While not large, it is very modern in design and gives a thorough history of Dubai.  

The Dubai Frame is a unique building which looks like a giant picture frame—the largest one in the world at 493’ high and 305’ wide. It only takes 75 seconds to reach the top of the 48 story structure. The Frame is totally accessible, and its glass walls and glass floor offer great views. One side offers a peek into Dubai’s past—old buildings and the original seaport. The other side shows modern Dubai with its magnificent skyscrapers and glass buildings.

Dubai Miracle Garden is in the Dubailand district. The garden boasts the world’s largest display of more than 50 million flowers which grow, and are displayed, on figures such as an Emirates plane, Disney characters, hearts, and various other statuary. The Garden is ramped and accessible and there are spots to buy snacks or drinks.

Of note is that, in Dubai, people of determination don’t have to buy a ticket for museums or public structures and can two guests free of charge. It’s one of many efforts proving Dubai’s commitment to facilitate accessible tourism and build innovative solutions to enable all global citizens to travel without barriers. 

Accessible Journeys

Love letter to bloggers + vloggers

Accessible Journeys

What a journey it has been, but we have arrived. For decades the accessible community has been calling out to the world, I want to go too! The first travel bloggers appeared in the 1990s, but the technology of preliminary websites restricted post placement to appear in chronological order with little to zero search capabilities. In other words, to find information on a particular destination resulted in hours of searching. Then in the early 2000s, the world-wide-web took an advanced leap, creating more opportunities for travel bloggers to manage and display their content.

Consequently, a variety of voices began sharing their travel tips and tricks on everything from where to stay to how to get around to what there is to do, and collectively these individual bloggers were linking the pieces of the accessibility puzzle. Why? Because the mainstream wasn’t. If there was access, it should be known. What’s the point of making something accessible if no one is going to use it because it’s unknown? The mission of the twenty-first century bloggers was to change this. Know before you go! became the common theme behind the blogs because with some information a person could plan accordingly based on personal needs and preferences.      

Long before the bloggers access advocates were forging the paths that has allowed us to travel today; they fought for the right to ride transportation, enter buildings, use facilities, participate in recreational activities, and enjoy being in nature. With little to no recognition, some of these people simply led by example while others collaborated with government entities and businesses to create and implement a set of accessibility guidelines.

We understand what accessibility means today because of the courageous and insightful stance they took. They showed the world that we are equals with different abilities who have the desire to explore, expand, and thus experience the essence of life. Without their advocacy, accessible travel wouldn’t be possible. So first and foremost, thank you to everyone who has contributed to the accessibility platform. You have allowed us to access the world, and we can never thank you enough.

Brick by brick the foundation for access was laid by advocates over decades of service, and now the tech-savvy, trailblazing bloggers are ready to share it. The torch of accessibility awareness had been passed. In a way, these travel bloggers became access avengers, making it clear on what does and does not work. Such documentation and network sharing proceeded for several years, and then the travel industry began to respond and even implement improvements. Nonetheless, with the whole world to cover, a variety of interests, and a spectrum of accessibility needs, no one blogger could do it all, though all continued to try—all the while growing the database. With a plethora of content so easily available for the first time, it was clear that this information needed to be presented in a way to streamlines the public’s search efficiency. Once again, though it has taken a while to arrive, we finally have made it to our destination—the Mélange publishing group and TravelAbility are pleased to introduce the online travel magazine, Accessible Journeys. Supported by articles from the top accessible travel bloggers you’ve come to know and respect, Accessible Journeys will take you around the world and to nearby destinations as well as discuss the challenges and ways to overcome them, reinforced by the best resources and products. Accessible Journeys is here to offer solutions that will improve accessibility on a personal level and the worldwide platform, we aim to help you not only figure out where to go but also how to plan so can feel prepared and travel confidently. We are the accessible travelers and these are our journeys. Come see the world our way, where all are welcome; where all may enter.

About Ashley Lyn Olson: Paralyzed in a car accident that killed her father, a National Park Ranger, she has been using a wheelchair since 1998. She is based in the San Francisco Bay area and her blog may be found at www.wheelchairtraveling.com