As the weather gets colder, tropical destinations are all the more enticing, especially for those of us in the north. Hawaii is one of the United States’ greatest natural treasures, and with most folks cutting back on vacations – disabled travelers included – it’s never been a better time to visit this little slice of paradise. Of course, accessibility can suffer a little bit when there are big crowds, but I have it on good authority that beaches that used to be crowded through much of the year are all but empty lately. That’s why I’m devoting most of today’s installment to Hawaii, and all the disability travel information about it. There’s a little more in this post than usual, since there’s so much valuable stuff to cover!
When you come to Hawaii, you want to see phenomenal beaches, and the government of Honolulu is well aware of the challenges this could present for handicapped travelers. Accessibility on the beach is a major priority throughout the state of Hawaii, though naturally, some beaches are better on this score than others. According to the official website of the City of Honolulu, all-terrain wheelchairs are available at the concession stands at each end of beautiful Ala Moana beach, a public park on the island of Oahu. The same site describes wheelchair access guidelines for other major beaches on Oahu. For more on the Landeez all-terrain wheelchair, which seems to be in pretty wide use around state-operated sites in Hawaii, check out this site..
Buses throughout the county of Honolulu are designed to accommodate travel with a disability, and can lower to permit use by passengers in wheelchairs. Professional staffers can even help you practice using the bus with your mobility device ahead of your planned trip. For accessible travel, Honolulu’s bus service is top notch. Hilo International Airport, on the island of Hawaii, has its own accessibility guide, though unfortunately, Honolulu International lacks centralized information at present.
Lodging World has wheelchair accessible hotels throughout Hawaii, with a variety of handicapped facilities, including roll-in showers. Perfect Places has a listing of wheelchair accessible vacation rentals on four major Hawaiian islands. Bear in mind that this kind of listing is usually provided through businesses and user experiences, so be sure to call in advance to make sure a given option really suits your needs. Dragonfly Ranch, in Captain Cook, Hawaii, is a celebrated west Hawaiian bed and breakfast with wheelchair access and amenities, and there’s also an accessible condo available in Maui, operated by a husband and wife team. They really understand the needs of handicapped travelers, and offer a lot of disabled travel resources on their website. For those who may be traveling in Hawaii with a guide animal, the Animal Legal and Historical Center provides a useful overview of all laws pertaining to guide animal in Hawaii.
Of course, Hawaii has even more to offer besides the fantastic beaches. Sunshine Helicopters offers exciting helicopter tours of Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island – all wheelchair accessible through the use of a special lift. Polynesian Adventure Tours is a tour operator with ADA-compliant buses for its excursions throughout Hawaii. The only thing missing is a good fishing boat charter for handicapped travelers, but if I find one, I’ll be sure to let you know!
So, what happens if you love Hawaii so much you never want to leave? As it happens, the state has a huge assortment of handicapped organizations that can help you make the transition from the mainland. The Hawaii Disability Rights Center can help you if you encounter any discrimination in your time in Hawaii. Hawaii Centers for Independent Living is a non-profit organization devoted to providing equal access and opportunities for the handicapped community throughout Hawaii. Hawaii even boasts the federally-funded non-profit Assistive Technologies Research Centers of Hawaii, hub for a variety of free resources, services, and programs for the disabled.
Hawaii is a fantastic destination, and thanks to its advances in accessibility guidelines and scrupulous attention to the needs of handicapped travelers, it’s also one of the best places for island adventure if you have mobility issues or other special needs. Even Hawaiian Airlines seems to be especially pro-active in its disability accommodations page. But whether your travel plans include Honolulu or Nome, never settle for less, and keep adventuring! I’ll be back soon with more great disabled traveling tips!