Here is a round-up of the latest news in the world of accessible travel and disability, including the story of a globetrotting couch surfer with a disability, a report of wheelchair access at Disney World during the pandemic, new ADA accessible street cars in New Orleans and a handbike-powered tour group in South America.
ACCESSIBLE TRAVEL NEWS FROM AROUND THE WEB
- Iranian Man Couch-Surfs Around the World with a Wheelchair — Mohammad Moghadamshad, a 44-year-old Iranian man with Muscular Dystrophy, has been traveling the world and couch-surfing along the way. His travels have taken him to Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Kenya, Mexico, Peru and other countries. As his condition progresses, he says that he is concerned with the quality of life, not the quantity. “Wherever I go,” he says, “I try to be kind to people, to communicate well with them.”
- City to Incorporate ADA Access in New Skate Park — “It’s easy for wheelchairs to get into the pits and bowls of the skate park, but not so easy to get out.” A new skate park being designed in Southern California will include access ramps, making it possible for wheelchair users to independently access all areas of the park.
- Wheelchair Accessibility at Walt Disney World During the Pandemic — Wheelchair user Kelly Mack recently wrote about her experience visiting Walt Disney World in Florida during the pandemic. She says that “Disney World has done a great job of adapting to the pandemic and keeping people safe,” but should “give further consideration to how these changes are impacting guests with disabilities.” If you’re planning a trip to Disney, you’ll want to read her report!
- New Electric Wheelchair Tours in Colombia — Move over, Segway tours – Electric wheelchair tours have arrived. Martín Londoño, a wheelchair user in Medellin, Colombia, started a business that helps tourists explore the city in wheelchairs outfitted with electric handbikes. He’s employed other wheelchair users to lead weekly tours, which are priced at the equivalent of about $25 USD.
- Amputee Sues American Airlines Over Onboard Wheelchair — A woman traveling from Salt Lake City to Charlotte was forced to crawl to the bathroom when the airline did not have an onboard aisle chair available on the aircraft, and she is now suing the carrier for at least $75,000 in damages. On narrow-body aircraft without an accessible lavatory, passengers are required to request that an onboard aisle chair be provided in advance of the flight. Although American has previously stated that all of its mainline aircraft do have an onboard aisle chair, I don’t believe the carrier actually violated any of the passenger’s legal rights.
- More than 95% of NYC Sidewalks Violate ADA — Following a lawsuit brought by the the American Council of the Blind in 2018, a federal judge has ruled that New York City’s failure to install accessible pedestrian signals is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In his order, the judge wrote that “some, but not all, of the City’s projects with respect to traffic signals gave rise to a duty under these statutes to add APS [Accessible Pedestrian Signals]—a duty that the City has largely breached.”
- New ADA Accessible Street Cars in New Orleans — New Orleans has introduced three ADA accessible street cars on its St. Charles streetcar line following a legal settlement reached with local riders who use wheelchairs. The vehicles are equipped with heavy-duty wheelchair lifts and can be tracked using the RTA’s GoMobile smartphone application.
- India: Goa’s City Buses to Become Wheelchair Accessible — India’s Ministry of Road Transport has enacted guidelines requiring city buses to be wheelchair accessible, but states have been slow to comply. Goa, India’s smallest state, has recently committed to implementing accessibility. The action was spurred by the advocacy of the Disability Rights Association of Goa, whose president says that “Disability rights groups across India must take the cue and push for the implementation of the Ministry guidelines.”