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Saturday, December 31, 2011

AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT CREW'S SELFISHNESS HURTS DISABLED TRAVELER - 1


WHEELCHAIR SEVERELY DAMAGED BY UNCARING GROUND CREW AFTER AMERICN AIRLINES FLIGHT CREW REFUSES TO MOVE ITS LUGGAGE TO ACCOMMODATE ONBOARD WHEELCHAIR STORAGE

Editor's note: We arrived home on Dec. 31 from a week in Mexico City. The City was great, our Hotel -- the St.Regis -- was spectacular but the flight getting there was a nightmare caused by American Airlines employees who are abusive toward the needs of disabled travelers. It is no wonder why this carrier is in banktruptcy. We will share our tale of disability discrimination during the next several days. The postings are in the form of a letter to American Airlines, which has not even been addressed -- despite the urgency of our complaints.

I am writing to make American Airlines aware of a terrible situation for disabled travelers -- one that very negatively impacted my wife and me.

My wife, an attorney and the American with Disabilities Act coordinator for one of the largest counties in America, has flown dozens of AA flights with me.

She uses a super-lightweight manual wheelchair that folds in half and can be further reduced in size with easy removal of the foot rests and wheels.

We learned more than two decades ago that when we gate check her wheelchair, it often gets broken either by a careless ground crew or by other items in the cargo hold.

That is why we invested in a very expensive lightweight, collapsible wheelchair -- because the disassembled chair readily fits in the closet area entry of aircraft.

Friday, December 30, 2011

OUR FAVORITE TOUR GUIDE THAT WE'VE NEVER MET -- part 2



Hector Guillermo Gerardo Barraza Ugalde


Outanding ideas for wheelchair-accessible walking tours in Mexico City from our Hermano Hector:

a) A Downtown tour. We could arrive to the Zocalo by car and visit the Cathedral which is easily accessible, then we could stroll along Madero street which is a pedestrian street visiting the Profesa church and the Casino Español, then another accessible building would be Iturbide Palace, Count of Valle de Orizaba Palace and the old cloister of the ex convent of San Francisco, we could see from the outside Fine Arts Opera House and after it the Franz Mayer Museum, if your wife and you are in the mood we could finally see the Rivera Mural on the alameda park.


All of the above are easy access buildings, if i don´t mention i.e. the National Palace is because they could be very cumbersome to visit.


b) Coyoacan, could be very nice to explore, there is only a small area with cobbled stone streets that could be not entirely accessible, but the rest is flat, shady and with very interesting buildings to see, the Blue House (Frida Museum has too many stairs)


c) San Angel. This area is full of cobbled stone streets and very hilly, but very nice, it could be a bit up hill, but I can always help you, it is the area where you will find the Old church of Chimalistac, el Carmen or San Jacinto, with lovely squares and the beatiful San angel Inn Restaurant.


d) Chapultepec park. The Castle is a must see, we could visit the ground floor, with most of the rooms dedicated to Emperor Maximillian and Empress Charlotte, with a great view of Reforma avenue and the surrounding areas, after it, the anthropology Museum of very easy access (two or three rooms).


Cost. Downtown and Chapultepec park, US$130 (4 to 4.30 hours)


Coyoacan and San Angel, US$150 (4 to 5 hours)


Transportation, we could hire a cab by hour, some US$12 per hour or to take taxis from one place to the other, I always take with me a Taxi stand phone number and we can call the cab, once we are done with the walking.

http://mexicocityelitetours.com/aboutusEN.html

Thursday, December 29, 2011

OUR FAVORITE TOUR GUIDE THAT WE'VE NEVER MET


MEXICO CITY ELITE TOURS



As we count down the final days of 2011, our theme this week is to give thanks to exceptional people who we have "met" via the interet.

Héctor Barraza is a sucha person.

He's helping us plan a trip to Mexico City for sometime in 2012.

From his bio:

I am a lawyer with more than twenty years of experience in private international
banking. I am a native of Mexico City, but I have also lived and worked in Los
Angeles, Houston, and London. My passions are the history, art, and architecture of
Mexico, and I have now chosen to spend my time sharing my knowledge with
visitors. I approach Mexico City and its surroundings from the perspective of social
history, establishing a link between the stones you see and the stories of the men and
women who built and lived in these places.

I provide customized tours for visitors eager to know about the history and culture of
Mexico. I have had the privilege of working for the American Comparative Literature
Association, Johnson & Johnson, Dartmouth College, the University of Houston, the
Houston Seminar, the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), the University of
Ottawa, and many wonderful individuals and families from around the world.

We sent a simple email to Héctor, explaing that one of us uses a wheelchair for mobility.

Tomorrow, we'll share the wealth of information he kindly and rapidly responded with:

Check out his site at:

http://mexicocityelitetours.com/aboutusEN.html


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OUR FAVORITE PLACE IN MEXICO CITY THAT WE'VE NEVER BEEN TO


THE ST. REGIS MEXICO CITY

We are not rich people.

We need to pinch pennies and travel cheaply.

We are famed for flying out of town at 6 a.m. on a holiday because it's way cheaper than flying out late afternoon on the day before.

We subsribe to countless services that send updates on discounted hotel rooms, flights, etc.

If we could get half off by washing the dishes at a 4 star restaurant, we'd probably think about doing it for the savings.

Like everybody who is prudent, but not dirt poor, we sometimes toast our victories or drown our sorrows with a little splurge.

Someday, the St. Regis Mexico City will be such a splurge.

Normally way to rich for our blood -- rooms come with a butler that unpacks your clothes for you & the building was designed by famed architect Cesar Pelli -- the St. Regis recently advertised some great deals.

While we were unable to pull the trigger on the pending deal, we were incredibly impressed with the service the St. Regis delivered to a pair of would-be guests simply doing research.

Heidi uses a wheelchair for her mobility, so we found the email of the St. Regis Manager and zapped some messages asking about roll-in showers, common area access and bed configuration in the barrier-free rooms.

Soon, we not only had replies from the Manager, but we also got a phone call from the person in charge of rooms.

In her imperfect English (which we very much appreciated because folks in Miami forgive our imperfect Spanish), she explained all the amenities for people with disabilities.

The person even memorialized our conversation in an email and followed up the next morning with customized photos taken for us to show the bathroom accessibility.

Soon, the concierge was advising us on a driver for accessible transport and filling in details about which museums are best set up with ramps and elevators to serve wheelchair-using visitors.

Wwe could go on and on about the St. Regis' committment to serving a potential booking by a pair of people who would be paying an internet rate nearly half off the usual cost of a luxury room.

Someday, we shall splurge at the St. Regis and get to give our face-to-face thank yous to all the people there who are committeed to serving ALL guests, inlcuding those with mobility needs.

http://www.stregishotelmexicocity.com/

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

OUR FAVORITE MEXICO FACEBOOK PAGE


MEXICO TODAY


Mexico. Oft-maligned, today it conjures up every ugly American's nightmare of a place where you walk out for coffee and wake up with one of your vital organs harvested.

While there certainly are many places with crime problems inflicting unspeakable horribles on the locals and scaring off cultural visitors aplenty, there are many places that are just as safe as home.

Guanajuato is one of them.

Even in Mexico City, choked with traffic, smog and more than 20 million people trying to feed their families, has dozens of safe places to wander -- from Condesa to Reforma, Chapultapec Park to Polanco, the Zocalo to the Alameda Central, Coyacan to San Angel to many other historic and significant urban sites.

Mexico Today is a government-sponsored site to get out all the good stories (and to obviously combat the US Media image of violence in the pround aned historic nation).

The writing is top notch.

This is no press release and propoganda site.

We highly recommend you visit:

http://www.facebook.com/MexicoToday

Monday, December 26, 2011

OUR FAVORITE MEXICO CITY BLOG


MEXICO CITY: AN OPINOINATED GUIDE

Observations, news and Travel Tips by Jim Johnston


On this lazy holiday day off, we'd like to refer our nearly 20,000 readers to our favorite blogger in Mexico City.

Jim Johnston, author of exico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler, shares his vivid writing about the magical Condesa neighborhood, murals and dozens of other cool things in the historic and bustling Distrito Federal and its 20 million-plus inhabitants.

Since this is a lazy day, we'll simply lift Jim's bio right from his blog:

Born in New York City, Jim Johnston grew up in the woods of New Hampshire.

After studying architecture at the University of Virginia and graphic design at the School of Visual Arts, he worked as a professional artist and potter in New York City for 27 years.

He moved to Mexico in 1997, where he continues working as an artist and writer.

For more information visit the website: www.jimjohnstonart.com.

For Jim's outstanding blog, visit:

http://mexicocitydf.blogspot.com/

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Warm Season’s Greetings from Our Family to Yours


We wish you peace, happiness & prosperity and invite you to mark this special time of year by:


• Embracing family and friendship.

• Empowering yourself to make positive changes.

• Celebrating the holidays by sharing with those who are less fortunate.

• Relaxing with loved ones and entering the New Year renewed and refreshed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 8


CASA ZUNIGA

As our story on Casa Zuniga draws to a close, we have to note a few things.

First off, Casa Zuniga is not wheelchair accessible.

Perhaps it is odd to heap such praise on such a place in a blog dedicated to barrier-free access and urban walkability/rollability.

The thing is, most of Guanajuato is not wheelchair accessible.

It's pure topography.

Guanajuato makes San Francisco look like the flat filled swamplands of Florida by comparison.

GTO also is a very old place.

Some callejones (alleyways -- there are nearly 4,000 of them in this village) are barely two feet wide.

All of them are series of steep sidewalks and stairs.

GTO was a caregiver's respite for me.

Casa Zuniga is built on a hillside.

You have to walk maybe 50 steps down from Pipila and equal amount within the Casa Z property just to get to your room.

It's that kind of city -- buildings have multiple levels....people just keep building up and out on the hillside until they run out of land held by their family.

I'm sure if he could acquire a site downtown -- where GTO is moderately wheelchair-accessible at the very best -- he would do so.

His raw energy and ingenuity would surely serve wheelers.

The other thing worth noting is that Rick is a bit of an iconoclast and certainly and character.

To 99% of us who love travel and the quirky things you find on the road, that makes him an ideal host.

But I can see where Senor Zuniga's strong personality and opinions could rub somebody the wrong way.

But he's truly a saint. Most innkeepers would do well to offer one tenth of Casa Zuniga's hospitality.

Check them out at:

http://www.casazunigagto.com

casazuniga@yahoo.com

dial 011-52-(473) 732-8546

Friday, December 23, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 7


CASA ZUNINGA


Rick's tours also include the mines.

Guanajuato was built on silver.

The Spaniards funded their nation on minerals plucked from the rich mines in the hills around Guanajuato.

The silver created a beautiful city lined with plazas, colonial buildings, cathedrals, museums, theaters and more.

The silver also came out on the backs of enslaved indigenous peoples.

Padre Hidalgo, from a nearby town, grew greatly concerned about the plight of such peoples and with others -- who paid for their revolutionary activities with their lives -- rebelled against mother Spain on the very streets of Guanajuato.

The couple in this photo is Bob and Lucy.

They're from New York City and they joined me on a trip down Boca Mina.

The trip is a bit claustrophobic, even though you don't go very far down the mine.

Everybody at the mine -- and every other historic site in town -- knows Rick.

He should run for mayor of GTO.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 6


CASA ZUNIGA

Rick's tours are another added bonus of staying at the heavenly Casa Zuniga.

You would pay a good $25 US or more for a comparable tour.

Rick does 'em for fee.

By the by, Rick is in his 60s and has a post-polio condition that leaves him in a lot of pain after walking.

But he's in better shape than most 30 year olds and he simply needs a day before head's up to do some stretching and he's ready to walk you to death (in a good way).

My first tour was a tag along with a young couple traveling through Central Mexico. She's from London and he's a Dubliner -- they're in the photo above.

We took off on foot, down those narrow, twisting, historic craggy steps and sidewalks filled with history.

My pausing to take photos robbed me of some of Rick's fabulous storytelling.

His love of all things GTO is obvious.

He lives and breathes the history of one of the most important cities in all of Mexico.

He loves to wander along the callejones and point out the amazing things that have taken place -- from floods to the start of the revolution against Spain.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 5


CASA ZUNINGA

Casa Zuniga has another super-duper bonus.

Its located footsteps from the only funicular in town.

Folks who grew up in Pittsburgh or other hilly towns will know that a funicular is a sort of loving elevator or inclined rail car.

It allows lazy, portly folks like this writer to avoid walking what seems like a quarter mile up twisting, endless steps and passageways to make it from downtown up the hill to Casa Z.

The funicular runs from about 7 a.m. to about 10 p.m. and its costs little more than a dollar US.

But you don't even have to pay!

Rick buys tons of punch cards for you!

The cards have about 10 rides on them and the funicular attendants take out a hole punch and literally punch your ticket once for each ride down or up.

If you run low, Rick's around to give out more cards.

So if you're afraid of practicing your Spanish, you don't even have to worry about buying a funicular ticket en espanol.

For the record, you should try out your Spanish -- don't be an ugly American.

For the record, part II -- Rick speaks perfect English, as does his wife Carmen.

The live in the San Francisco Bay area, so any gringos worried about language barrier need not.

And because it's their home, Rick and Carm are always around to help.

The City itself is pretty espanol-dominated.

San Miguel de Allende is the gringo town about an hour's drive away.

Guanajuato -- or GTO as the locals abbreviate it -- is full of students and visitors.

Many of the visitors are professionals from Mexico City or other areas.

So the shops, restaurants and museums function in Spanish.

Picking up some lingo on the streets of Miami equipped me perfectly for conducting all tourism matters in town.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 4


CASA ZUNIGA


The view from Casa Zuniga is so perfect, they could charge $10 bucks to outsiders just to watch the sunrise and sunset over the magnificent colonial city of Guanajuato...which covers every hillside and rolls down into the valley below Casa Z.

Just about every room at the Casa features a window with a million dollar view. The ones that cost a few bucks more have fabulous patios -- but the grounds have lots of common areas for spectacular viewing, so even a piker can take pictures like a pro from many vantage points.

Guanajuato gets rain in the summer, but the rest of the year it is pretty dry.

The summer is like Los Angeles, but without the traffic and smog.

I went in November and the days were in the mid 70s and the nights got down around 40 degrees.

That was cold to my Miami bones, but perfect weather for those from just about anywhere else in North America.

Casa Zuniga has fans, not air conditioners.

With all the breezes that blow through it, I can't imagine it getting too hot even midday in the summer when the temps could reach the high 80s.

Casa Z does not have central or individual heating. No place in Guanajuato does.

My room had about 6 layers of sheets, blankets, comforters, etc., so I never got cold.

But Rick, remembering my trepidation about near freezing night temps in an email I zapped a month before booking.

I came back up town to Casa Z one frigid evening to find a space heater purchased just for me and set up in the room.

Would a Ritz Carlton go to this length for a guest paying 10 times what I did at Casa Z?

I doubt it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 3


CASA ZUNINGA


Casa Zuniga rooms start as low as about $60 US per night.

But rather than a low-ball hidden cost that has hidden extras, Casa Zuniga rooms are the opposite -- they come with so many extras that you would darn near pay $60 US just for those bonuses that don't include a quiet, huge, beautiful room to sleep in.

First off, the taxes are included in the price.

The biggest room is maybe $100 US per night.

When you wake up, you see the kitchen going 100 miles an hour, working at least 90 minutes to make your breakfast from scratch.

Breakfast at Casa Zuniga features foods that most gringos think of as dinner food -- enchiladas, pieces of beef, chicken, huge bowls of beans, guacamole and tons of other gut busting but perfect food stuffs.

There are some eggs, fruits, juices, coffees and breads for those who crave more familiar breakfast-type grub.

They even fried up some bacon for this homesick gringo on his next to last day of a 6-day, 5-night stay.

Right off the bat, Rick asked about food allergies, likes, dislikes....I told him it's not like they kill me, but onions flip flop on my belly and eggs really give me tummy troubles.

Just like that, I had chilies rellenos without the customary egg batter outside.

Each day, the wonderful gals in the kitchen made me my own little sin cebolla (without onions) guacamole.

I felt guilty about such kindness and luxury visited on lazy old me.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 2


CASA ZUNIGA

When you approach the outskirts of Guanajuato, tell your cabbie you want to be dropped off at Pipila (pee-pee-lah) a huge stone statue that everyone knows.

Pipila, whether myth or real man, was a local hero of the independence.

Next from the towering, lit monument to Pipila, is Casa Zuniga -- where proprietor Rick Zuniga is a hero to all travelers.

Casa Zuniga is an inn that is sort of like a large house...but each room has its own bathroom, shower, lockable door, etc.

So you get the best of both worlds -- hotel class accommodations with B&B charm and friendliness.

Rick is a no nonsense guy.

If you start emailing him questions that sound like you're more inclined to want to stay at a Holiday Inn, he has no trouble directing you to such accommodations.

Carmen, Rick's wife, is the other half of the Casa Zuniga team.

She is a quiet, steadying force to Rick's Energizer Bunny-like movements, enthusiasm and constantly running deadpan commentary.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

GUANAJUATO, MEXICO -- 1


CASA ZUNIGA


Mexico. Oft-maligned, today it conjures up every ugly American's nightmare of a place where you walk out for coffee and wake up with one of your vital organs harvested.

While there certainly are many places with crime problems inflicting unspeakable horribles on the locals and scaring off cultural visitors aplenty, Guanajuato is NOT one of them.

From the States, you fly into Leon airport -- a very small, no nonsense place with clean shops, good security and helpful staff -- and catch a taxi to Guanajuato.

There's a taxi stand where you prepay...so you don't get the price hiked and you get a pre-screened driver for safety.

The cabbie may push the speed limit, but that is the only lawlessness you'll see on the way to Guanajuato.

Friday, December 16, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 11



ACCESSIBLE GEMS


(10) Le Meridien, 250 Franklin St., in Boston.

Sixteen of its 326 rooms are wheelchair-accessible units with two double beds an extremely well-designed roll-in showers.

Housed in a former Federal Reserve Bank, a national architectural landmark building, the hotel earns high marks for being within walking and rolling distance of Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

Phone: 617-423-2844.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 10



ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(9) Atheneum Suite Hotel, 1000 Brush St. in Detroit.

Twelve of its 174 rooms at this all-suite property are barrier-free, with large transfer benches that provide access to spacious shower-baths.

The huge accessible suites feature two beds, a separate sitting room and plenty of space everywhere for wheelchair maneuverability.

The huge restroom has elegant glass block around it.

The commode has grab bars and raised seat.

The sink has room for a wheelchair to roll up to it.

The architecturally restored Atheneum is within the Greektown district, downtown Detroit’s vibrant area of restaurants, coffee houses, bakeries and more.

Phone: 313-962-2323.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 9




ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(8) Beverly Hilton, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., in Beverly Hills.

Ten of its 581 rooms are accessible, with bath benches in the tub showers.

It also is home to Trader Vic's (though we didn't spot a werewolf driking a pina colada -- guess they only hung out at the London Vic's).

The Beverly Hilton’s barrier-free room was more than adequate with features such as wider doorways and grab bars.

In fact, when Christopher Reeve made his dramatic appearance at the 1996 Academy Awards, he chose to stay at the Hilton because of its accessibility.

Phone: 310-274-7777.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 8



ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(7) Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, 129 E. Fremont St. in Las Vegas.

Thirty-five of its 1,907 rooms are wheelchair accessible – half roll-in showers, half with bath benches.

The Nugget, with its glittering gold and fine Grecian marble decor, is by far the most opulent of the downtown Las Vegas hotels.

Rooms are large, accessible and extremely quiet -- which is of utmost importance when the ears cannot take another assault from a clanging slot payoff or lounge singer’s howling solo.

Disabled travelers will also love the simply efficient lift that provides easy access into the property’s Olympic-size outdoor pool.

The Nugget’s small, cabaret-size showroom can be reached by elevator and it offers an accessible seating area with good, unobstructed views of the stage.

All restaurants on the property are barrier-free.

Phone: 702-385-7171.

Monday, December 12, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 7

ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(6) Zion Park Inn, 1215 Zion Park Boulevard in Springdale, Utah.

Five of its 120 rooms are wheelchair-accessible – two with roll-in showers, three with bath benches.

Located just a couple miles from Zion National Park’s gates, the inn has barrier-free rooms and elevator access to all parts of the property, including a fabulous cathedral-ceilinged great room overlooking a 1,300-foot sandstone wall.

The inn also has wheelchair-accessible facilities such as a laundry, convenience store, gift shop and restaurant on site.

The Switchback Grill serves a great fill-you-up breakfast buffet plus southwestern-accented lunches and dinners amid airy, ski lodge-like decor.

Phone: 435-772-3200.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 6



ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(5) Queen and Crescent Hotel, 344 Camp St. in New Orleans.

Eleven of its 196 rooms are wheelchair-accessible and equipped with roll-in showers.

The European-style boutique hotel is in a renovated building that used to be a railroad office tower.

The best thing about its location in the Central Business District is that it is close enough – about two and a half blocks – to the French Quarter, but far enough from its noisy partying scene to make for a good night’s sleep.

Phone: 504-587-0700.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 5



ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(4) The Benjamin, 125 E. 50th St. in New York.

Twenty of its 209 rooms are wheelchair-accessible one-bedroom suites, which have barrier-free bathrooms to serve disabled guests.

The suites are huge by Manhattan standards and have baths equipped with grab bars, bath benches and shower wands for accessibility.

The ornate rooms also are equipped with galley kitchens, a fax and spacious sitting room.

The location, in a classic 1927 skyscraper at Lexington Avenue in Midtown, is perfect.

We noted the small lobby is easy for wheelchair users to negotiate and the doormen are quick to do their duties.

Phone: 212-715-2500.

Friday, December 9, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 4



ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(3) Inn at Cedar Falls, 21190 State Rt. 374 in Logan, Ohio.

One of its six house-size cabins is barrier-free.

Guests can access RedBud, the wheelchair-accessible cabin, via a smooth wooden ramp that blends seamlessly with the huge sitting porch.

The first floor includes a bedroom, roomy bathroom with roll-in shower, full kitchen with stove, refrigerator and dining table and two beautifully furnished sitting rooms.

The second story -- accessible only by stairs, but perfectly suited as separate quarters for an opposite sex personal care attendant traveling with a disabled person -- is a sunny loft with a bed and a full bathroom.

The Inn at Cedar Falls is located within the Hocking Hills, a recreational area about 60 miles from Columbus, Ohio.

Within the area are a number of state parks, including a few with paved, wheelchair-accessible trails.

The inn’s main dining room is in a house-like building accessible via a ramp.

Accommodations include breakfast.

Phone 740-385-7489.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 3



ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(2) Casa Grande, 834 Ocean Dr. in Miami Beach.

Two of its 34 rooms are wheelchair-accessible with large, roll-in showers with built-in seats.

The exterior of Casa Grande is an inviting, subdued Mediterranean style.

The inside offers pure luxury in a quiet oasis off bustling Ocean Drive.

Suites are spacious, with full kitchens, two bathrooms, huge bedrooms and roomy living rooms.

Staying at Casa Grande is like having use of a wealthy friend’s hip South Beach condo – one with plenty of room for maneuvering a wheelchair.

As far as access, the bathroom was the highlight.

It was huge with a raised commode grab bars and, best of all, the tiled roll-in shower with hand-held wand.

The suite’s gorgeous wood furniture and tile floor give it the feel of a tropical villa.

Best of all, the villa is only steps from the beach.

Phone 305-672-7003.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS -- part 2



ACCESSIBLE GEMS

(1) Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, off Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway on the Kona Kohala coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Fourteen of its 243 rooms are barrier-free suites with large roll-in showers and plenty of room for wheelchair maneuvering.

The rooms are spectacular, airy and gorgeous.

Think slate floors, a generous sitting room, functional patio furniture and dreamily comfortable beds.

The luxury resort has a portable pool lift for each of its five pools.

The lift and beach boy attendants gently placed Heidi in the fabulous waters of the oceanside Sea Shell infinity pool.

The granddaddy of all the pools is the King’s Pond, which has 2.5 million gallons of saltwater contained by lava rock and stocked with 3,500 fish representing 40 species.

With the assistance of a beach boy, Heidi was able to float among all sorts of sea creatures

A network of paved, wheelchair-accessible paths cover the lush and expertly-tended grounds. Phone: 808-325-8000.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ACCESSIBLE GEMS: WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS


ACCESSIBLE GEMS: WHEELCHAIR-FRIENDLY AMERICAN HOTELS

By Steve Wright

They are on the beach, or at the mouth of a canyon.

They are in the center of the city that never sleeps, or in the middle of nowhere.

They are boutique properties, sprawling casino resorts and best of all, wonderfully accessible to people who use wheelchairs for their mobility.

They are members of our top 10 list of hotels that combine location, charm, luxury and down-home comforts with barrier-free features which go far above and beyond the typical standard of wheelchair accessibility.

They are in 10 different states and represent everything from members of huge chains to mom and pop operations.

Accessibility at a hotel, or inn is crucial for my wife, who has used a wheelchair for her mobility -- because of severe rheumatoid arthritis -- for four decades.

Our accessible top 10, ranked and rated, will be posted over the next 10 days.

Monday, December 5, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 11



BROOKLYN

IF YOU GO:

New York Water Taxi, with several accessible stops in Manhattan, 212-742-1969. www.nywatertaxi.com

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, corner of Old Fulton and Water streets, 718-246-3963.

Patsy Grimaldi’s Pizza, 19 Old Fulton Street, 718-858-4300.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Columbia Heights between Montague and Middagh streets.

Junior’s, 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension at Dekalb Avenue, 718-852-5257. www.juniorscheesecake.com

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Ave., 718-623-7200. www.bbg.org

Deno’s Wonder Wheel, 3059 Denos Vourderis Place (formerly West 12th Street) 718-372-2592. www.wonderwheel.com

Nathan’s Famous, Surf and Stillwell avenues, 718-946-2202. www.nathansfamous.com/nathans/index.html

Sunday, December 4, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 10



BROOKLYN

If you go:

Brooklyn is not a hotel town. Being a place to live, work and play, it isn’t lined with upscale hotels like Manhattan. But you have to sleep somewhere and one of the best locations is the Upper East Side of Manhattan at Lyden Gardens.

Lyden is tranquil and the rooms are apartment-sized. Lyden, at 215 E. 64th Street, specializes in accommodating people with disabilities. Because it is located near several major medical centers, it also has a renown aftercare program for people recovering from surgery. The staff understands mobility issues.

The property has a ramped entrance, an automatic door and several accessible rooms on the first floor.

The amazingly quiet first floor rooms have huge roll-in showers, full kitchens, large living rooms, bedrooms with plenty of space for a wheeler to maneuver around in and large barrier-free bathrooms

Lyden Gardens doesn’t have a restaurant, but it has room service deals with several nearby cafes that will deliver food hot to your door. Room Rates start at $200; phone 212-355-1230 for reservations.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has more than 4,300 lift-equipped buses on the road. Drivers are well-trained when it comes to assisting with tie- and lock-down devices and making sure to stop at a good location for accessibility. For information, phone 718-330-1234. To view extensive transit maps, visit: http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us For information on accessibility, visit: www.mta.info/mta/ada







Saturday, December 3, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 9



BROOKLYN

Where else can you can you touch, feel and experience such a famous part of New York? – and do it all for free!

One could traverse John Roebling’s steel cable suspension bridge a thousand times and discover something new every 1,600-foot journey.

Rolling west into Manhattan an hour before sunset, one can gaze north for dazzling perspectives of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings illuminated by the low-hanging sun.

But the bridge itself is a work of art, the awesome cables so artistic in the way they spiral upward into the sky.

The fellow bridge walkers are pure New York street theater – fat, skinny, loud, private, friendly, hurried, strange, local, immigrant, tourist, banker, pauper.

The pedestrians on the 1883 bridge prove that Brooklyn truly is America’s Old Country.

Wright is an award-winning travel writer-photographer. Johnson-Wright is an Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator. They live in a restored house in Miami’s Little Havana. Email them at: stevewright64@yahoo.com

Friday, December 2, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 8



BROOKLYN

The westward journey on Surf should include a stop at the corner of Stillwell Avenue for a final taste of Brooklyn.

Since 1916, Nathan’s Famous has sold hot dogs at Stillwell and Surf.

Modern restrooms in the historic building are completely accessible and the stands are low enough for ordering from a wheelchair.

Downing mustard-slathered all-beef dogs and fabulous crinkle cut fries on a warm summer evening under Nathan’s neon-lit sign is a truly American experience.

For the grand finale, how better to exit the ballyhooed borough than via the Brooklyn Bridge?

The minute you start your ascent up the pedestrian pathway (100 percent barrier-free), your heart skips a beat.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 7



BROOKLYN

The fabled Wonder Wheel is at Denos Vourderis Place (formerly W. 12th.) The 150-foot, Bethlehem Steel wheel has a level entrance and can accommodate wheelers, but the smallish cars might be best used by those who can transfer from their chairs.
The family-owned and operated landmark gets high marks for its low key approach to accommodating people with disabilities.

Visitors who roll another 10 blocks east will find they’ve wandered very east – as in a place with so many Soviet immigrants, the area is known as Little Odessa.
The barrier-free Boardwalk continues through the neighborhood, which is better known as Brighton Beach.
Brighton’s brightly-colored Russian restaurants and beautiful art deco apartment buildings create a grand sense of place.

Next, head west on Surf Avenue, the first street north of the Boardwalk. Surf has manageable curbcuts, slow-moving traffic and sidewalks just wide enough to squeeze past the masses.