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Linda Gustafson of Princeton shows one of the many accessible travel magazines she and husband Roger use when planning trips to accommodate Roger’s use of an electric wheelchair. NewsTribune photo/Kim Shute
Accessible travel tips:
Roger and Linda Gustafson say the Internet is their most important resource for planning. They advise anyone who needs special accommodations to plan itineraries well in advance.
Use search terms such as: Accessible travel-location Wheelchair (of specific need) travel-location Accessible taxis-location Adapted or accessible van rentals-location Accessible hotel rooms-location Accessible museums-location Accessible restaurants-location
PRINCETON — Seasoned travelers Roger and Linda Gustafson of Princeton recently presented a program on accessible travel and travel planning at Princeton Public Library.
Roger, who uses an electric wheelchair, and Linda have visited more than a dozen foreign countries and traveled throughout the United States over the past 13 years and have learned that with the right planning, anyone with accessibility issues can travel.
“The more we know about our options, the more we can travel like everyone else,” Linda said.
Accessibility issues can include anything from a sprained ankle or bad knees to oxygen tanks or wheelchairs, the Gustafsons said. Regardless of the specific limitation, anyone can plan a successful trip. In fact, since 1990 in the Unites States, the Americans With Disabilities Act has required by law that a person has the right to accessible travel options.
The Gustafsons’ No. 1 recommendation for accessible travel is advanced planning. Once a destination is chosen, start by contacting the venues to make arrangements specific to your needs. Contact the hotel and make arrangements using specific language to communicate your requirements.
For example, Linda said: provide measurements of the wheelchair to ensure the doorways are wide enough, chair heights, to ensure the bed will be high or low enough, communicate that you need a roll-in shower and lowered sinks.
“Communicate in a very clear manner,” said Linda. “The staff cannot be expected to know or anticipate what we need.”
Follow the same guidelines when making transportation arrangements. Almost any mode of transportation is accessible. Special seating is available on planes, trains and taxis. Accessible vans are available for rent. Boats, both small day-trip boats and large cruise ships, have accommodations available to those who ask.
Both Roger and Linda emphasize that, in addition to planning your trip well in advance, confirmation is key. Check and double check again before the trip to ensure all information on accommodations is crystal clear to avoid any last minute surprises.
The Gustafson’s also say flexibility is of the utmost importance when planning an accessible trip. Despite the couple’s best efforts, Roger said there have been several times when they arrived at their destination and the accommodations were not as promised.
“We’ve accessed many restaurants via the kitchen — it’s a great way to see how your food is prepared,” Roger joked.
Linda agreed that there have been occasional snags, but being flexible keeps those snags from turning into real problems. “We’ve gone through service elevators or back entrances, that doesn’t bother us.”
To ensure the smoothest possible trip, the Gustafsons have developed a checklist that they use for every trip. The couple checks off all tasks related to the planning of their trip beginning a month in advance to ensure nothing is missed. They have also learned through trial and error to keep an itinerary and a copy of the ADA law on hand during every trip.
“Be flexible and have a sense of humor, said Linda. “Traveling can be enjoyable for everyone.”
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