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Road Trips: How to Plan an Accessible Getaway

Planning an accessible road trip is getting a little easier for people with disabilities. There are more resources created by and for the disability community, and the tourism industry is starting to recognize the value of accessible travel. As a disabled, chronically ill, neurodivergent person, I take road trips every year and have learned some tips and tricks along the way.

Renting a vehicle

Most major car companies offer adaptive driving devices for their vehicles at no additional cost. Enterprise, for example, offers hand controls, left foot accelerators, pedal extenders and spinner knobs to facilitate steering. Budget can provide hand controls, spinner knobs, a panoramic mirror, swivel seats and transfer boards. Be prepared to request adaptive devices at least three business days in advance.

For a wheelchair-accessible van with a ramp or a lift, rent from a mobility company like BraunAbility, one of the largest builders of wheelchair-accessible vans in the country, with rentals at many locations. MobilityWorks, an accessible-vehicle and adaptive-equipment dealer, has rental locations in 34 states. AccessibleGO, which offers a one-stop shop for adapted rental cars and wheelchair-accessible vans, has agreements with 100 wheelchair van rental locations nationwide; request a quote on their website. For accessibleGO’s rental cars, you can request hand controls and a spinner knob at checkout.

Route planning

You can use Google Maps, Waze and MapQuest for initial accessibility research using photos and street view. Google Maps provides directions for some wheelchair-accessible pedestrian and transit routes.

Sites such as Roadtrippers and Furkot can plot an entire itinerary. While these websites are not disability specific, they are invaluable tools. (Roadtrippers does have a wheelchair-accessible check box in the search function.) You can filter by types of destinations such as national parks or museums, and search for hotels and campgrounds. Furkot allows you to input how long you want to drive each day, whether you want to travel on Interstate highways or take more scenic roads. The app will determine the best route and length of time between stops, and suggest where to stay overnight.

Finding lodging

While hotels and other accommodations are required to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, many hotels do not meet all accessibility needs. Most of the booking sites list hotels with accessible rooms for those with mobility, hearing and vision needs, but this information is not always verified. Do additional research on review sites and look for photos. Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton and Fairmont hotels offer allergy-friendly and scent-free rooms in some locations. Call the hotel to verify accessibility and to make sure a specific room is reserved for you.

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