Resource Roundup: Barrier-Free Travel Guides


LEADtravelbooks2Ten years ago it was difficult to find any book that adequately addressed accessible travel. True, there were a few independent travelogue offerings, but most just glazed over important access details and trip planning logistics. Happily, times have changed. Today, with the aging of baby boomers, a term that describes Americans born in a period of increased birth rates following World War II, there is a much higher demand for detailed access information. As a result, there has been almost an explosion of accessible travel titles in the past few years.

At the top of the list is Rick Steves’ Easy Access Europe, which was released in July 2004. Rick Steves is the author of 30 guidebooks and has hosted nearly 100 travel shows on American public television. It’s the first time a major publisher has addressed access in a big way.

This European travel guide includes listings for accessible hotels, restaurants and attractions in London, Paris, Bruges, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. All listings are rated for access, but because of the off-the-beaten track focus of Steves’ titles, the majority of the listings are only appropriate for slow walkers (or those people who can do one or two steps).

Still, it’s a useful resource for budget travelers and for people who can make do with less than perfect access. Rick and co-author Ken Plattner did an especially good job on the walking tours, but then again that is Steves’ specialty. By his own admission, complete barrier-free access is a rarity in Europe, but this guide helps wheelchair-users and slow walkers make informed travel decisions. Hopefully, we’ll see more titles in this series, as Steves addresses the subject quite well.

Another European title, The Accessible Guide To Florence, was also released in 2004. Penned by first-time author Cornelia Danielson, this self-published title is packed full of general tourism information, historical background notes and detailed access information.

One of the most refreshing aspects about this guide is that the access information is presented in a meaningful narrative format. For example, instead of just using a pictogram or stating that a building is accessible or not accessible, Cornelia goes the extra mile and lists important access details such as the number of steps, the location of ramps and even the height of small steps or raised thresholds. This attention to detail makes this guidebook a useable resource for everyone from slow walkers to wheelchair-users, as it helps visitors realistically determine if they will be able to access specific attractions.

PassPorter Press, publishers of a popular line of Walt Disney World guidebooks, will release their first access-related title in August 2005. Known for their expert advice and emphasis on planning and organization, the folks at PassPorter recruited Disney experts Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma to pen the PassPorter’s Walt Disney World For Your Special Needs.

Filled with detailed access information on all the rides and resorts at Walt Disney World, the book is a great resource for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. Recognizing that an increasing number of grandparents vacation with their grandkids these days, the authors also paid particular attention to the access needs of seniors. Diversity is the key word here, as access accommodations for a wide range of disabilities and medical conditions are covered. Truly this handy resource contains everything you ever wanted to know about access in Walt Disney World.

Another US title, Access Anything: Colorado is due to hit the bookstores in mid July. Penned by new authors Craig P. Kennedy and Andrea C. Jehn, this resource-filled volume includes detailed information about accessible outdoor fun and activities throughout Colorado.

This well-organized book contains information about adaptive sporting activities for all seasons in Colorado; from snow skiing and dogsledding to hiking, biking, fishing and camping. Also included are lodging and dining suggestions plus lots of resources. It’s a must-have resource if Colorado is on your vacation itinerary.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the June 2005 release of the second edition of my own Barrier-Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. This new edition has detailed information on the logistics of accessible travel by plane, train, bus and ship. New features include an expanded cruise chapter, a kid travel chapter and lots of new and updated resources. And as always, I continue to stress consumer education and self-advocacy throughout this new edition.

Rick Steves’ Easy Access Europe
Rick Steves and Ken Plattner
ISBN 1-56691-668-2
500 pages US$ 19.95

The Accessible Guide to Florence
Cornelia Danielson
ISBN 1-4134-5729-0
297 pages US$ 18.69

Passporter’s Walt Disney World For Your Special Needs
Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma
ISBN 1-58771-018-9
400 pages US$ 22.95

Access Anything: Colorado
Craig P. Kennedy and Andrea C. Jehn
ISBN 1-55591-534-5
256 pages US$ 18.95

Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (2nd Edition)
Candy Harrington
ISBN 1-932603-09-3
292 pages US$ 16.96