Who doesn’t love a good trip to a park? The national and state parks across the U.S. and Canada have all kinds of experiences available. Parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone, and so many more offer visitors a chance to connect with nature. Enjoying these places isn’t only for the young and fit either; many of them have options for people with various kinds of disabilities.
Most parks have websites, so it’s easy to check in advance what they have available. Yellowstone National Park, as an example, was established more than a hundred years ago, so not everything is handicap accessible, but much is. Many of the parks across the nation are in wildlife and wilderness areas, so it may not be easy to go off trail if a person is in a wheelchair or unable to walk for longer distances. Even the “accessible” facilities may not always be ideal, while those that are don’t always carry the international symbol for it so foreign-speaking visitors may not always know which areas are open to them. But many locations and indoor areas are equipped with audio recordings of tours and information for the hearing impaired, and there are also specific national park apps that give audio descriptions and up-to-date information about accessibility within parks. One perk is The America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass or “Interagency” Access Pass. It’s free and good for lifetime admission and discounts for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities.
The pass gets the holder and any other people in a private car with the holder into national parks for free. For those who don’t have one, they can be obtained at park entrance stations, the Visitor Services Office, and visitor centers. At Yellowstone, for those with hearing problems, sign language interpreters can be arranged with a three-week advance notice. For those who have eyesight problems, park guides and maps are available, and information can be found in large print, audio descriptions, and braille. Florida recently released a new guidebook for their state parks and wheelchair accessibility. The guide lists trails, attractions, sites, lodging options, and tours for 12 of the state parks in Florida. The book, Barrier-Free Travel; Favorite Florida State Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers published by C&C Creative Concepts, can be purchased for just $7.95. It was written by Candy Harrington, an accessible travel expert. You can find out about such fun options as an accessible glass-bottom boat in the Florida Keys, barrier-free camping, an accessible snorkeling tour, and so much more.
Considering one of the largest generations ever, the baby boomers is almost entirely closing in on retirement age – often coming along with physical limitations, so the PR of disability in such locations is a positive move forward. Getting that word out through organizations like AARP or AAA could prove a boon for the parks as well as the various businesses that surround many parks.
And this information isn’t just for retirees and those with physical disabilities. Parents pushing strollers, and those who want to enjoy the scenery without breaking a sweat, can benefit from the information too. Candy Harrington has written several other books for those who need barrier-free travel ideas, including Barrier-Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. Her blog is found at www.BarrierFreeTravels.com.
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