Planning Your Perfect Accessible Vacation

By Ed McEntee, ECNV Peer Mentor

Ed McEntee in Hawaii

Ed McEntee vacationing in Hawaii

Vacation time – for people with kids it usually happens between June and August, but really it could be any time. In either case, the prep work is the challenge. Here is what you need to know to plan your accessible vacation.

  1. Deciding On Your Destination. This should be an easy thing to do, but having a disability can make it more complicated. While many hotels say they are accessible, you have to do a little investigation before committing yourself. Some hotels call themselves “accessible” if you can get a wheelchair in the front door, but there may be steps inside the building. Likewise, there are hotels that identify themselves as accessible if they have grab bars in the bath, but do not have enough space for a wheelchair to fit through the door to access those assistive devices. You should always call the hotel and make sure they comply with your definition of accessible. I find that national chains are usually good with accessibility and can provide satisfaction. In the United States the American Automobile Association (AAA) has useful information about accessible travel. As a member, you can get access to mapping services and guide books that have valuable information (by state) for hotel accommodations and accessibility. They feature hotel addresses, phone numbers, and interesting tourist sites to visit. Go to for membership information.
  2. Support Services. A person with physical disabilities might need Personal Assistant Care services, while a person with low vision might need magnified reading devices. Deaf persons might need access to devices that would help to interpret speech. To find support services you can do a computer search for a nearby Center for Independent Living (CIL), State Department of Rehabilitation Services, or service providers having national recognition.
  3. Traveling. Airplanes and trains are often the go-to modes of transportation for traveling long distances quickly. But sometimes driving can be the easiest way to travel, especially if you have a disability. Having your own accessible van can be very costly, so you may want to consider a rental. While this is not necessarily cheap ($1,000 -$1,300 weekly with unlimited mileage), it may be cheaper than plane tickets for two and you have fabulous mobility in and around your vacation area. One of the national companies providing great service and support is Wheelchair Getaways ( For a fee, they will drop the vehicle off at an airport or any other destination you provide and pick it up at any place you decide. In my experience, the vans are clean, well-maintained, and accessible with an automatically-retracting ramp. Another wheelchair van rental company I have had success with is Mobility Works ( There are quite a few options, so do some research and find the company that works best for you.
  4. Accessible Cruises. My sole experience on a cruise ship was with Royal Caribbean, Adventure of the Seas ( Each deck had at least two cabins accessible to people with physical disabilities. My cabin had a balcony (paid extra for that), a queen-sized bed, and a fully accessible bath with a fully accessible shower. I had no problems getting throughout the ship since it had been retrofitted with ramps and automatic door openers on every deck. The only place on the ship that was inaccessible was a chapel at the very top of the ship. However, not all things are perfect in paradise. Prior to sailing, I attempted to see if their tours around the islands were accessible. Unfortunately, their version of accessible was not quite fit for wheelchair users. I was quite disappointed, especially when I found that the ship was deserted during the day when everyone else went out on tours. There are many cruise lines with different accessibility features, so once again, it is important to do your research. Princess Cruises ( boasts an “award winning program” for accessibility on their website, and Celebrity Cruises ( also lists many accessibility features on their website. Always do your research and ask questions before you book!

Although challenges are inevitable, planning ahead can make traveling a whole lot easier. Once you’re relaxing by the pool or exploring a new city with your family, the extra planning becomes worth it.


ECNV’s blogs are the personal experiences of individual contributors and should not be seen as endorsing a specific brand. We encourage people to conduct their own research and use their best judgment.


August 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm 2 comments

“Oscars of the disability world.”

During the six years I served as AARP’s disability community liaison, I enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the American Association of People with Disabilities Leadership Awards Gala Steering Committee. I was mightily impressed by the team that annually worked to raise six – and then seven – figures in donations that became the core of the national nonprofit group’s annual operating budget. The event itself has always been the leading cross-disability event in the DC region. I’ve heard it called the “Oscars of the disability world” and that’s a fair summary. Lots of the big names in our field attend, and the host venue always has a swanky aura. The awards are central to the event and the winners are always impressive.

 Swedish Ambassador Bjorn Olof Lyrvall accepts AAPD’s International Ally Award.

Swedish Ambassador Bjorn Olof Lyrvall accepts AAPD’s International Ally Award.

This year’s winners included International Ally Award winner Sweden, and Corporate Leaders Procter & Gamble and Google, Inc. The prestigious Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards were presented to Claudia Gordon, from the White House Office of Public Engagement; HEARD founder Talila Lewis, who has focused on the rights of prisoners who are deaf; and AXS Lab Founder Jason DaSilva. Jenni Gold, producer of the new film Cinemability, received the AAPD Image Award.

ECNV Executive Director Brewster Thackeray with former Congressman Tony Coelho at the AAPD Leadership Awards Gala.

ECNV Executive Director Brewster Thackeray with former Congressman Tony Coelho at the AAPD Leadership Awards Gala.

Another joy each year at AAPD is the chance to catch up with old friends in this glamorous setting. I enjoyed seeing my former National Organization on Disability colleague Ginny Thornburgh, and her husband Dick, the one-time U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania Governor. AAPD Board Member Cheryl Sensenbrenner kept remarking on how my look had changed – maybe she just isn’t used to seeing me in a suit. I also was glad to pass my new business card to ADA author and former California Congressman Tony Coelho; years before I had the chance to work with Tony in person, he was a role model to me. He was diagnosed with epilepsy at the same age I was, faced many roadblocks as a result, but never stopped pursuing opportunities to be a leader and support the rights of other people with disabilities. And it was good to catch up with Curt Decker, the National Disability Rights Network head who attended the same tiny upstate New York college I did (albeit a couple of decades ahead of me). As usual, the ushers were “ushing” us out long before I had a chance to say hi to everyone I would have liked.

I was proud to attend this year’s gala along with eight ECNV colleagues and three members of our Board of Directors. We were among the best-represented organizations there. And we were all taking notes, since AAPD’s Gala gives us inspiration as we prepare for ECNV’s own upcoming fundraiser, which will be held June 11 at the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington. We are fortunate to have several veterans of the AAPD Gala beyond myself, including our Board member Helena Berger who was the longtime AAPD Chief Operating Officer and consultants Jason Mida and Zach Baldwin of Mida & Associates, helping us build our event. AAPD knows what they’re doing and they do it mighty well.

March 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm 1 comment

Vacancies on the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities


Apply now to be a Member of the Board                 

Hurry!  Applications are open until April 15 but screening will begin before then; appointments are made by the Governor.  Candidates must submit a resume and complete the online application through the Secretary of the Commonwealth at

Or you can click “apply to be a board member” under the site tools at and be sure to check out the categories under the 2014 Appointment Openings…candidates must complete all vetting questions, as well as provide background information, a resume, and explain why they are applying for a specific seat on a board. For more information about Gubernatorial appointments, visit It would be helpful if you could also send us a copy of your application and resume so that we can follow up. You can send them to Michal Ketner at

March 6, 2014 at 5:46 pm 1 comment

Proposed Fare Increases for ART and STAR Zone 1

Arlington Transit is proposing to increase ART bus fares and the STAR Zone 1 fare. If approved, the fare increases would go into effect on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. This would be the first time that ART has increased bus fares and the STAR Zone 1 fare since 2010.


Arlington Transit is proposing to increase the ART base fare from $1.50 to $1.75. The ART discounted fare for seniors, middle and high school students, and people with disabilities would increase from $0.75 to $0.85. The additional revenue generated from the increased fares would help offset increased contractual costs for operation and maintenance and the cost of additional ART bus services.


Arlington Transit is also proposing that the STAR Zone 1 fare increase from $3.00 to $3.50 per trip. The additional revenue generated from the increased fare would partially cover higher expenses from contractors supplying STAR services. STAR Zone 2 and 3 fares would not increase.


1) A community meeting on this issue will be held at Central Library on Monday, March 10, from 7–8:30 p.m.

2) A public hearing will be held on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. in the County Board Room located on the third floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington VA, 22201. Visit to sign up to speak at the hearing or to comment online. You may also call the County Board Office at 703-228-3130.

3) Online comment forms are on and for those who can’t attend the meetings.

March 5, 2014 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

Fairfax Voters: Test New Voting Machines and Provide Input

Fairfax County voters will have the opportunity to test new voting machines and provide input at four events being held throughout the county on Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22.  The Fairfax County Office of Elections is in the process of replacing its aging voting equipment and is reviewing new machines for ease of use, as well as accessibility for people with disabilities and for voters for whom English is not their primary language.

“We have some critical decisions to make this year on purchasing new voting machines for our citizens,” said Electoral Board Secretary Brian Schoeneman. “This is a rare opportunity to provide voters with a chance to test drive different voting machines and give input on what voting equipment will provide them with the best and most secure voting experience.”

“We are hoping that diverse voters representing all our communities participate in these events,” added General Registrar Cameron Quinn.

No registration or advance notice is required to participate in four of the events.

Friday, February 21:  

Tysons Corner Center Mall, 2 to 4 p.m.
3rd floor food court
1961 Chain Bridge Road, Tysons Corner

Reston Community Center, Hunters Woods, 6:45 to 8:30 p.m.
2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston

Saturday, February 22:

George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Robert H. & Clarice Smith Auditorium (enter through the gift shop – no admittance charge for this event)
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon

George Mason Regional Library, 3:30 to 4:45 p.m.
7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale

For more information on the voting machine demonstrations, contact the Office of Elections at 703-222-0776, TTY 711. Information on elections and voting in Fairfax County can be found at

February 12, 2014 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

Department of Family Services Reception Area Renovation

underconstructionThe current reception area for the Department of Family Services will be closed and undergoing renovation/construction starting January 21, 2014 and lasting potentially through March 2014. During renovation, the reception area and interview rooms (used for client/staff meetings) will be temporarily relocated to a smaller space on the 2nd Floor which will impact accessibility to in-person services.

You are encouraged to call or email your staff contact ahead of time and not walk-in without an appointment.

January 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment



ADAPT AND Not Dead Yet, working in partnership, have created a unique opportunity to communicate three vital messages via the Superscreen in New York Times Square. The messages–Life, because we’re not better off dead, Liberty, in our homes, not nursing homes, and The pursuit of happiness—join our struggle at and – also smash devastating myths that have historically prevented many individuals with disabilities from enjoying our full rights and an equal place in our communities.

These messages are displayed in a ten second video and will run once an hour, 18 hours a day for the next three months.

You can see the video at

The first message avows that life, with or without disabilities, is worth living. Many misguided individuals have promulgated so-called “assisted-suicide” and euthanasia laws throughout the world that discriminate against elderly and disabled people by creating a state supported path to death. An all too common belief that a person is better off dead than severely disabled has been enacted as public policy. In Oregon, doctors report that people ask for assisted suicide because they feel like a burden on others, indicating that they may have even felt a duty to end their lives and relieve society of the “burden” of their existence. In addition, many individuals with newly acquired disabilities have been assisted to die before being provided an opportunity to experience all that life with a disability can offer. Not Dead Yet challenges the social message that we are “better dead than disabled” and that society is better off without us.

The second message asserts that the quality of our lives is greatly enhanced when we are allowed the liberty to live in our own homes and apartments, supported by attendants that we hire and direct. We view nursing homes as a type of segregation and incarceration that violate our civil rights, as affirmed in the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision.

The third message calls upon everyone—with or without disabilities—to join us in our historic battle for our civil rights. We are not helpless and we neither need nor want pity. We need equal access to jobs, businesses, places of entertainment, government offices and our own homes. Everyone may at any time join our ranks by acquiring a disability. Join us now and ensure that we will all have quality lives no matter what the future may hold.

Not Dead Yet is a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination.

ADAPT is a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.

For more information on our organizations, visit and

December 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm 1 comment

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