Friday, May 29, 2009

No Barriers USA

Access Anything has been blessed with the job of photographing this year's 3rd annual No Barriers Festival (NB) in Miami, FL from June 4-7 with Shake A Leg Miami (SALM), the local adaptive program. SALM focuses mostly on water events; but keeping with their all-inclusive theme, NB has so much planned you can't possibly do it all!

But for those of you in the area or within driving distance, consider attending this event next week for a day or for all four if you can. Thursday hosts the keynote speaker at the Ritz Carlton, but events start Friday morning with presenters and scientists at "Innovation Village," moving on to Tai Chi, Handcycling, and Golf in the afternoon at nearby Kennedy Park as well as swimming at the SALM Eco Islands. Saturday offers the same schedule wtih Windsurfing, Canoeing, Sailing, Yoga, and Fencing in the afternoon after the morning's symposium. Sunday switches it up with off-site clinics in horseback riding, fishing, paddling, swimming with the dolphins, and scuba diving in Innovation Village.

We attended NB2007 in Lake Tahoe and were so very impressed with the variety of activities and equipmenet as well as the side trips, wealth of expertise, and overall fun festival experience.

We're excited to attend this event in this capacity; and will be blogging all days that we're there posting pictures and videos of the event as well as hosting our new radio show with BlogTalkRadio on Friday the 5th at 5:30 Eastern, topic TBA. Please stay with us through this event, we look forward to bringing it to you first hand.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Southwest Airlines, Attitude is Everything!

It's a rarity to find helpful, energetic, and positive employees in the airline industry in this day and age, but I can say with assurance that every Southwest employee we met during our recent travels to from Denver to Chicago Midway to Albany, NY was all of the above. We always try to cheer them up with Life is Good stickers when we travel, but this group needed little encouragement.

And it wasn't just the employees that made this company desirable for travelers with disabilities. Although the frame of our Ti-Lite didn't fit in the closet (center folding chairs would), the wheels fit in the overhead, we always got on first (no matter how many elderly were waiting in airport chairs) to get the bulkhead seat, the bulkhead seat arm rests raised (unheard of! although granted this left us without food trays), and without a first class section, Craig could wheel right up to the front row without the "Hannibal Lector" aisle chair. Additionally, unlike every other airline, every aircraft was the Boeing 737-200 so we knew what to expect every time.

A few little details were consistent every time as well- there was never a drink cart to watch your elbows for; attendants asked your order personally and carried trays of drinks back at a time. The start up safety instructions were always a little different and unique, as each lead attendant added their personal style to the announcements, making them more tolerable and interesting to listen to. And their staple "No Fees," marketing rules... We were never charged for bags, and sister Laura coming in from DC actually skipped her first flight to drive with Craig's other sister but took her return flight home. Absolutely unheard of on other airlines; if you miss that first leg, you're screwed out of the entire reservation, and lose 25-30% of your paid fare in the exchange, if they even let you exchange.

And every time they helped us get the wheels out, offered help to putting the wheelchair back together, and made sure Craig got into his chair ok. Not once did we see employees from AirServe or other on-site assistance company, Southwest employees were keen on doing it themselves; even once the pilot stepped out and asked. Not to point fingers but we've had some nasty unhappy pilots in our day who would not allow our wheels or chair to be in "his closet," not knowing our rights, not offering assistance. A few airlines always give us exceptional service, (Continental and American's are unwavering) but many others often fail to, especially United, US Air, and the regional servers.

When I searched "why are Southwest Airline's employees so happy?" on Google, it pulled up numerous articles on how CEO Gary Kelly makes sure his employees provide "Texas-style warmth and spirit," which must trickle down from the top.

You can bet we'll be flying Southwest again, and recommending it to others who travel with wheelchairs. Attitude is everything!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lake George NY

We're usually lucky to visit Lake George New York several times a year; Craig is from the area, and yet we've (gasp!) never reported to you on its access...
LG is a lovely little town tucked into the bottom corner of the Adirondack Park Reserve, an hour north of Albany, and neighboring Vermont. The lake itself is 32 miles long and an impressive site in itself with clear cool water that freezes every winter. Discovered in the mid 1600s, Lake George is rich with early settlers' and early US military history including the battle of Lake George in 1755 and was dubbed the most beautiful lake that Thomas Jefferson had ever seen.
There's plenty to do in the area that's accessible, including taking a ride with the Lake George Steamboat Company, and the usual lake and nearby mountain activities like fishing, hiking, camping, mini golf and golf, kayaking and boating, and of course shopping in "the village."

My first visit to the area was for Craig's sister's wedding in 2001, and I must include this is an absolutely lovely destination-wedding location. But what endears me, a non-yank, to the area has been the peacefulness of the community in general. The views across the wide placid lake are of the surrounding mountain range, the roads are winding and secluded, and the locals are just like ours, with that small town feel, super nice and out for a good time. Then again, I've never been in July. I hear it's pretty crazy-full of tourists, but we're quite used to that in Steamboat!

Two historic forts are located on either end of the town, Fort Ticonderoga to the north end, and Fort William Henry to the south with loud and colorful re-enactments of past historic battles.

Don't miss nearby Bolton Landing, even cuter than Lake George, which is home to the Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course and the Lake Georg Kayak Company which offers some options for people with disabilities!

Ironically, it was quite hard for us to find access information online at any of the websites we searched, so you can wager we'll be making an impact in that arena if we can!

To view picture of Lake George, click here, we'll be adding to our fall album while we're there from May 13-19!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Colorado Trains and Accessibility

Colorado has some of the greatest narrow-gauge and peak-climbing railroads in the country. Despite their historic status, all have been equipped with accessibility to the tee! Perfect 1-day or 2-day trips from Denver, the state’s top three trains are located in Colorado Springs, Durango, and Antonito at the border of New Mexico.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Antonito

Open May 23 to October 18 this year, this “living museum” dates back to 1880 and was part of the Rio Grande Railway, serving the silver mining distric in the San Juan mountains. The train use diminished considerably between 1920 and 1960 and the tracks were nearly abandoned and dismantled in 1969. But a local movement to save the railroad brought in monies and tourists to the area, sustaining the railroad since then. The ride is 64 miles long, from Chama to Antonito, and has several departures a day. It dubs itself “America’s longest and highest steam-operated train” and has wheelchair lifts up to the accessible coaches.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum, Durango

Open May 2 through October 31 this year, this beautiful scenic ride is along the Animas River from Durango to Silverton and offers motorcoach rides back if you don’t want another 3-hour ride through the canyon. Also dating back to the 1880s with the Rio Grande Railway, the train faced many challenges with physical and financial stability and risked losing part of its tracks during war eras when monies and focus was elsewhere. Registered as historic in the 1960s, and given additional attention from filming Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, the narrow gauge gained momentum for tourism and has been sustained by it since then. The fully coal-steam operated train has an accessible car with restroom and a motorized lift mechanism to get you in.

Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, Colorado Springs

Just an hours drive from Denver, this is the only train in the state open year round, and climbs the old carriage road from the 1880s to the top of this 14,000 foot peak which is the site for the inspiration of the song “America the Beautiful.” The train climbs up from 6500 feet and 9 miles for a three hour round-trip. A big red warning of altitude sickness fills one of the pages on their website, and is to be taken seriously by those who have traveled from sea-level locations. The train stops at the top for 30 minutes of views and snacking before returning down, and has a roll-in entry and accessible bathroom in both the depot and the summit house but not on the train.

This post was duplicated from our Examiner's page, please check it out!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Colorado Adaptive Travel Examiner

For those who haven't heard of The Examiner, it's a vast network of writers who have been hand-picked for their specialty by a team of experienced editors in your nearest-city location; ours for example is Denver.

Access Anything was recently accepted as the Colorado Adaptive Travel Examiner, and we've begun posting articles, and will post 3-4 per week. Based on the concept that everyone is an expert is something, Examiner posts include 25 categories from Arts to Travel, and then multiple sub categories under those- such as under PETS, Denver has a Horse Training, Dog Rescue, Green Pets, and Pet Health Examiner writing articles on their expertise topics.

The articles we've posted so far include Adaptive Recreation in Colorado, Colorado Camping in a Wheelchair, and One of the Oldest Hotels in Colorado is also Accessible; and one to post soon on Handcycling.

You can sign up as a feed through RSS to be notified when our articles post. We hope you make use of this free information location!