Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ski Steamboat, Gets an A+ for Access

Do you Ski Steamboat?

Steamboat's always making improvements, and always thinking of access when they do.  We noticed bright new lift line signage (above) and wider adaptive lanes as we loaded the Christy sixpack for the first ride this year, always great to see updated and accurate, helpful signage!  This is one easy access fix many resorts don't think about; directional signage is key!

Other developments at the base include an accessible new Umbrella Bar and deck outside the Bear River, and a new paved system that runs from the Sheraton to One Steamboat Place that will be heated as of next ski season- this year be patient with the base maintenance crew as they try and keep up with the abundance of snow!

Steamboat employees also get a training session on Customers with Disabilities, and the staff always sends us excellent comments and feedback about their appreciation of this training that we've been doing since 2006; Steamboat's staff truly aims to please!

Steamboat's adaptive program STARS is ramping up this year, training more instructors than ever before, and growing its program with each season, so more and more adaptive skiers will be present at our mountain!

The restaurant scene in Steamboat is widely accessible, with only one restaurant without an accessible entrance (due to stairs)! And lodging here is also widely accessible.

So if you don't ski Steamboat, you should!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Announcing Amtrak 2011 Improvements to Access

We are excited to announce we are at the very beginning of a long adventure with Open Doors and Amtrak, who signed an agreement on Monday to train nearly 8000 employees in 17 cities throughout the United States. 

The Open Doors Organization (ODO) works tirelessly to improve access across the board in the travel industry, having spent the last year building an amazing Airline Ground Crew training program, collaborating with the Mobility Shop to educate tarmak employees on how to handle wheelchairs and mobility equipment efficiently, safely, and without damage.  Craig has been one of ODO's main trainers for this program for the last six months and has heard some great and amazing feedback from 40-year veterans who've simply never gotten training such as this.  What started out as a program with just a few airlines, this program has such good feedback, that most national and some international airlines are now receiving this training.

ODO also works with the airlines on their Complaint Resolution Officer (CRO) training program and recently begun working with Celebrity Cruiselines on assessing their ships and creating a training program for their employees as well.

So it seems natural to carry this expertise and training over to the Amtrak system, covering all the bases of national travel!  I headed down to Delaware this week for our first initial planning meeting to set up training dates and begin building the curriculum; we begin training in January!

Seeing the country via train is going to make for a fascinating year, and we're thrilled to be a part of this amazing training that will encompass the largest group of employees that ODO has taken on.

Making this training interesting for the employees always involves stories, so if you have a personal story about traveling on Amtrak and/or the accessibility of this mode of travel, please email them to

Stay tuned for many in-station reports coming next year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Announcing new employees at Steamboat Adaptive's STARS

Steamboat Adaptive first opened its doors in the late 1970s, offering skiing for people with disabilities on some pretty hair-brained equipment back then!  For the following thirty years, Steamboat Adaptive was run by Steamboat Ski Area, sharing funds, instructors, and office space.

In 2007, one of our local adaptive instructors saw the need to transform this program into its own independent nonprofit, and STARS was born: Steamboat Training Adaptive Recreational Sports.  A Board of Directors was formed, and by 2009, STARS (now just STeamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports) was sharing in the duties of running some of the annual  camp series that Access Anything and Adaptive Adventures had created together in 2006. 

In February of this year, STARS hired us as consultants to grow their summer programming, and as you know, we hosted two new camps in addition to the three we had started with Adaptive Adventures.  By summer of this year, STARS had banked enough funds to hire employees, and first hired Julie Taulman as the Executive Director.  3-year board member, fastidious grant writer, and mother of a child with a disability, Julie has extreme dedication to the success of this organization. 

The next obvious step for STARS was to hire a Program Director, and in late October, STARS offered this position to Craig.  Coupled with their team of extremely experienced instructors Liz Leipold (who helped to formulate the first Steamboat Adaptive program), Sheila Farney and George Hurley, they have been spending tireless hours training instructors and continuing to build STARS into the program Steamboat deserves.  Many new disability training segments are being covered, and nearly 100 instructors will receive training. 

Once initial training has been covered, Julie and Craig will turn their focus to the 6th Annual All Mountain Ski Camp for wounded veterans and adults with disabilities, returning this January 9-13, and following that, the Youth Ski and Ride Camp in March. 

This is an exciting time for STARS, watching the program grow independently from the Ski Area's protective nest has been fascinating- the support from locals, response from instructors, and feedback from the clients has been extremely positive.  Craig comes home more excited each day with the progress they're making.  If you haven't checked out their new office yet in Gondola Square across from the Gondola's entrance, do.  It's a nexus of positive activity! 
Stay tuned for more reports on the growth of this amazing program and its upcoming camps.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Flying with Wheelchairs: Webinar December 7

Flying with Wheelchairs: Knowing Your Rights & Responsibilities at 32,000 Feet
Date: December 7, 2010, 2:00-3:30pm Eastern
The Association for Airline Passenger Rights (AAPR) will host an informative webinar on the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), specifically as it relates to flying with wheelchairs. The webinar is being held in collaboration with the ADA National Network (formerly DBTACs).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Royal Caribbean Cruises assessment for access

We've been touring Celebrity boats with Open Doors Org for 3 days and what a whirlwind of rolling through levels upon levels with our rulers, notebooks, and camera!

Despite having found a ship-full of suggested improvements, all in all we're extremely impressed with the three ships we checked out for: The Constellation, The Century, and the Solstice, and feel they're way above the curve when it comes to the rest of the industry. We've stood by Royal Caribbean for years now; and glad that Celebrity is part of this trusted family.

Having never cruised ourselves, we are always impressed with the floating cities (we've toured other ships through SATH conferences), and how generally accessible and accommodating they are to travelers with disabilities.  The list of access features is extensive- wide doors, tons of wayfinding signage, service dog relief areas, accessible spas, ramps and more ramps, large print menus, TTY packets, and rails and handbars everywhere. Worth note, the accessible rooms are spacious and better than most hotels we've seen! With libraries, casinos, multiple dining choices, decks and pools, cinemas and theaters, galleries and stores, the temptation to start cruising has set in on Access Anything!

But as was our reason to be there, we found many recommendations however, which should please our readers - though the industry has come a long way, there is still plenty of the hill to climb towards total universal design.  Of most importance to us is the alternative ways to disembarking at ports along the way - as many of the side stops and day trips in smaller ports are still inaccessible to PWD, and being the adventure promoters that we are, this is a key feature for us to consider cruising overall.

The recommendation packet is of course confidential, but we're excited that RC and Celebrity have dedicated their 2011 goals to improve their accessibility and set an industry standard that the rest will have to live up to! 

Have faith that your special needs will be well taken care of with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity!

Some great amenities:

Some suggestions: