PLANNING EXCURSIONS AND TOURS FOR SPECIAL NEEDS GROUPS
Creating trips for persons with special needs is a niche with untapped potential. Travelers with disabilities spend an average of $13.6 billion a year on travel, so working within the special needs niche is rewarding in every way.
The key difference for planning special needs excursions and tours is that persons with disabilities or physical limitations often request slower paced groups, accessible transportation and accessible destinations. Here are a few tips from Special Needs Group and other special needs travel professionals for getting started:
Kristy Lacroix of Wheelchair Escapes recommends taking Accessibility Travel courses through the Travel Institute to learn the basics. "Joining SATH, the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, is a great next step," she says.
Focus on a specific needs group (e.g., wheelchair users, slow walkers, individuals with hearing impairments) to become an expert faster. Alana Mizowicki of Fun Cruises and Travel has been developing trips for slow walkers and wheelchair users since 2001 in partnership with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. She says specialization leads to stronger partnerships and resources. Read More.
CRUISE LINE SPOTLIGHT: AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES
In December 2009, Azamara Cruises rebranded itself to be Azamara Club Cruises. The re-branding was based on four pillars: (1) destination immersion; (2) extraordinary service; (3) cuisine and wine; and (4) wellness and vigor. The changes to the "deluxe" line brought about items such as longer itinerary port calls, wine and non-alcoholic beverages included in the price, better trained suite butlers and more upscale shore excursions. Also included in Azamara's new branding was a further commitment to provide guests with special needs an unrivaled cruise vacation.
Azamara's fleet includes two ships, the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest. Each of the ships has 355 staterooms, six of which are accessible. The accessible staterooms have a 32" wide entry doorway and bathroom doorway. The bathrooms come equipped with a roll-in shower, grab bars, lowered sink and vanity, fold-down shower stool, hand-held showerheads and ramped threshold. The rooms also have accessible closet rods and shelves. Read More.
CITY OF HIGHLIGHT: BARCELONA, SPAIN
Traveling to Europe as a wheelchair user or slow walker can be a daunting experience. Barcelona, however, has made impressive strides to become an accessible city and people with special needs have the opportunity to see most of the major sites.
Before the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona underwent a massive clean-up renovation operation of its beaches. As a result, Barcelona's beaches became well-maintained, wheelchair accessible and a popular tourist destination. All the beaches are wheelchair accessible, many of which have ramps and wooden boardwalks reaching down to the shore. The beaches also have disabled parking areas, accessible toilets and adapted changing and showering areas. If people with disabilities want to go into the water, a bathing assistance service is offered at Nova Icaria, Sant Sebastia and Nova Mar Bella. Volunteers assist bathers with entering the water in beach wheelchairs. Volunteers will also stay with bathers to make sure everything is safe.
Barcelona is a city famous for its museums. Two of the most famous museums are the Museo Picasso (Picasso Museum) and Fundacio Joan Miro (Miro Foundation). More than 3,500 works make up the permanent collection of the Picasso Museum. Although the collection does not have any of Picasso's most famous works, the museum provides an unrivaled collection to understanding his early years in Barcelona. The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. The Juan Miro Foundation pays homage to the great Catalan artist, Joan Miro. The collection includes over 14,000 pieces including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, tapestries and early sketches. The entire building is wheelchair accessible and the Foundation also provides guided tours for persons with vision impairments, theatre for children with sign language translation on request and other services. Read More.
Interesting Fact: The original paella was not considered a seafood dish but had chicken, rabbit and pork (and sometimes snails).
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About Special Needs at Sea and Special Needs Group...
Special Needs Group, Inc. is a one-stop resource for special needs travel around the world. We offer a broad range of special needs equipment for purchase and rental including wheelchairs, scooters, power chairs with capabilities to support 500 pound or more; oxygen (liquid, cylinder, and concentrator); hearing impaired equipment, Braille printing, baby cribs and more. Recommended by the world's major cruise lines and hotels for superior service and value, we also provide consultation services regarding special needs policy and new-build design. Special Needs Group, a U.S. company, is not a travel agency; we do not compete in any way with travel agents.