SCI BC Peer Murray Siple has an eye for finding unique, wheelchair-friendly places to stay while away from home. Here are some of his top recommendations for wheelchair users looking to travel in Canada and the US and helpful tips for a smooth trip. Read more in his accessible travel series.
Wheelchair travel shouldn’t leave you at the beach where you can’t roll anywhere, at a pool you can’t dive into, or on a tour bus removed from the reality of the local lifestyles. Life is short; if someone is vacuuming around you while you sit and do nothing or can’t find anything new to Instagram, at least be in a foreign country with a drink in your hand.
These are some of my favourite accessible places to stay in Canada and the US.
1: Ace Hotel, Manhattan (New York)
120 W 29th St, New York
The Ace Hotel hotel is in Korea Town right off 5th Avenue. The accessible room looks directly at the Empire State Building. Off-site from the Ace, the hotel staff is very knowledgeable on nightlife. My girlfriend and I wanted to catch a burlesque show and the Ace suggested The Box, a speak-easy in Little Italy.
For more information, visit the hotel’s website or call 212-679-2222.
2: Black Rock Oceanfront Resort
596 Marine Dr, Ucluelet, BC
I chose to go following a long December of Christmas parties and New Years nonsense. Storm watching, recovering and reading in late January at the Black Rock was needed. When I checked in, I discovered I was one of the only occupants, and the staff was holding their postponed Christmas party that weekend. By now you must know that devils infect me – I did no recovering that weekend but I did watch monster waves erode the black rocks beneath my balcony, and drove home past the roof goats of Coombs. The Black Rock has two accessible suites with full kitchen, ocean-view king bed, fold out couch, accessible balcony and ocean view.
For any inquiries, check out the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort website, or call 250-726-4800.
3: The Golden Nugget, Downtown Las Vegas
129 East Fremont Street, Las Vegas
You never know what’s going to happen in Vegas. That’s why I love it while others loathe it. Vegas is also the most accessible trip I could ever take– a short flight, wheelchair taxies, sunshine, and entertainment of all kinds 24-hours a day. Gambling is now second to the entertainment scene but Vegas is best when it is full of like-minded people, usually there in unison for an event or conference. The Golden Nugget has two new towers with accessible rooms. While waiting for my girlfriend to get ready, I played the slot machines and hit the jackpot! (It took three hours getting paid out, and they subtracted 40% in taxes for the US Government.
Click here to access The Golden Nugget’s website, or call 844-468-4438.
6: Crystal Lodge Hotel & Suites, Whistler
I am an ex-Whistler resident, having lived there before my injury, and when I return I always discover more and more accessible activities, but crashing at my buddies staircase-and-bent sofa house is not one of them. My go-to hotel has to be the competitively priced Crystal Lodge. Dead centre in Whistler Village, you can roll out to your choice of restaurants, bars, accessible scenic trails, gondolas, and world-class events (although it’s getting harder to find quiet time in Whistler now that is a four-season resort).
Get more information on the Hotel’s website or call 604.932.2221.
Murray Siple’s Accessible-Trip Checklist
→ Make sure your destination has the accessibility requirements for you. Check for appropriate transportation from the airport to your accommodation. Are wheelchair taxi vans available? Do the sidewalks have curb cuts? Is the beach accessible?
→ Confirm your hotel is accessible. Speak on the phone (not email), with a front desk employee (not someone on a 1-800 number) to verify the hotel your room you’re booking meets your requirements. If you cannot see the bed height and the bathroom in full, ask them to provide you with pictures that do. Make sure the front entrance of the hotel is user-friendly.
→ Bring double the amount of medical supplies you’ll need for your stay. I split the supplies between carry-on and stowed luggage, for if they lose one or the other.
→ Tune-up your chair a month before you leave to avoid failures when you fly across the world.
→ My commode of choice is the Invacare Mariner with self-propel wheels. It folds and assembles without tools, is relatively lightweight, and you can re-use the cardboard box it comes in for multiple trips. I always bring a second wheelchair cushion (for my everyday chair) that I bring in the same box as the commode. I can use this cushion as a wedge to stop the shower chair from taking off on me during a transfer.
→ If you fly in Canada sign up for Westjet’s “One” program, which allows you to bring a companion for free. If you can get a doctors note to prove you need the space, they will give you a bulkhead seat. You never really can trust your flight will have entertainment so bring your own.