Recently I got an e-mail from a subscriber who is planning a Caribbean cruise. She wanted to know about the accessibility of a particular island; more specifically she wanted to know about the availability of wheelchair-accessible taxis at the pier. Unfortunately the news was not good. As you may be aware, the Caribbean is seriously lacking in “true” accessible transportation options. In fact I can almost count the offerings on one hand.
Sure in some ports they have station wagons or vans that can carry a wheelchair, but you have to be able to transfer to the vehicle seat (or be willing to be carried). That’s not what this person was looking for. She uses a power wheelchair and cannot transfer. She was looking for a roll-on option. Obviously she was disappointed, but her reply to me was unique. In fact, I don’t think anybody has ever posed that same question to me.
She asked, “Well then why do they keep building accessible hotels there? How do they expect disabled people to get from the airport or the pier to their new accessible hotels if there is no accessible transportation on the island?”
In truth most of the luxury hotels in the Caribbean are built by American, Canadian or European corporations. Although they may employ the locals, the investment capital usually comes from outside the area. On the other hand, money for the infrastructure (including accessible transportation) comes from the local tax base.
So, you can begin to see the problem. The Caribbean is not exactly the richest region in the world, and to be honest they have really had a rough go of it in the natural disaster department lately. So their local economy is shaky at best.
But the addition of these luxury hotels is a good start. Perhaps some of the tax revenue from these new mega resorts will be funneled into the local infrastructure. Let’s face it, you can’t go to the Caribbean and expect to find the same access you have in the states, but you can’t fault them for trying to improve accessibility either. The construction of these accessible hotels is the essential first step in this process.