I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park last week.
The last time I visited the park was about year or so ago when I was covering NCL’s Pride of Aloha. At that time my pre-trip research uncovered several accessible trail possibilities. I use the word possibilities, because sometimes trails are incorrectly listed as being accessible, when in reality they aren’t. I don’t know if this is because some people just don’t understand what accessible means or if it’s because they don’t actually visit the trail. In any case, that’s the reason that we make site visits – to verify accessibility. After all, you can’t very well cover accessible travel from behind your desk.
But I digress.
On my last visit to the park, the Devastation Trail was rated as “wheelchair accessible”. Not only was it listed as accessible, but it was promoted as being the most accessible trail in the park. I was very disappointed when I finally checked it out, as there is no way that a wheelchair-user could independently access this trail, and it’s hardly the “most accessible trail in the park”. Sure, part of it was paved, but it had sustained upgrades that were impossible to navigate in a wheelchair. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice trail, just not accessible. Which is pretty much what I wrote in all of my articles. In fact, I believe I said the trail was incorrectly listed as accessible because of sustained upgrades; however some wheelchair-users may be able to navigate it with assistance
I felt that was a fair assessment of the trail.
Fast forward to last week. I was almost gleeful when I picked up the new National Park Services brochure on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and discovered that the Devastation Trail had been re-rated (or correctly rated IMHO). The brochure now states that this trail may be accessible with some assistance.
Granted this is a small change, but I think it will make a world of difference to many people. After all, if you had limited time in the park, you’d want to make the most of it; and you couldn’t very well do that if you were misdirected to an inaccessible trail. Not only is it important to make things accessible, but it’s also equally important to provide accurate access information.
So I see this as a move in a very positive direction and proof positive that change is possible.
It does happen.