2010 Barrier Free Bests and Worsts

Well it’s time once again for that annual tradition here at Barrier Free Travels — my annual list of the bests and worsts in accessible travel and tourism.

Let’s start with the biggest accessible travel story of the year. That’s a hard one, as lot happened this year, but I’m going to go with the release of the new ADAAG that defines a service animal as a dog, and effectively nixes all other species. The Department of Justice (DOJ) went one step further and also excluded emotional support animals from protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Like it or not, I think the tourism industry needed some concrete guidance on this issue, and the new ADAAG certainly provides that. And that’s a very good thing!

In the category of best access improvement, the hands-down winner is the San Antonio Riverwalk. After visiting this summer I was very impressed with the improvements that they made, and happy to see that they built the new extensions to be wheelchair-accessible.

The most creative access adaptation this year, comes in the form of making your own access wedge with a little duck tape, styrofoam and heavy duty plastic. Very creative, and economical; and a great idea for travel to third world countries that often lack curb-cuts!

On the other end of the spectrum, my biggest disappointment of the year is that we still don’t have the ADAAG for cruise ships. The Department of Transportation did however release some rules regarding non-discrimination for passenger vessels; however the effective date for implementation was pushed back when the cruise lines squawked. One step forward, two steps backward.

And in the category of the stupidest airline passenger, this year’s pick is yet another dead passenger trying to sneak on a flight. Oh wait, this one was disguised — he was wearing sun glasses.

In the category of media coverage, my pick for the biggest spreader of misinformation for her poorly researched article, goes to this former airline employee.

And the biggest media dis-service to the disabled community this year was the continual lumping of disabled people and obese people together, like in the Kevin Smith story. Just because you’re rolling instead of walking, doesn’t mean you are obese.

The oddest complaint I heard this year came from a couple who wrote Chris Elliott and complained about discrimination because a tour company re-targeted a tour they planned to take to a younger age demographic. It’s odd because they weren’t prohibited from taking the tour — they just wanted the company to do a different kind of a tour. I understand their disappointment, but don’t really think it’s discrimination.

And in the category of worst airline, the prize once again goes to easyJet. Last year they made the list for refusing to transport a wheelchair-user home from Lourdes, even though they apparently had no problems getting him there. This year they continued in the same vein, by refusing to transport one wheeler, ever after a passenger volunteered to act as her attendant. On a brighter note, the French Transport Ministry wasn’t happy about it either, and promised to take some action.

And last but not least, my award for the worst customer service goes to Celebrity Cruises, for failing to provide passengers with information about accessible shore excursions before final payment is due. Who in their right mind would pay for a pig n the poke? Get a clue Celebrity!

Here’s wishing everybody a very happy holiday season, and a healthy, prosperous and very accessible 2011!