Friday, May 14, 2010

Las Vegas, still accessible after all these years

You'd think more towns would want to be like Las Vegas. For decades Vegas has cornered the market on accessible travel because they know better. Design for everyone, and everyone will come, with their money. Why any tourism center would exclude any particular niche simply by not catering to their needs is beyond us, and beyond Vegas as well.

The City of Sin doesn't brag about its access openly, and in truth, some of its city recreation funding has recently been cut, so where golfing used to be a widely accessible option for recreation in town, this is unfortunately no longer the case. We spent weeks trying to figure out why their many accessible golf carts could only be used at municipal courses, and apparently the budget also affected customer relations on the subject. Long story short, we brought clubs for nothing.

But there are plenty of other accessible features of Las Vegas to highlight, and as always, we should start with the strip, which is constantly rejuvenated and therefore always expanding on its access thanks to the ADA.

The Wynn chain of hotels offers the Surehands lifts systems in several of the rooms at each hotel (Bellagio, Encore, MGM, Mirage, Treasure Island, and Wynn), making independence a reality. But if you don't need the lift system, all of the hotels in Veags, even the older ones, are accessible and most have some great accessibility features like roll-in showers.

We stayed at the Cancun Resort about 2 miles south of the strip for some peace and pool lounging, and were pleased to find a roll-in shower with a folding bench, ramps to all areas, accessible hot tubs, bars, and even an elevator to the top floor of waterslide, housed in an Aztec ruin at the pool.

In addition to finding accessible lodging bountiful, Vegas touts that every restaurant is accessible, and we found the shows, sites, transportation and side trips to be as well.

We squeezed in a show at KA, a unique Cirque du Soleil show at the MGM, one of the more memorable and unique venues we've seen, grand enough to make its way into a Top 5 Accessible Venues article to come in the near future. The best feature at this venue are the plush office-chair seat on wheels in the center-of-the-house ADA section, that slide out for easy transfer or to make room for your own chair, which just adds to the magic of this amazingly acrobatic show on the spinning, tilting, smoking stage.

We explored several other theaters at the main casino resorts along the strip, and where there were stairs, there was always an elevator, and in some cases, even an escalator.

At the the top of the Paris's Eiffel Tower is an accessible restaurant with amazing views of the city.

If you're into amusement rides, Las Vegas has plenty of them. The Manhattan Express at the New York New York, the five rides at the Adventuredome at the Circus Circus, and the three rides at the Stratosphere Hotel are all accessible, however some of them do have specific requirements such as at the NYNY riders need at least one lower limb to engage the safety bar over the lap, and must be able to sit up on their own to engage the upper shoulder straps. But all of them have elevators, ramps, or level entries to their rides.

If walking the length of the strip, or even part of its ever-expanding length, is a barrier for you, renting scooters is a recommendation as there are many companies in Las Vegas to look to. Scootaround is one of our favorites for their excelling customer service and reliability, but there are nine other companies offering rentals in town as well.

All in all we've found Las Vegas quite welcoming, whether you're there to win some money or just take in the shows, Vegas is still accessible after all these year.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Surehands Lifts makes the Wynn even better

There aren't many hoteliers that have the progressive and all-inclusive attitude towards visitors with disabilities that Steve Wynn has incorporated into his Las Vegas hotels.

It's been over a decade since Wynn put his first Surehands lift system into several rooms at the Mirage. Not just your typical lift system, the Surehands lifts excel above the competition through encouraging independence with a unique holster design that allows users to access the toilet, shower, and bed on their own without assistance.

Where other lifts systems use a sling to lift the person out of their wheelchair, the Surehands lifts also offers a holster setting, the Surehands Body Support, with padded and shaped metal arms that slide under the arms of the user, and a strap that goes under their legs, leaving their body open from the mid back to the knees, which a sling typically covers, hindering the user from doing any of their bathroom business on their own.

The track system typically runs from the bed into the bathroom, through a sliding door if necessary, raising and lowering with a remote control that hangs around the users' neck for ease of use. The track or multiple tracks are built to access as much of the room as possible.

Since the first lift was installed at the Mirage in 1996, Wynn has installed the Surehands lifts in rooms at all of his hotels, including the initial ones the company owned, the Bellagio, Treasure Island, and the MGM, as well as his new hotels, the Wynn and the Encore.

At the Wynn, where we tested one of these lifts, there are only four rooms out of over 2,000 with lifts in them, and they are requested often, so reserve your room early to place your special request.

Vegas doesn't taut these lifts, nor does Wynn, which is surprising to us, but true; perhaps because they do not want the need to outweigh the supply, as the lifts are already highly requested even without their advertisement. However the high use of these lifts should encourage not only the Wynn line to brag about their access, but should also encourage other hotels to begin to offer the same universal design to bring in this growing market of travelers with disabilities, who spend over $13.6 billion annually on travel in the US alone (as of 2005).

We’d love to see Surehands lifts in your hotel. If interested in catering to this huge niche with this assistive device, or for more information, videos and images, visit the Surehands website at