Disability and Travel
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The fantasy of a tropical escape from the freezing winter is what powers many people through another 4 inches of snow to shovel, or their extra long commute home from work on ice covered roads.

My husband and I love going to all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. The weather is always perfect, and we get to truly relax without having to really plan or think.

For us, one of the best parts of getting away is the planning; It’s our vacation foreplay. We love using sites like Tripadvisor to scan through photos and traveler reviews.

This year we chose the Secrets Akumal Resort in Riviera Maya. The resort was breathtaking and lived up to its many 5-star reviews. The service, beach, entertainment, and even the food was amazing.

But, our favorite part of any resort, the main pool, was missing an essential element… A WAY TO GET IN & OUT.

I have since learned my lesson. Here are a few resort tips for sunbathers with physical challenges:

Tip #1  ZOOM IN

The Secrets Akumal Resort is only two years old and has a very modern and clean design. Had I zoomed in on the pool photos, I might have noticed that the infinity pool was not the accessible, zero entry kind.

I expected the pool to have ankle-deep water that gradually got deeper the further one walked. Instead, the main pool with the only swim-up bar had steep staircases without a single handrail for assistance.

Although I have to wear two AFO’s (leg braces) due to a neuromuscular disorder, it had never occurred to me to use key phrases such as “disability friendly” or “wheelchair accessible” in my vacation research. I will from now on.

Tip #2  CALL THE HOTEL

Many travel agents and companies get their information from resort websites and stock photos. Unless they have personally visited, they have no more information than you do.

Before deciding on a resort, bypass the agents and centralized reservation call center by calling the resort directly.

I have found that the resort concierges speak fluent English and will happily answer questions like “Which building is closest to the main pool?” or “Does the pool have a handrail and stairs?” Make sure to write down the concierge’s name as you can use it for the next tip.

Tip #3  VIP LIKE A PRINCESS

If you spoke to a concierge person before arriving at the resort, ask for him or her at check-in. Or, if the resort you are staying at has a VIP or Preferred Club and it doesn’t break the bank, it may be worth it for the perks.

A $20 token of appreciation to a staff member on day one goes a long way. They will be more than happy to reserve prime lounge chairs with easy access to the pool, and they will make sure your every need is met.

Tip #4  BE CREATIVE

While we were at the Secrets Resort without the stairway handrail, I didn’t want to rely on my husband’s assistance each time I exited the pool. Instead, I took a large foam raft (the resort had many floating around the pool) and laid it on the hard cement at the top of the stairs.

When I was ready to get out, I scooched my butt the to the top using the raft as a cushion for my hands and knees to get into standing position.

TIP #5  DRINK

cocktails - no stairway in heaven

When navigating the open terrain of these glossy, modern resorts becomes too challenging, don’t feel defeated if you opt to resign to your lounger. Take advantage of the excuse to have people bring you fancy cocktails, and enjoy them (guilt free) while you soak up the sun!

You’re in paradise; time to make the most of it!


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8 Comments

  1. Which AFOs are you wearing, Lainie? Also, I LOVE your sandals and those cute black sneakers with the studs. Who makes those? I wear Helios AFOs and while they are amazing in the support and energy-return aspects, shoes and pants are a bit of a challenge. Maybe I need a second pair of AFOs to expand my wardrobe options?!

    • Hi Joy,

      I just saw this. Great talking to you and your peeps yesterday. Thank you again for finding me. 😀 I know you now know but for others, they are the blue rocker brace by Allard.

  2. I just spoke to your mom. I suspected you were her daughter and my second cousin, so I called her to verify. Many people suffer unseen disabilities ranging in degrees. The problems these disabilities cause in everyday life are many. The problem of pool entry and exiting at major Mexican and American resorts hit home. I am a swimmer. While I can still jump in off the side, I cannot exit feeling secure. There are no handrails at those stairs. There are slippery stairs and decks which have made shower clogs or ocean shoes a must pack. In one of the hresorts in Mexico, there are steep stair cases down to the lavatories. The stair treads are the depth of a kid’s shoe. This is a great idea you have. I’m glad your mom shared it with me on FB. I look forward to other posts.

  3. I just your site from Facebook. I also wear the blue rockers. I see you can wear them with sandals? You don’t have problems with it? I miss wearing them in the summer. What brand are they?
    Thanks

    • Hi,

      I had the Orthotist line the back of them in a breathable moleskin type fabric. The fabric is black and blends right in. I wore sandals also when I had the hard kind with AFO liners. LMK if that helps. Thanks for writing 😀

  4. Hi Lainie, I’m very new to this site and would like to share something from my recent visit with my neuromuscular neurologist. I am on my 3rd set of braces which I would like to burn! I will be 70 in May, live in Arizona, and wearing sox, gaunlet leather braces, then shoving my foot into a shoe which will accommodate the whole mess. So I asked my dr, can I wear work boots? I almost cried when she said yes, but with my orthodics AND she said I could wear cowboy boots also, not soft ones, the hard ones with a flat heel. If I’m having problems I can go to an external brace. So far I have found pink, gray, blue, black, brown and the yellow-ish color. She also suggested hicking boots with lots of firmness and support. Cannot wait to shop, i will have challenges with skinny narrow feet with collasped ankles.

    • That’s so cool and very exciting I get it to find you can now wear things you thought you couldn’t. Please share a photo on the Facebook page sometime so others can see.

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