Handicapped or Disabled Visitors to Florida

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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Handicapped or Disabled Visitors to Florida

I am no longer handicapped or severely disabled but I do know what the trails on tribulations of disabled travelling can bring to the ardent holidaymaker.

In August 1995 my whole world seemed to turned upside down. I had been feeling unwell for quite some time and was finally diagnosed as suffering from chronic renal failure. Yes, I would need dialysis in the future but further tests had to be carried out. Little did I know that the future was only 4 weeks away. My first and only real concern at that time was that I would no longer be able to go away on foreign holidays.

Now seven and a half years down the road I find that I was very wrong….. Anything is possible with a little planning. Read all about it at the end of this piece if you are interested.

But life had changed and it has made me aware of the difficulties for disabled travellers.

Florida as a holiday destination has obviously particular interest in the provision of help and assistance to the disabled/handicapped traveller. There are far to many accessible sites to list individually but all attractions and hotels , not forgetting to mention privately owned villas, have facilities designed with the view of the disabled traveller in mind.

Walt Disney World & Universal Studios as well as Busch Gardens & Sea World do everything possible to assist guests with special needs. Details of facilities can be found at the individual attractions web sites.

WDW can be contacted on +1 407 824 4321

Guest Letters, P.O. Box 10,040, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Universal Studios + 407 393 8080

1000 Universal Studios Drive, Orlando 32816

Each of the major attractions provide their own particular guide for handicapped holidaymakers.

America is way ahead of most other countries in the help available to disabled travellers. What helps is that Federal Law demands that all buildings are accessible to those using wheelchairs. It is however worthwhile and in your own interest to call ahead and find out what specific facilities are available. Listing details of all public facilities with handicapped/disabled facilities would take an age. But a good guide is that any public facility built after 1974 had to be designed with disables guests in mind.

You will also find that a few of the car rental companies have cars which have been adapted for the disabled traveller. Your local tourist Information Centre will also be able to tell you where you might be able to hire a wheelchair.

At each of the attractions and indeed at most shopping malls and even supermarkets, it is possible to either get on loan or hire either a manual or electric wheelchair. Buggies (strollers) are also easily available

If you are still interested read on……………

My first trip to France (1995) was easy as I carried everything needed with me in the car and found that I could hook up my PD bags anywhere.

My next challenge was in February 1996 when I had a trip to the Caribbean this time I knew that I would have to “hook up” on the aircraft. I sat in my seat and got on with it !!!

When I arrived at my hotel all the necessary bags had been sent on ahead of me and were ready and waiting in my room. Days out fitted in with the four exchanges I did each day and I found that I could hook up in the hire car near the beach…. I was determined to miss out on nothing.

Coming back was a little trickier as this time I had to occupy a seat on the flight deck. With the Captains permission a safe place was found to hang my butchers hook.. Both of these exchanges during the flight took place on Concorde at supersonic speed , 55,000 ft over the Atlantic ocean. My next two trips to France were uneventful and it seemed easier to take all necessary bits and pieces with me than have Baxters deliver them to the address where I was staying. It also gave me more space in the car coming home to stash my shopping !!

In January 1997 I was lucky enough to have been donated a Homechoice machine meaning that I would now dialyse overnight and not have to worry about the daily routine. Wonderful ….more freedom. My machine arrived the second week in February and while at the hospital learning the ins and out of how this piece of equipment worked my husband had a massive heart attack from which he didn’t survive. My life had been turned upside down again. Both my teenage sons were wonderful support at this tragic time and we decided that it would be a good idea to visit friends in Paris for Easter in April 1997. First time travelling with my new machine was a anxious time ...would the airline look after it ? Would it get damaged in the hold? Would it arrive at the other end? We flew to Paris so I had the fluids sent on ahead of me. They were there ready and waiting. We arrived at our friends and I set up the machine to make sure it was working…. Yes ...great !! We had a wonderful few days. On the third night my machine decided not to work !!! Help…. Baxters to the rescue . It was Easter Sunday and the person on call in the Paris area wasn’t answering his phone. Baxters in England were amazing with the senior technician taking the problem into his own hands and travelling on Eurostar to bring a replacement machine for my use. He arrived around midnight.

August 1997 was the next holiday and off to Barbados to give the boys a well earned break. All paperwork was done by Tracey at Baxters and I anticipated no problems when I arrived. The flight was uneventful and I dialysed twice on the aircraft.

The fluids had left Puerto Rica which served the Caribbean. I arrived at our hotel to find that the consignment was locked in customs as it was a holiday weekend for the Bajans. Cropover a time to celebrate the successful harvesting of the sugar cane crop. No one will open the bonded warehouse and I have only one bag of manual fluid to get me through the rest of the day. Baxters again to the rescue. With a lot of telephone calls and the help of Tracey in the UK and a lady in Puerto Rica and emergency supply is freighted to the island and delivered to the hotel. It took a bit or organising on my part , someone to clear it through customs and deliver it to the hotel. It all turned out well in the end. Come the last night once again a problem ….no electricity at all to the machine ...not the hotels fault the emergency supply they had piped into my room was still working ….the fuses in the machine had all blown at the same time. As soon as I arrived home Baxters came and brought a replacement and I was up and running again. Thank heavens there is always an extra supply of manual bags.

December 1997 a trip to Houston, Texas was uneventful and the hotel was happy to accept delivery in advance of my arrival. Dialysis done manually on return overnight flight (2 exchanges).

February 1998 a trip to Normandy was uneventful

November 1998 a trip to Florida on my own was uneventful. Dialysis done on both flights.

March 1999 was a lot different !!! I saw my baggage onto the aircraft at Gatwick for my trip to Orlando but it didn’t come off at the other end. !!!! PANIC! My worst nightmare. It was ascertained that my baggage had somehow not been put on the aircraft. It was all clearly marked “Medical Equipment”. The airline realised my predicament and tried to hire a machine for me in Orlando but had no joy. Could Baxters help?? Silly question… a machine was flown down from Atlanta, Georgia and the holiday was saved. My son became ill and we could not travel back on the date booked so Baxters once again to the rescue, topped up my order. Where would I be without them?

In June 1999 my peritoneal dialysis hit a series of problems and I found myself on haemodialysis. Back to square one how would I be able to travel? My trip to Florida had been to purchase a holiday home. Would I now not be able to use it myself? Just another problem to solve. Some phone calls to the States and I tracked down a renal unit which was prepared to take me on as a transient patient. Certain tests would have to be done, a chest x-ray and some reports but the Haemodialysis unit was prepared to do those for me. The best bit of news was that their company Independent Renal Associates of Florida (situated on Hwy 27 just 2 miles north of WalMart & Southern Dunes )were opening a dialysis unit just near the entrance to the site where we had bought our villa.

They were still happy to have me and the cost would be $180 per session with everything including drugs supplied.

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