The original concept of Ability Maine grew out of watching
the struggles of a family with a disabled child on a camping trip. This
was in 1996. The struggle continues. There are not a lot of affordable
places to go that offer full accessibility. Many businesses and
governmental entities exagerate the level of accessability that they
have available. Our travel page is an attempt to provide full and
factual information about places to go in and around Maine.
Send us your favorite accessible places to visit in Maine, New England, or Maritime Canada. Include local places like playgrounds, beaches, museums and parks. If you've taken a trip that was great, please tell us about your experience. You can contact us at:
National and International
Flying with Disability is a site designed to provide impartial information and advice to all disabled people around the world who travel by air.
The U.S. aviation consumer disability toll-free hotline, which is staffed from 7 am to 11 pm local time in Washington, D.C., seven days a week, provides general information to consumers about the rights of air travelers with disabilities and assists air travelers in resolving time-sensitive disability-related issues that need to be addressed in real time.
1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1- 800-455-9880 (TTY)
Travel to Canada
Canada is a wonderful place to take a vacation, especially for Maine residents within easy driving distance of the border. With some advance planning, you can avoid having the security procedures at the border become a deterrent to your travels. All vehicles are subject to being searched, including campers and utility trailers, but customs officials are primarily doing the complete searches based on "indicators". They are also doing random searches, so yes, it is possible that you would have to open up and unpack your camper. There will be extra staff during the busy summer months to expedite this process, and security officials will assist in unloading and reloading should that be necessary. Family members may wait in the air-conditioned office, and the vehicle will be under a canopy out of the sun or rain. Weekends are apt to mean longer lines at the border crossings, so plan your travel accordingly. Estimated border crossing times are posted at the US Customs website http://www.customs.gov under "Border Wait Times", in the Traveler Information area.
Any medications that you need to take over or bring back across the border must be in their original containers and should be declared as part of the customs procedure. It's also recommended that you carry a prescription or written statement from your physician that the substances are being used under a doctor's supervision and that they are necessary for your physical well-being while traveling. There are some cautions and restrictions concerning drugs which have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; check with your health care provider and read the detailed brochure on the US Customs and Border Protection website http://www.cbp.gov - "Know Before You Go" - if this situation involves your family. This brochure has detailed information about other items of concern at border crossings, such as food and plants; it's a good idea to look through this brochure.
Ability Maine welcomes your descriptions of your travel experiences, to share with other travelers. Earth Routes, a home-based travel agency promoting environmentally sustainable travel, also welcomes your stories and inquiries.
PLANNING ON VISITING D.C.?It has come to the attention of the House subcommittee that provides oversight of the District of Columbia that DC has enacted legislation that resultes in DC no longer recognizing out of state disability parking placards or tags. Thus, if a person with a disability drives into DC from another state, he/she cannot part in an accessible space using his/her state's placard or plates. The subcommittee would like to hear opinions and experiences on this from individuals and organizations representing people with disabilities. The subcommittee can be contacted at 202-225-4771.
Maine State Parks website:
The accessible recreation, arts, and leisure guide is now online on the State of Maine portal.
Recreation.Gov is a partnership among federal land management
agencies aimed at providing a single, easy-to-use website with
information about all federal recreation areas.
Access Outdoors, a service of Wilderness Inquiry, is a comprehensive resource for accessible outdoor recreation.
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management's Universal
Access Program is dedicated to providing outdoor recreation
opportunities in Massachusetts State parks for visitors of all
The National Center on Accessibility provides technical assistance
to organizations of all sizes who are designing and retrofitting
leisure areas and programs for accessibility.
GOLDEN ACCESS PASSPORT
Check out this offer if you are a disabled person and are planning to use any federally operated recreational facilities.
Access Passport Information
the BATHROOM DIARIES
Information about restrooms around the world, includes access. Amazingly complete and includes Maine.
Roadside Rest Areas in Maine
Medway Rest Area, Interstate 95, South of Medway
This is the last rest stop before Houlton (Canadian Border) on Route 95. There is a seperate rest area for each of the Southbound and Northbound lanes. The buildings have been retrofitted for access. This has been mostly successful, except for the pathways. They are paved and have curbcuts, but are steep and could be a challenge for someone who uses a manual chair, or walks with difficulty. In each case, there are two parking lots for the building, one higher than the other. It would be possible, but probably illegal, to leave someone off on the higher lot and pick them up from the lower lot. Remember, you didn't hear it here first (smile).
Small's Falls Rest Area, Route 4, Madrid
This is one of the larger rest areas in Maine. It is also used as a picnic area and sort of a mini-park. The picnic and parking areas are flat and well compacted. Most of the tables and grills have access to them. I didn't see an actual accessible table. There is a stream and swimming area down a long flight of steps. The view is accessible, but the water area is not. This is one case where access would truely require heroics. However, it wouldn't require heroics to have an accessible toilet. There is a toilet marked for access, but it is at the top of a steep knoll. The lock on the door was broken, but to be fair, so was the lock on the other toilet.
View up the hill to the "accessible" toilet at Small's Falls.
Maine Maritime Museum – Bath, Maine
The museum is a neat place to go that is listed by many guides as having wheelchair access. Is it really accessible? Well, kind of, if you aren't too fussy and don't need to use the "accessible" bathroom.
I only evaluated the site for wheelchair access, but I noted a lack of Braille signage and saw no indication of aids for hearing impaired persons.
You enter the museum grounds through the Maritime History Building. It sits on a hill above the main parking lot. It is accessible either by a long ramp, that is to the right of the building, or by driving to the entrance. I would recommend driving up unless you have a power chair, as the ramp is very long. There is no handicapped parking by the front door. You will need to have someone return your vehicle for you; perhaps one of the tour guides would do it if you are alone. There is no automatic door opener and the door is fairly stiff. You might need to wait for someone to open it for you, this is a high traffic area so that will usually work.
Once inside the main gallery is accessible. The gift shop is too crowded for easy access, but you can get around if it doesn't embarrass you to 'take out' the odd display.
The bathrooms can be considered to be official 'gimp traps'. The doors open (again requiring too much force) into a narrow corridor. This gives easy access into the bathroom, but to get out you have to lean forward, open the door and push it away from you while using your third and fourth hands to maneuver your chair through the door. Also note that there isn't enough room for someone to hold the door open for you unless they have a long pole with them. Perhaps a harpoon from the whaling exhibit?
There is a guided tour available. Most of the tour takes place outside or in other buildings and the paths are steep. The tour guide we had was well meaning but not knowledgeable about access issues. The door out of the building has a short ramp to a paved area. Note that there is no landing, so you go right out – zoom! (Check Mr. Brakes!)
The next building was the Mold Loft. The ramp is pretty good, but you might need to have them open both doors if you have a wide chair. They took us out another door, over a big sill, down a bump and onto a slippery, narrow wooden ramp. Another time, I would opt for going out the way we came in.
The next stop is down a steep grassy slope, through a boggy area, and into a field. Our guide encouraged my partner to follow in her electric chair and seemed somewhat perplexed when she refused. After some negotiation, it was 'discovered' that a hard-packed gravel drive led to the same area.
The next stop was the Mill & Joiner Shop. This building was accessed by a long, again, narrow and slippery ramp. There was a very high, 1 ½ inch sill to get over and into the building. When my partner tried to ram the sill to get into the building, she bounced off and nearly went down a long flight of stairs that also lead to the door. Tour from Hell? Almost, but the sad thing is that the grounds were indeed more accessible than many places we've visited.
Did we complain? Yes, bitterly and in depth. They seemed to listen and maybe some things will be improved.Norm Meldrum
Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine
The Maine Wildlife Park is one of the most accessible recreation places in Maine. The parking lot is hard packed gravel and there is easy roll through past the admissions booth and into the park. The park staff is sensitive to access issues and responded favorably to some concerns that I had. I noticed an unmarked step and dirt worn away from the bottom of a ramp, making for bumpy access. The bathrooms are small and in the Men's room, at least, using the sink blocks the door. However, you can get in and out and there seems to be enough room to maneuver a chair. If you are walking, you should be aware that all of the surfaces are hard and a person with arthritic joints might find it tiring (or painful). Many of the woods trails are not accessible, but plans are under way to improve them during the summer of 2004.
The main area of the park is newly paved for the 2004 season.
View past the cages and towards the deer area. Lots of room to roll here.
Accessible trails in the moose area were created in 2002.
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL
Cabot Beach Provincial Park, Prince Edward Island, Canada
The access at Cabot Beach Provincial Park is typified in the picture of the gazebo. It makes the point that access need not be ugly, but can be a very attractive part of a structure. Unfortunately, it is also typical in that it was not well thought out and is only partly functional. The ramp is too steep and narrow and has a significant corner in it.
The park is mostly accessible; the serviced part of the camping area is paved. The restrooms are reasonably accessible, but someone with a manual chair might find the ramps a bit steep. The roads and trails in the non-serviced areas are rough and would be a problem to roll over. The playground has one accessible feature - an old fishing boat that has a ramp into it. This structure is the focus of much of the play at the campground and is a good choice for accessiblity.
The biggest access problem at the park is the ramp to the beach. The top of the ramp has a steep decline and might be difficult for someone to get back up in a manual chair. The bottom of the ramp has a large, may I say huge, step at the end of it. There is no area to park a chair or a walker. This is a real problem, as the beach is the focal point of the campground.
All things considered, this is a fairly accessible place to camp, but the beach is a problem. If you have a mobility impairment you'll have to play in the sand somewhere else.
Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick, Canada
This unusual park deserves the attention of bicyclists. It features a perimeter bike trail that provides access to the beach, restaurant, primitive camping areas, and much more. Most of the trails are accessible for use with a handcycle. Most of the camping roads are paved, with roll through access to the bathrooms and other necessities. The beach area is accessible with a long boardwalk to get to it. Some of the nature trails are also accessible.
Heaven on earth? Well, they almost got it right. One big problem in the campground is the restaurant. It has a ramp with a step at the top. This is especially significant as the restaurant is also where you get one of the great camping essentials - ice. The other problem is the showers. The restrooms are entirely accessible except for a large step-over into the showers. Park personel had no knowledge of any truely accessible showers. If you use a wheelchair, you would need to bring your own transfer transfer chair to use in the shower.
Orlando, Florida - Disney World
My name is Gary R. Aube and I live in the Midcoast area of Maine. My disability is called ‘Usher Syndrome’ which is a blinding disease and causes severe hearing impairment. At this time, I would like to share 3 different situations I’ve experienced with Disney World in Florida and would like your comments and/or opinion in regards to discrimination. I would like to share these experiences with you and would like to hear from anyone with their opinions.
During the summer of 1998, I was approached by my good friend Charlie, who had asked me if I’d be interested in going to Florida, on a vacation with him, for which, he had offered to pay most of the cost of traveling expenses. With great excitement and enthusiasm, I readily accepted, and called my adopted Mom, who lives in Florida. She welcomed me to stay with her as long as I wanted.
While my friend and I were making plans, he said he’d like to go visit Epcot. As you may know, Epcot is part of Disney World. Once we had made the plans, I wrote Disney World of my intention of visiting Epcot, wanting to know what their blind and/or disability policies were in terms of discounts to enter the park. I did this by means of e-mail, and I did get a response right away.
Disney informed me that they treat each case individually and could not tell me an exact answer on what my discount would be. In my mind, I was expecting at least a half-price discount…so from there on, until the following January, I tried hard to save every dollar I was able to get, and that wasn’t easy.
Upon my arrival to Disney World-Epcot Center, coming to the main entrance, we saw a sign that was for special tickets…so we went to the window, and I asked what they offered blind people for discounts. The lady in the booth quickly said, "I’m sorry, but we don’t give discounts to blind people." That surprised me so much -- needless to say I was completely dismayed with this. I explained to her, that I’m not able to see like everyone else can, nor can I hear like everyone else; and felt it wasn’t fair for me to pay the full amount of the ticket ($43.00). Then she said, "One moment," and looked up the rules and regulations regarding blind people. The she said she was able to give me a $2.00 discount! That was her firm, last word…
With great dismay, I didn’t enjoy the rest of my time there, because I could hear lots of people saying, "Oh, look, isn’t that beautiful," or "oh my, this is really something." Here I am, not able to fully enjoy the beauty of such a place, but yet, I had to pay nearly the full amount, like anyone else. This was very disturbing to me, but there wasn’t much I was able to do. So, I did try hard to make the best of it while I was there.
In 1999, I was once again asked by Charlie, to return to Florida, under the same situation: that he’d pay the bulk of the cost for traveling, and also, my Mom was delighted to have me there again for 3 weeks.
This time, we had decided to go to Disney World-Magic Kingdom, which I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to visit. Once again, we found the special ticket booth for disabled people. Once again, I asked what they offered for discount to blind people. They said there wasn’t any discount for blind people. Much to my dismay, again, I protested and asked that the ticket person look up the rules for the blind. She said that they could discount me $2.00 and gave me a special pass, which allows a blind or disabled person to go out front of any seated audience or waiting lines—but I ended up never using the special pass. But that’s okay, by this time the ticket had risen to $46.00; I wasn’t happy about that. But her I am, at the Magic Kingdom, and I wasn’t about to tell Charlie that I wasn’t going inside – hearing most people and kids, having such a great time, made me feel funny inside, and that I paid nearly $46.00 like everyone else, and then, not get the full benefit to enjoy.
Last January (2001), I was asked to go back to Disney World once again, but this time I sent an e-mail to Customer Service at Disney World, asking them about their policy on discount for the blind; I never heard back from them, at all. I figured, perhaps they had changed their policies or rules about this. How wrong I was. Matter of fact, it did change, but far worse. This time they didn’t have any special ticket booths for people with special needs or people with disabilities. When I got to the ticket booth, I politely asked what their policy was on discount for the blind. The lady in the booth quickly replied, "There are no discounts for any disabilities." That truly surprised me. I proceeded to tell her that I didn’t feel that was fair, that I pay the full price of $52.22, and I can’t see or hear well – no sympathy whatsoever – I realized that the ticket person does not make the rules and regulations, but she flatly refused me any discount. I was dismayed and discouraged. Once again, it was either going in or going back home to my Mom’s. My friend was looking forward to seeing the Magic Kingdom again, so I wasn’t going to cause a problem. I bit my tongue and said nothing.
I was going to ask to speak to the management, but I don’t do very well in these circumstances, t being severely hearing impaired and not seeing well. Therefore, I decided to wait until I got home to write Disney World a letter explaining what I encountered. I never got a reply. I also sent Disney World several e-mail about this, and again, no response.
It would seem to me, that such a huge empire as Disney World, who has millions of visitors each year, would never be effected by such a small group of disabled persons, and that it would hurt their profits. I feel that Disney World, Inc. is more concerned about profits than anything else. I want to point out that every other amusement park, such as Bush Gardens, Cypress Gardens, Seaworld, etc., all have given me a half-price discount; in some cases I went in free. Disney World is the only place I’ve had any problems.
This is my opinion of discrimination, and I feel that Disney World is very unfair to the disabled world.
I would like your opinion, if whether you consider this discrimination or not. Sure, some people might say, "Why would a blind person go to such places when they can’t see? In my opinion, I feel any person with any disability has the right to go anyplace they wish. I can have my assistant tell me what they see or hear; I can feel the excitement in people who are close around me; I can smell some things that I recognize. However, that still isn’t getting the full benefit of enjoyment. If I were only able to see and hear like everyone else.
By all means, I am not looking for any special treatment or attention; I just want what is fair for my disability, and others as well. And I want to let folks with disabilities know what to expect, should they go to any of the Disney World parks.
I would like to hear from anyone who would like to respond to this story. My e-mail address is: email@example.com.
Thank you for taking time to read my story.
Gary R. Aube