Is Las Vegas really accessible for disabled travelers?
What do you think of when you hear the words "Las Vegas?" I bet you think of Elvis impersonators, bright lights, showgirls, slot machines, and crowds of people cheering on winners at the craps tables. Did you ever think of "accessible" in that list? I went to Las Vegas to see if the term "accessible" could be included in all of the other visuals I've had for such a long time.
Arriving into McCarran Airport, I quickly saw that there would be no issue accessing this airport. It isn't very big, has plenty of accessible bathrooms, and there is plenty of signage to let you know where you are going. The car rental facilities are centrally located with accessible shuttle buses. The airport is also a very short distance from the famous Strip, where most of the major hotels are located.
We stayed at the Flamingo, which is one of the original, and very iconic, properties on the Strip. To be quite honest, it is a bit dated, although the Habitat Tower rooms have been updated. The Flamingo Casino is a bit difficult to maneuver in a wheelchair; there are ramps that circumvent everything, and you will cover much more distance than someone who is using their legs as the mode of transportation. The ramps are not always right by the stairs, and it is sometimes a challenge to find them.
The sidewalks on the Strip are wide, but they can get very crowded during heavy tourist seasons. You also have several vendors selling just about anything, and I mean anything, that you wish to purchase on the Flamingo-side of the street. My advice is to stay on the Bellagio side of the sidewalk if you wish to avoid having photos of naked ladies pushed into your hand every ten feet. Curb cuts are plentiful on main thoroughfares, and they are not very steep. The only issue we had was that there were a lot of them because the hotels all have several driveways to traverse. Also, there are several streets that require the use of an overpass. These all have elevators, and all were functioning.
My biggest word of advice for anyone who may have mobility issues is to get a scooter or power chair. Even manual wheelchair use here will exhaust the most fit of travelers if you are planning to cruise the Strip. Many of the larger hotels have them on property, and they are easy to rent. The hotels are absolutely enormous, and they tend to spread things out so that you are forced to go through the entire casino to get anywhere. However, if you plan to stay in one place, you may be fine with a walker or manual chair.
The other thing that was most notable was air quality. We went through some casinos, and our eyes were itching halfway through. If you have issues with smoke, my advice is to stay away from some of the older or smaller casinos that have less air quality control. Bellagio, Wynn, and Mandalay Bay, and Aria had some noticeably better air quality. I had the hardest time in Flamingo, Planet Hollywood, and Venetian.
When it came to hotel accessibility, it is a mixed bag, depending on needs. Most of the hotels have several banks of elevators to get to the rooms, which could make a person with a sight-impairment travels a nightmare. We did find several hotels (Treasure Island, Palazzo, Venetian) that were extremely well equipped for travelers with hearing impairments. All of these properties have hosted Deaf Nation events in the past and have many, many hearing kits available to their guests. Bellagio and Treasure Island Resorts both had rooms with built in hoyer lifts. The rooms were also spacious. We also found that many of the hotels were already equipped with pool lifts ahead of the March 15, 2012 ADA requirement.
Getting around town is not an issue if you plan to use public transportation. The Deuce, which is the public transit system, is accessible, as are all of the monorails and trams. Finding an accessible taxi is a bit more challenging, but they do exist. Just be sure to call in advance and be prepared to wait.
There is no shortage of things to do in Las Vegas. Shows, both large production, and those in the casino lobbies, are of great quality and very accessible. Walking or rolling the Strip is free, and you can be entertained by watching the fountains at the Bellagio, the pirate ship at Treasure Island, the volcanoes at the Mirage, or the laser light show at the Wynn. Going into each hotel can provide an experience all its own. You can enjoy French cuisine and music in Paris, see the Pussycat Dolls and Roman Emperors in Caesars Palace, or walk the streets of Italy at the Venetian. Some of the pavements in these themed hotels try to mimic old streets, so you may be in for a bumpy ride.
Frankly, the best show in town can be found by sitting down anywhere and watching the cast of characters who also frequent Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a people-watching mecca, and you will be treated with an assortment of locals, legends, and fellow travelers who come here to put their everyday lives aside and live the adage, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas..." Enjoy!