Handicap Accessible Travel
Well, we survived the sweltering Texas heat to make it to our fourth and final stop on the TravelinWheels Texas Road Trip. Dallas welcomed us with bright sunshine, even higher temperatures, and afternoon traffic that dampened our efforts to see the area.
We would not be deterred, though.
I was here to perform site visits for quite a few hotels, and was again happy with the response we got by many of the property managers, welcoming us to take a look. As I made my way through the variety of properties, I was also encouraged by their willingness to take our feedback and make changes. It's not just a matter of compliance, but comfort and service. Even the little things were addressed, like having the handheld showers lowered for all of their ADA rooms so that a wheelchair user wouldn't have to call housekeeping, or making sure that furniture is set up so that someone can move around the room, or providing sturdier shower chairs that everyone can use. In all of our conversations, the managers walked away with a real sense that they had learned a few things that they hadn't thought about. They usually walk their properties and notice the linens, the furnishings, the light fixtures, etc. We show them how to look at their property a bit differently, and they are truly appreciative.
Dallas' hotels were fairly consistent when it came to accessibility, as were most of the hotels in Texas. I would like to say I found some rock stars of access in Texas, but honestly, I did not. What I did notice was that all of the hotels had good access, but each one of them was missing a key component to be considered stellar. Whether it was the lack of a pool lift, or doors that were too heavy, the use of platform beds, or the lack of braille in a couple key places, each hotel was good in many ways, but I couldn't give them the highest of ratings, even if they were close.
Just so you understand how we rate hotels, we look at everything from the services provided, to the staff training, as well as the accessible features of the property. We only choose hotels that have high ratings for service to begin with. From there, it is seeing how open they are to our visit, how willing they are to make changes, and then look at how well they are set up for mobility, hearing, and sight impairments. A hotel has to operate on all cylinders to get a five star rating. They must have braille throughout, hard of hearing systems built in, pool lifts, wheelchair accessible shuttles, easy maneuverability around the property, the right ratio of accessible rooms, in addition to phenomenal service and training. To date, I can sadly say that I haven't found that perfect hotel. I will keep looking, though...
We have found some four star rated hotels that are coming very close to being a five star. On this trip, we found many three stars that, with a little effort, could easily become a four star. My hope is that we can keep educating property managers about what it takes to be a stellar accessible property so that they make improvements and move up in rank.
Anyway, I digress about hotel ratings. Needless to say, there were several quality hotels in various price ranges that will be listed on the site later this month.
As for the lay of the land, Downtown Dallas was easy to navigate, and public transportation was accessible. Curb cuts throughout the metro area were fairly new and very good. Sidewalks are wide and level. If you plan to drive through the metro area, a GPS is highly recommended. There are many, many one way streets, and a lot of U turns were required to get to many of the places I needed to go. Also, if you plan to be out in traffic after 3:00 p.m., give yourself LOTS of time to get where you are going. Many of the expressways get very crowded, with the exception of the North Dallas Tollway, which seemed to be easy to drive any time of the day. It's probably because the tollway charges are a bit high, so people use other roads.
We did get to tour a bit of Market St. with its line-up of excellent restaurants. If you park on the street in Dallas, you do not have to feed the meter if you have a government issued disabled placard. However, you can only stay in the spot for the number of hours allocated to everyone else.
We also visited the Sixth Floor Museum, site of the old Texas Book Repository, the infamous building involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The exhibit fee includes an audio tour, and the majority of the movies are close captioned. There is a lot of reading and many, many photos that tell the story of JFK, his career, legacies, and the fatal day in November, 1963. Parking for the museum is very convenient, and the entire building was very accessible.
We also made our way over to the Galleria Mall in North Dallas. Filled with upscale shops, the mall was a great respite from the Dallas heat and a nice place to stroll around, window shop, and get a bite to eat. Elevators were easy to find, and navigating the large mall was easy to do.
We found some good restaurants along the way. My favorite was Maximo Cochina, a casual, yet elegant Mexican restaurant in North Dallas. The doors to get in were extremely heavy, but there is a valet to assist. Once you are inside, the velvet and wood décor and food were excellent! It was easy to move around the bar and the restaurant, with wide aisles, and plenty of space. The bathrooms were perfectly accessible. Oh, and the margaritas were heavenly!
I would definitely give Dallas another look, but plan to go when it isn't so blazing hot. It definitely has many possibilities for the traveler with a disability, as so much of the city is fairly new and growing. If you have the opportunity to go, my advice is to get out there!