West Africa has very few facilities for the disabled. This, combined with weak infrastructure in the region, can make travel difficult, although it's not impossible. Few hotels have lifts (and those that do are generally expensive hotels), streets may be either badly potholed or else unpaved, footpaths are few and far between, and ramps and other things to ease access are often nonexistent. While accommodation at many budget hotels is on the ground floor, bathroom access can be difficult, and doors are not always wide enough for wheelchairs. Such difficulties are only partly counterbalanced by the fact that West Africans are usually very accommodating and willing to offer whatever assistance they can, as long as they understand what you need.
As for transport, most taxis in the region are small sedans, and buses are not wheelchair equipped. Minibuses and larger 4WD vehicles can usually be arranged through car-rental agencies in major towns and cities, although this will be pricey.
In general, travel and access will probably be easiest in places with relatively good tourism infrastructure, such as some of the coastal areas of Senegal and The Gambia. As far as we are aware, there are no facilities in the region specifically aimed at blind travellers.
Organisations & Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Before setting out for West Africa, travellers with disabilities should consider contacting one of the recommended organisations that may be able to help with advice and assistance.
- Access-Able Travel Source (www.access-able.com) A US-based site providing information on disabled-friendly tours and hotels.
- Accessible Travel & Leisure (www.accessibletravel.co.uk) Claims to be the biggest UK travel agent dealing with travel for people with a disability, and encourages independent travel.
- Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) In the US, it advises disabled travellers on mobility issues; it primarily runs educational exchange programs, and some include African travel.
- Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (www.sath.org) In the US; offers assistance and advice.
- Tourism for All (www.tourismforall.org.uk) A useful UK resource on making travel accessible for everyone.