Travellers with Disabilities
Northern California is reasonably well-equipped for travelers with disabilities.
- Telephone companies provide relay operators (dial 711) for the hearing impaired.
- Many banks provide ATM instructions in braille.
Mobility & Accessibility
- Most intersections have dropped curbs and sometimes audible crossing signals.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public buildings built after 1993 to be wheelchair-accessible, including restrooms.
- Motels and hotels built after 1993 must have at least one ADA-compliant accessible room; state your specific needs when making reservations.
- For nonpublic buildings built prior to 1993, including hotels, restaurants, museums and theaters, there are no accessibility guarantees; call ahead to find out what to expect.
- Most national and many state parks and some other outdoor recreation areas offer paved or boardwalk-style nature trails accessible by wheelchairs.
- US citizens and permanent residents with a permanent disability qualify for a free lifetime ‘America the Beautiful’ Access Pass (http://store.usgs.gov/pass/access.html), which waives entry fees to all national parks and federal recreational lands and offers 50% discounts on some recreation fees (eg camping).
- California State Parks’ disabled discount pass ($3.50) entitles those with permanent disabilities to 50% off day-use parking and camping fees; for an application, go to www.parks.ca.gov.
- A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide to the California Coast (www.wheelingcalscoast.org) Free accessibility information covering beaches, parks and trails, plus a downloadable PDF guide to the San Francisco Bay Area coast.
- Access Northern California (www.accessnca.org) Extensive links to accessible-travel resources, including outdoor recreation opportunities, lodgings, tours and transportation.
- Access San Francisco Guide (www.sftravel.com) Search the city's official tourism site for this free, downloadable PDF guide – dated, but useful.
- Access Santa Cruz County (www.scaccessguide.com) Free online accessible-travel guide for visiting Santa Cruz and around, including restaurants, lodging, beaches, parks and outdoor recreation.
- Accessible Travel (http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel) Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide.
- California State Parks (http://access.parks.ca.gov) Searchable online map and database of accessible features at state parks.
- Flying Wheels Travel Full-service travel agency for travelers with disabilities, mobility issues and chronic illnesses.
- All major airlines, Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains can accommodate people with disabilities, usually with 48 hours' advance notice.
- Major car-rental agencies offer hand-controlled vehicles and vans with wheelchair lifts at no extra charge, but you must reserve these well in advance.
- For wheelchair-accessible van rentals, try Wheelchair Getaways in San Francisco, or Mobility Works in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno and Chico.
- Local buses, trains and subways usually have wheelchair lifts.
- Seeing-eye dogs are permitted to accompany passengers on public transportation.
- Taxi companies should have at least one wheelchair-accessible van, but you’ll need to call ahead.