Access for Travelers with Disabilities
The U.S. Virgin Islands, which are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are much better equipped for disabled travelers than the British Virgin Islands. Even so, getting around the islands will not be easy for those with physical disabilities. Many shops, restaurants, and hotels are not designed for wheelchairs, and even those hotels that claim to be accessible may not meet your needs. Always call the hotel directly and explain your exact needs before booking a room. Once you arrive on-island, do not be shy to speak up about whatever you need; hotel, restaurant, and shop staff members are normally very accommodating and will help to overcome whatever accessibility challenges exist.
The Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas uses a lift to transport wheelchairs from the plane to the tarmac. Accessible and affordable transportation is available through Dial-A-Ride (340/776-1277, fax 340/777-5383), but call at least a week ahead to arrange for an airport pickup (don’t expect taxis to accommodate a wheelchair).
St. John’s Estate Concordia (www.maho.com) has pioneered accessible design through a partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design, which designed four accessible units at this eco-camp. Estate Concordia owner Stanley Selengut and the design experts are now working with the local government to improve accessibility around the island.
A good option for disabled travelers is a cruise. A 2005 Supreme Court ruling requires all cruise lines that operate in the United States, including those that are registered in other jurisdictions, to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some cruise lines were already catering to disabled passengers; Princess Cruises (800/774-6237, www.princess.com) and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (U.S. toll-free 866/562-7625, www.royalcaribbean.com) have received good marks from disabled travelers.
You can reach the TTY/TDD call relay operator in the U.S. Virgin Islands by dialing 800/440-8477. Gimp on the Go has a detailed review of St. John on the website (www.gimponthego.com), and www.allabilities.com includes links to other disabled travel resources. Connie George Travel Agency (Glenolden, PA, 610/532-0998, U.S. toll-free 800/532-0998, www.cgta.com) specializes in planning trips in the islands for disabled visitors.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition