Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

The Inaccessible Nightmare Continues: Travel Stories from the Trenches

Filed under: Traveling with a Disability — by at 3:59 pm on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Continuing with my saga about getting from Austin to San Diego via Phoenix last Tuesday…while waiting at the gate, after having my seat upgraded from “standby” to “confirmed” thanks to my travel agent, I overheard the reason for the delay was because the flight had to switch planes twice in Charlotte, North Carolina. Some things I can do without overhearing!

After a slight delay on the tarmac due to minor mechanical issues, we took off. The flight was uneventful until we landed. While being rolled off the plane like Hannibal Lecter, I immediately noticed one of my scooter’s rear view mirrors had been busted off and one of my Gorillapod’s legs amputated; the parts had been shoved in the pouch on the back of my chair. No apology or compensation for replacement parts were offered. At that point, I was more concerned with whether my scooter still worked. But, it did make me wonder whether the rough handling by US Airways ground crew also explained some of the mechanical issues experienced by the airline.

I next discovered the accommodation guaranteed in Austin had yet to be arranged for my unscheduled stop over in Phoenix. I waited about half an hour while Customer Service booked an accessible room and determined which voucher to use for a wheelchair taxi to and from the hotel.

Finally, at the Twin Palms Hotel, the first room was not accessible in the least, despite the wheelchair symbol on the door. There was no way I could get in the bathroom. The staff person took me to a second accessible room to try. Because there was more space to turn into the bathroom, I could get the front end of my scooter in far enough to get to the toilet. A shower was out of the question and, with only seven hours until the taxi picked me up, it wasn’t even a consideration. The room would do for the short night. But, had my husband been with me, the “handicapped room” (as listed under amenities on the hotel’s site) would have been too handicapped for him to use.

A “handicapped room” with a narrow door, no space beside the toilet to park a wheelchair, no grab bars and no way to get in the shower or tub is, indeed, handicapped; not accessible. The power outlet and light switch right beside the bed were nice features though.

Thankfully the taxi driver did return at 6am precisely. Even though the airline paid the taxi fare, I tipped him handsomely. He was one of the very few during the ordeal who cared.

Back at the Phoenix airport, I proceeded through security and onto my gate without incident. Breakfast consisted of a granola bar and a handful of dried apricots before boarding yet another plane.

My scooter arrived in San Diego in working condition and without any more superfluous parts missing. Bonus! And I waited only a few minutes for the accessible shuttle to the Holiday Inn. Double bonus! Things were looking up.

After checking in and quickly freshening up in my truly accessible room, I headed to the Elephant & Castle Restaurant for a lunch courtesy of my travel agent – an appreciated gesture for the inconvenience endured. Sitting on the patio on an early spring day and overlooking the harbour, I enjoyed chicken penne, eating at my own own pace, for the first time in a week. At one point, Rod Stewart even serenaded me over the speakers. I was feeling better.

I pulled out my sunglasses and exited the hotel. Turning right to the closest crosswalk, there was no curb cut in either direction. Are you kidding me? Lord have mercy, please!

Laughing and shaking my head in disbelief (or, perhaps, in complete belief given my trip so far), I pulled an 180 degree turn and found an accessible crosswalk in the other direction.

A pleasant walk part way around the harbour found me at the Manchester Hyatt ready for the 26th Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN).

That was the end of my noteworthy accessibility issues.  Even nightmares come to an end, eventually. 

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Comment by Nancy

March 23, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

What an adventure…the kind you don’t want. But, I have become more and more aware of accessibility issues as I shop or use restrooms or stay in hotels. Thank you, Glenda, for giving sight to the blind.

Comment by Paul J. Adam

March 23, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

Hey Genlda, that really sucks that your trip was such a nightmare. You’re tweets and presentation at SXSWi really opened my eyes to the physical accessibility challenges people face. I’m an electronic accessibility nerd and now will become a physical accessibility nerd as well!

I filled out my SXSWi survey and really pointed out the problems I noticed with transportation and accessibility at the conference. I hope SXSW reads your tweets and is better prepared for next year!

Thanks for making the long and difficult journey down to Austin for south by! Hope to see you speak again at another conference soon!

Comment by Todd Jordan

March 23, 2011 @ 5:00 pm


As always, you’re a miraculous person to me. I gripe over some of those very same things but don’t have near the actual struggle.

So glad you made it to the conference in one piece yourself!


Comment by Kath Younas

April 22, 2011 @ 9:28 am

Have anyone used this company called Freedom Airport Service based in London for London Airport Transfer as I am looking for a reliable company in London for airport transfers for my clients who offer services and commision to Travel Agents? Comments are highly appreciated.

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