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Handicap Accessible Tips To Make Make Florida Keys Vacations Easy

Planning a handicap accessible vacation shouldn’t be a major challenge, but it often is for a disabled person.

The reason - it's time consuming and difficult to wade through a region's attractions and activities.

It's even harder to carefully weed out those that haven't incorporated ADA compliance specifications.

A Florida Keys vacation is meant to be fun and memorable, regardless of a person's age or physical condition.

The combination of scenery and Florida Keys things to do is what makes this one of the best wheelchair accessible vacation spots.

Toward that end, we've worked to streamline the process for those planning hearing impaired, blind or limited mobility vacations in the Florida Keys.

Further below you'll see links to other pages that discuss handicap transportation, wheelchair sports, and activities for adults with disabilities, special needs children and disabled veterans. All issues equally important and relevant for handicap travel planning.

Disabled Key West Diver Being Helped Onto Dive Boat

Wheelchair Sports Include Florida Keys Diving
State Archives Of Florida, Florida Memory, Dale M. McDonald Collection

In researching Florida Keys attractions, activities, and charter companies, there was one constant theme we discovered. The local businesses have a true willingness to help make their businesses as handicapped accessible as they can. This fact alone helps to ensure you can plan the best wheelchair accessible vacations possible.

However, considering that the Florida Keys is a very small area geographically, with it's own set of 'physical' limitations and challenges, these businesses face difficulties of their own. Also the Keys are 'older' in terms of structure and so they don't always have the most up to date amenities.

Age combined with the fact that businesses can struggle financially means they don't always have the most modern services that people often associate with conveniences 'back home'.

As always, anything you can do to help make it easier to enjoy as many activities and attractions as possible, will go a long way in maximizing this or any other vacation.

It can be something as simple as bringing a portable wheelchair ramp with you if you have the ability to do so. This alone can open up additional opportunities for you to see and do more things on your Florida Keys vacation.

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How To Plan Your Handicap
Accessible Florida Keys Vacation

For those planning handicapped accessible vacations, the real issue comes down to these 3 questions:

What type of disability do you have?
How mobile can you be?
What can you bring to make it easer for more businesses to accommodate you (i.e folding wheelchair, manual wheelchair)?

Water sports are one of the big Florida Keys attractions bringing all types of vacationers here year round. We've found that there are a number of Florida Keys snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing charter companies able to accommodate individuals who have limited mobility. However, there are certain restrictions and qualifications attached for someone planning wheelchair accessible vacations.

1. The individual with limited mobility must be willing to allow the charter company to help them aboard, or to physically lift them up or down into the boat. This is because the majority of these companies do not have handicap lifts or wheelchair ramps.

2. Many of the charter companies are not able to handle a manual wheelchair aboard due to the size of their boats. If the handicap person is not wheelchair bound, they must then be able to comfortably and safely sit on a bench seat with or without a back, or in a boat seat.

Another example of a 'business challenge', is the fact that backcountry Florida Keys fishing charters operate small boats with shallow drafts. This makes it virtually impossible for them to accommodate someone who is totally wheelchair bound.

If this is your situation and you don't want to spend the time and energy that is required for deep sea fishing, you'll need to consider Florida fishing charters that focus on nearshore and inshore fishing charter trips, that have boats large enough and the necessary equipment to accommodate you.

3. The handicap person must be willing to leave their wheelchair back at the dock where the charter would make safe storage arrangements for it.

To a lesser degree, there's a handful of Florida Keys fishing, diving and snorkeling companies that have larger boats. These boats are then capable of accommodating a manual or folding wheelchair. However most of these companies cannot accommodate an electric wheelchair.

As of this writing, over 95% of the Florida Keys charters do not have handicap lifts or wheelchair ramps, so once again, the handicap person must be willing to allow the crew to help them board or physically lift them onto the boat, or bring a portable ramp with them.

Immediately below, you can explore the Florida Keys fishing charters identified by area. By clicking on a picture you'll be linked over to that region's page and from there you can browse and search for fishing charters that do the type of fishing you're interested in.

Not only can you select what type of fish to target, you can pick where you want to go, whether it's inshore, nearshore or even reef fishing. You're also able to select the type of fishing gear you'd like to use, choosing light tackle, fly fishing or other types of gear that interests you.

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Florida Keys Fishing Charters By Area

Select Types Of Fish To Target
Pick Where You Want To Go
Select Choice Of Tackle
Get Rates!

The next step in planning your handicapped accessible vacation is to make sure you'll be comfortable with the planned activity or activities the charter provides.

On Florida Keys diving charters or snorkeling charters you have to get into the water. If you're not able to climb down the ladder, or jump into the water, you're going to have to ensure that the crew can capably get you into the sea.

If you're interested in what a particular Florida Keys charter company offers, yet are unsure as to whether they can properly accommodate you, our advise is as follows:

1. Explain your physical limitations so they'll know what's needed to make your trip possible and safe.

2. Find out exactly what they'll be doing on the charter so you can determine if it's even worthwhile for you to go. For example, a Florida Keys snorkeling trip can be fun to go along for the ride, but if you can't get into the water, perhaps a dolphin watch or sunset cruise would be more suitable.

3. Book the day and time in advance so they can properly prepare for you and give you preferential seating and treatment.

4. Find out how they will get you on and off the boat and what arrangements they can safely make for your wheelchair.

5. Find out if you will have access to the restrooms (heads) on board or if they're on a different level of the boat.

6. If you're going to stay in your wheelchair, find out how they plan to secure your chair so you don't roll around the deck.

State Of Florida ADA Compliance Laws
And How They Affect You

Florida has also created a number of regulations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). For those traveling with disabilities and have a service animal, you and your service animal are provided full access to the same areas as non-handicapped people.

The ADA laws also relate to a variety of areas with the intent of ensuring that a handicap person has access to public facilities.

For example swimming pools, spas and wading pools found at Florida Keys lodging establishments, health clubs and recreation centers must be handicap accessible.

Florida Keys lodging options is another important ADA compliance issue that relates to planning limited mobility or handicap vacations.

According to Florida Law, all Florida Keys lodging built after 1993 must be ADA compliant, ensuring that a percentage of their rooms can accommodate the hearing impaired, blind, or mobility limited.

When planning handicap accessible vacations it's critical you make reservations well in advance. For even the non-handicapped traveler, reservations can be hard to come by at certain times of the year. When dealing with handicap accessible issues, it's even more important that you secure reservations where you'll be the most comfortable.

It's also important to note that many of the Florida Keys lodging facilities are older. That's part of the charm of a Florida Keys vacation.

However, when planning a handicap vacation it's imperative that you consider the age of the establishment. If you have your heart set on one of the more historic and charming bed and breakfasts in Key West, it's best to inquire as to whether they have a wheelchair ramp or lift to the upper levels, and if they have a private handicap accessible bathroom.

The following links will help you find the best Florida Keys lodging. The Keys are broken down by region, so you can simply click on the area that you're interested in visiting. From there you'll have access to all the different types of lodging, from resorts to inns, bed and breakfasts to hotels with handicapped accessible rooms. This will help you determine which facility would likely be most suitable for you.

From there you can quickly click on the TripAdvisor link following the name of each Florida Keys lodging facility. This will help you check reviews and rates so you get the best deal.

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The ADA compliance regulations also extends to a variety of Florida businesses including stores, museums, theaters, recreational facilities, and service establishments such as marinas.

The majority of marinas simply have handicap parking and a ramp so anyone in a wheelchair can access the area. However, beautiful Boot Key Harbor in Marathon FL has gone the extra mile. At this Florida Keys marina they provide a variety of handicap services including manual wheelchair rentals, scooter rentals, walker rentals, and other types of medical supply rentals.

The Florida ADA statute takes into consideration that many businesses are older and established and that it's impossible for them to completely rebuild their facility to be totally ADA compliant.

To help make your vacation more handicap accessible however, it does ensure that they provide handicap parking, have a wheelchair accessible entrance, and make it possible to move through the main area of the business or entertainment venue.

However, you'll find your vacation will go smoother if you've planned ahead and bring with you a variety of travel aids to make yourself comfortable in different situations.

Many of the Florida Keys attractions including museums have 2 or more stories. Due to age, or size, it's not physically possible for them to include a wheelchair lift, or elevator. To make these attractions or Florida museums more handicap accessible, many provide films, books or pictures of the areas that are not wheelchair accessible so visitors can "see" that portion of the attraction.

When planning your Florida Keys vacation you'll also want to take advantage of savings at any of the activities or attractions that interest you.

In the highlighted box below are link will provide you with detailed information on savings for a variety of Key West activities and attractions that you're likely want to explore.

Not only will you save money through Trusted Tours, you'll also have the peace of mind knowing you've got your tickets in advance and that you have flexibility as to the days and times you'll want to use them.

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Fun Key West Attractions!

Likewise the Florida Keys restaurants and popular Key West bars are ADA compliant. This means you're able to access the main areas of these establishments including the historic bars such as Sloppy Joes Key West.

To find out more about where you might like to dine or go out for fun, the following links provide additional information on the different restaurants and bars in the Florida Keys.

If you're blind or hearing impaired, when on your Florida Keys vacation you'll need to know that you can use standard telephone equipment by taking advantage of the Florida Relay Service which is available in English and Spanish.

To reach this State service simply dial 7-1-1 or you can directly dial the service you require, using the following toll free telephone numbers:

1-800-955-8771 (TTY)
1-800-955-8770 (Voice)
1-800-955-1339 (ASCII)
1-877-955-8260 (VCO-Direct)
1-877-955-5334 (STS)
1-877-955-8773 (Spanish)

You can also view online the additional services Florida Relay provides for those on a handicap accessible vacation.

To make planning your handicap accessible vacation easy, the most important aspects of a Florida Keys vacation are divided into sections. These include handicap transportation, wheelchair sports, and activities for adults with disabilities, special needs children and disabled veterans.

You'll find that this quick at-a-glance Florida travel guide will help you make the best decisions when planning your Florida Keys vacation.

Do make sure you spend the appropriate amount of time making the necessary inquiries for your handicap accessible vacation. This way, both you and the businesses will know what to expect. This will make it possible for them prepare for you and help ensure you don't end up with unpleasant surprises or disappointments.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040