Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

Southwest USA May 2009

America has its own version of the Disability Discrimination Act, which is the 'Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)'.

Las Vegas, Nevada

There are numerous transportation options once you land in Las Vegas, whether it is transportation to your hotel or shuttling between casinos, restaurants, shopping, or even the suburbs.

Taxi vans equipped with wheelchair lifts are available and no advance notice is necessary. In Las Vegas, taxis are everywhere. At your hotel, the doorman can procure you the required type of vehicle to suit your needs. Las Vegas runs 24-hour-a-day buses up and down the strip, as well as daily buses around town. Buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts and offer discounts to disabled travellers. There are also three monorail services in Las Vegas which are all accessible for the disabled.

Scootaround is a company which provides easy access for disabled people. The company provides a simple and convenient scooter rental and wheelchair rental service for Las Vegas and 500 other locations in the US.

Las Vegas is well known for its huge casinos which are very well spaced out, with ramps, lifts and escalator access. Some escalators have lights or lines showing where the step is, which can help the visually impaired. In a small proportion of the casinos, there are areas where space is limited, mainly around the slot zones.

Specific Attractions

At Las Vegas Gun Range and Firearms Centre, access to the building is relatively easy. There are disabled parking bays available with a small slope leading up to the kerb. There is also a disabled toilet available in this establishment. Firing automatic weapons can obviously be dangerous for some disabled people, but the instructor will assess the safety aspects. During my experience, the instructor explained to me the rules and how to stand whilst firing. As the guns are quite powerful, the instructor held on to me throughout certain periods.

Picture of Sean at the Gun Range

The Stratosphere Tower is accessed by lift which heads to an altitude of 1,200 feet. At the top is an observation deck which is very spacious, with plenty of seating areas and provides the best views of Las Vegas. There are also three rides at the top of the tower, and may be deemed inaccessible for many disabled people. However, the tower is mainly there for the views, other than the thrill rides.

For more information on disabled access in Las Vegas, please visit the following link,

Hoover Dam, Nevada / Arizona

The Hoover Dam tour involves watching a short film, which is subtitled for the hearing impaired, and all disabled people are seated at the front. The next part of the tour is accessed by lift, to view the turbine area, though the tunnel pathways can be quite dark. Also, understanding the tour guide is difficult as there is no sign language or transcript available; however, my family were on standby to help me with the communication. The tour is completely level with slopes which are well laid out in the tunnel areas.

The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

At the Grand Canyon there are well tarmaced promenades to allow easy access at many of the viewpoints. However, there are places where the terrain is quite rough which can limit mobility.

Descriptive text is at a reasonable level. A number of disabled parking bays are available throughout the park. There are also a lot of seating areas. Unfortunately, for the visually impaired, there are no large print or Braille guides available at the visitor centre. The park does not offer concessions for disabled people.

Picture of the Grand Canyon on a lovely sunny day

For anyone who has difficulty walking, the National Park Service provides free wheelchairs for temporary day use. They can be made available at the Visitor Center at Canyon View Information Plaza. Most viewpoints at the Canyon have barriers in place; however, the whole park is not all fenced up.

Monument Valley, Arizona / Utah

At Monument Valley paths are very uneven and roads are rough to drive through. The whole park is off road. As the park consists of desert terrain, it is noted that wheelchair users may find it difficult to move around because of the sand and dust. Therefore, as an alternative not much will be missed by staying in the car.

Picture of Monument Valley

As Monument Valley is owned by the Navajo Indians, disabled access is at present, somewhat lacking to that of the National Parks. I consider that the American Government, which manages most of the National Parks, incorporates disabled access at a very high standard.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

The visitor centre at Mesa Verde National Park has a slope for disabled people. The restaurant is spacious and has a lift; there are three steps down in the middle of the the seating area. The visitor centre has a disabled toilet separate from the main facilities.

The park has several facilities that are wheelchair accessible, including the mesa top sites, overlooks and the museum. Due to the canyon location and ladder / stair entry into the cliff dwellings, they are not accessible by wheelchair. The path to Spruce Tree House is paved and does not have steps or ladders, but it is steep and requires assistance for someone in a wheelchair. According to Frommers Travel Guide, The Badger House Community Trail is well paved and accessible for the disabled.

Four Corners

Four Corners is the only place in the entire United States where four states intersect; Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Like Monument Valley, this belongs to the Navajo Indians, and with regards to disabled access there are three steps up to the four corners platform.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

The visitor centre and the museum are accessible. Access to most viewpoints are easily accessible; there is a slope going down to view the canyons walls, with built in handrails.

Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

At the Petrified Forest it can be very windy and for some people balance could be difficult. Picnic areas, most restrooms and both visitor centres are wheelchair accessible. Paved trails can be found at Long Logs, Agate House and Crystal Forest.

Meteor Crater, Arizona

The attraction of Meteor Crater was very well equipped to facilitate disabled people, providing plenty of ramped and lift access. However, viewing the museum may prove difficult for the visually impaired as all texts were in the font, Times New Roman with little contrasting colours. Outside it can be very windy and could affect people with a balance condition.

Scottsdale, Arizona


The outlet stores in Anthem were easily accessible for all; the whole area is completely flat. However, some stock in several stores isn't easily accessible for wheelchair users; therefore staff are always happy to help. Most stores have a disabled changing room. Also, when purchasing goods with credit cards, signatures are required, unlike in the UK where pin numbers are used. This may benefit visually impaired people.


Access throughout the Botanical Gardens is generally easy. The area is quite flat, though there are areas where specks of sand and dust, which can make pushing a wheelchair uneasy.

Eating Out

The Saddle Ranch Chop House has a great atmosphere, and fantastic service, but the lighting was the only poor aspect of this steakhouse. At Red Lobster restaurant, there is a brilliantly well laid out large print and Braille menu available.

Los Angeles

The California Coastal Commission is committed to providing easy access for all disabled people, especially those in wheelchairs. The sandy beaches of Los Angeles can prove a challenge for wheelchair users. 'Beach Wheelchairs' are equipped with large, wide wheels which can roll across the sand without sinking. They usually require users to be accompanied by someone pushing them. Beach Wheelchairs are lent free of charge and are normally available from a lifeguard or the entrance kiosk at a beach. Some may be reserved ahead of time, while others are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Picture of a Los Angeles sandy beach

Beaches that operate beach wheelchairs in Los Angeles County include, Long Beach City Beach, Mother's Beach, Marina del Rey, and Santa Monica.

Disabled Toilets

Please note that America has disabled toilets in nearly every establishment. However, they are usually in the main toilet areas, unlike in the UK, where they are kept separate.