The New York Times, article by AUSTIN CONSIDINE

St. John, V.I., is beginning an islandwide initiative to render the destination more accessible to disabled and older people, one of the few and earliest attempts in the Caribbean to address the issue on a large scale. Business owners and officials at the local and federal level will gather with Multi, Design for People, a Rhode Island-based design and consulting firm, at a conference this month to discuss the viability of the company's ideas. The discussion is the next step in Multi's "Building a Destination for All 2005" strategy.

"What they are doing is one of a kind, and it could be the start of a very big movement for everybody to follow suit," said Jani Nayar, executive coordinator for the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, a nonprofit organization in New York. Ms. Nayar said Aruba was the only other Caribbean island she was aware of that had begun moving in a similar direction.

In December on St. John's, which is in the United States Virgin Islands, four ecologically sustainable luxury accommodations specifically designed to accommodate disabled guests opened at the Concordia Eco-Tents resort, part of Maho Bay Camps, (800) 392-9004, www.maho.org. The design will be tested by disabled volunteers from July 24 to 30, and the results will be discussed at that week's conference.

"There is a difference in cost," to incorporate such features, said Kat Darula, a designer and consultant for Multi, "but in the end the greater number of people coming will absorb that cost." Ms. Darula emphasized that the special features are incorporated as seamlessly as possible to accommodate guests of every kind.

Features available at the four eco-tents include wider doorways, low countertops with space underneath for wheelchairs, close proximity to parking spaces and an absence of stairs.Concordia plans to expand the number of eco-tents, which rent for $95 to $145 a night, to between 40 and 50 by 2007, though the number to be built to accommodate people with special needs is yet to be determined.

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