Caribbean Travel & Life, article by EMILY KRUCKEMYER

Enlightened Destinations: St. John is pioneering an island-wide effort to offer an inclusive travel package for travelers with disabilities, says Kat Darula of Multi Design for People (http://www.designforpeople.org), a Rhode Island-based consulting and design firm. "It is not just about providing a hotel room with accessible components or an accessible bathroom; it is about the hospitality and travel industry being aware of and responding to the entire travel experience," she says.

Darula and a team from the Rhode Island School of Design originally joined up with Stanley Selengut, owner of the Maho Bay Camps (800-392-9004; http://www.maho.org), in 2004 to transform his Estate Concordia into an accessible eco-destination. A few months ago they debuted four rooms designed to meet the needs of wheelchair users, with enhanced facilities, walkways and ramps throughout the property.

Darula's crew then set off to devise a plan with the government of the Virgin Islands to promote St. John as an inclusive destination for travelers with disabilities. In July, Estate Concordia hosted four wheelchair travelers who participated in a weeklong trial to test out the accessibility of the island's transportation, restaurants, hotels and activities. The experiment allowed consultants from Darula's team to observe areas where inclusive design solutions can be implemented.

"It has great potential to succeed as a model for developers and the travel industry in the Caribbean," says Darula.

Another innovative model of accessibility is Sea Without Barriers at Luquillo Beach on Puerto Rico (http://www.gotopuertorico.com), a wheelchair-accessible beach with a ramp from the parking lot to a platform on the beach. Aquatic wheelchairs are available, as are accessible bathrooms and shower facilities. Boquerón Beach, also on Puerto Rico, is being prepared as the next Sea Without Barriers project. Aruba's Tourism Board, aware that visitors want to know about accessibility, provides detailed online information about hotels and activities on its website (http://www.aruba.com/pages/disability.htm).

These are encouraging signs that the Caribbean as a whole may eventually become accessible to all. "Nobody argues with the 'why,'" says Darula. "They want to know the 'how.'"

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