Jim's Wheelchair Traveler Tips & Information
I've been fortunate to have traveled to many corners of the globe. Although planning comes to me fairly easily, traveling in a wheelchair necessitates becoming an even better planner. Experience has taught me many lessons. I've been to hotels where the wheelchair could not fit through doors or into an elevator, and visited too many restaurants without an accessible restroom. While traveling, I've had wheels, axles, the wheelchair frame and footrests break or fall off. And getting into a taxi or renting a car was far easier 30 years ago when vehicles were considerably larger.
With today's car rentals being more compact, it is much more difficult to fold up my wheelchair and throw it in the backseat. Although Hertz and Avis have specialty reservation desks for wheelchair accessible vehicles, neither provides vehicles that easily accommodate independent wheelchair travelers and both are incredibly unreliable.
Today I plan my hotel and restaurant reservations with great care, calling and emailing and following up well in advance. It is now possible to arrange almost everything including taxis and van rentals across the globe in advance. Every location can be put on speed dial before departure. It's also nice to know the location of the local wheelchair repair shop and have access to medical supplies when and where needed. We have attempted our best to provide you with some helpful hints throughout our website including some local contacts below that you might find helpful.
Booking your Hotel Room
Booking a hotel room online is convenient, but more often than not it results in arriving to the hotel only to find out they did not properly reserve an accessible room, or even worse - they have no accessible rooms in the hotel. Before booking a hotel room, we recommend reviewing our extensive list of certified Phoenix hotels, hotels to avoid, plus a directory of wheelchair accessible hotels in and around Phoenix. When booking a hotel room, WCJ highly recommends the following:
- Call the hotel directly and "block" your wheelchair accessible room for the desired dates of travel.
- Have the hotel email or fax you a confirmation, noting the accessible room and bring this with you at check-in.
- Call the hotel directly 24-48 hours in advance of your arrival to re-confirm your wheelchair accessible room.
When calling the nationwide reservations call center for many hotel chains, they do not have the ability to "block" wheelchair accessible rooms with individual hotel properties. We recommended to call the hotel directly, and speak to the front desk to properly reserve and block your accessible guestroom.
Pack You Airlines Bags Carefully
Wheelchair passengers are always last to exit the plane, sometimes 30 minutes or more after all other passengers have departed. Since I'm generally the last person to the luggage carousel, I'm always concerned someone will steal my bags (yes, this has happened). As a result, I always pack a special carry on bag with anything I might need for 2 days if my luggage is lost or stolen. This includes critical medical supplies and medications, an extra seat cushion cover, lightweight wheelchair repair tools, handy wipes and plastic bags.
I always bring large black plastic bags to collect my detachable wheelchair parts at the end of the jet way. These should be placed in the over head luggage rack, not in the cargo area.
You should also know that the Air Carrier Access Act mandates that fold up wheelchairs have priority for on-board storage if a closet is available. Keep your wheelchair on-board if possible. Demand your rights!
Phoenix SkyHarbor Airport
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is one of the ten busiest in the world. It is located approximately 5 miles east of downtown Phoenix and is a very wheelchair accessible, convenient and friendly airport. There are are 3 individual Terminals (terminal 2, 3 and 4; Terminal 1 was demolished in 1990). Most International flights use Terminal 4. All 3 terminals are connected by Airport Shuttle Buses, Car Rental Shuttles and the Phoenix Sky Train and all are very accessible for all size wheelchairs.
SkyHarbor Accessible Restrooms
- Sky Harbor International has a multitude of very nice, very wheelchair accessible restrooms throughout the airport with large stalls. There are also many large very nice Family Restrooms which are exceptionally spacious.
- There are also very nice, large wheelchair accessible restrooms on the baggage level in each Terminal.
- The 44st Station (Metro Light Rail and City Bus) has very nice, large accessible restrooms located on Level 1 as well as a very nice, large accessible Family Restroom on Level 1.
Rental Cars (from baggage claim)
- The remote car rental site is approximately 5 minutes outside the Sky Harbor International Airport. There are wheelchair accessible Rental Car Shuttles at each Terminal.
- From the baggage claim area (street level) at each Terminal, follow the Rental Car signs and go across the street/crosswalk to the median and the Rental Car Shuttle Bus.
Metro Light Rail (From 44th St. Station)The Valley Metro Light Rail is a terrific method to access a good portion of the valley from Phoenix to Tempe to Mesa. It is fully wheelchair accessible and quite inexpensive. It generally runs east/west and a bit north into Phoenix, making approximately 28 stops along the way including many of Phoenix's top attractions, cultural destinations and hotels. The Light Rail route is limited and does not generally go north or south throughout the greater Phoenix area. To augment the geography you can take the Metro City Bus which is fully wheelchair accessible and covers a broad footprint throughout the Phoenix area. Go to www.valleymetro.orgfor full details and maps.
- Once you're at the 44th St. Station, take the elevator down to Level 2 and follow signs for METRO Light Rail.
- Go about 100 yards (easy and level roll) across Sky Bridge to pay Kiosks (both at wheelchair height).
- Take elevator down to Light Rail platform/tracks and board. Very easy roll-on for all sized wheelchairs.
- Go west toward Phoenix or east to Tempe and Mesa
- All stops are very wheelchair accessible.
- Price is $4 for a full day pass and includes local bus fares.
- METRO Light Rail leaves about every 12 minutes during the day and otherwise every 20 minutes. It operates 365 days a year.
Super Shuttle Phoenix Airport (from baggage claim)
Super Shuttle picks you up from your home, office, or hotel and takes you to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It is generally more economical than a Sky Harbor taxi or limo. The Phoenix Super Shuttle service includes 2 accessible vans with lifts that accommodate 5 passengers including the wheelchair. You can call (602) 244-9000 or book online at www.supershuttle.com.
- From the baggage claim follow the signs for Vans or Shared Vans. For Terminal 2 arrivals, exit Door 8, which is at the east end of the terminal, past baggage claim. Once outside, continue east to the middle island/median. For Terminal 3 arrivals, exit via Door 6 (South Curb) or Door 9 (North Curb) and cross the street. Terminal 4 arrivals, exit Door 3 (North Curb) or Door 4 (South Curb) and cross the street to the median. Present your confirmation number to the uniformed Customer Service Representative for further assistance.
Phoenix Area Transportation
The Phoenix area provides for many private and public wheelchair accessible transportation options including trains, buses, taxis, van and car rentals, and ferry boats.
For complete information on Phoenix area transportation, visit our Phoenix Transportation page by clicking here.
Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center
Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center is a 45,000 square foot, $13 million facility located in Phoenix near Sky Harbor International Airport.
The facility features wheelchair accessible weight machines, an aquatic area equipped with lifts and elevators, accessible locker rooms, and much more. To find out more of what they have to offer, click on Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center.
I've been to the facility a couple times, it's world class and one of the finest facilities in the country. And if you're interested in wheelchair sports such as basketball or rugby, this is the place to go! I've had the opportunity to meet the Ability360 operators and a few rugby team members and was very impressed!
Valet vs. Self Parking
Please note that many hotels, especially donwtown-area hotels, charge exorbitant prices for both valet and self-park garages.
Because I drive a converted van with hand controls and a transfer and swivel seat, I prefer not having valet attendants drive or park my vehicle. I prefer to find hotels with self-parking options and have attempted to note such facilities whenever possible.
Hiring a Taxi (from baggage claim)
- From each Terminal follow the signs to TAXI which will take you across the street/crosswalk to the median and a Taxi dispatcher. Wheelchair accessible taxis are available. Waiting time for accessible taxis is generally only 5 minutes.
- Click Here for information on to reserve an accessible Taxi in advance.
Phoenix Sky Train
The Phoenix Sky Train is free and very wheelchair accessible but has a short route of about 2 miles. It has 3 stops which connects Terminal 4, the East Economy Parking and the 44th St Station. (NOTE: From the 44th St. Station you can board the METRO Light Rail or City Bus, which connects you to the surrounding Phoenix area). From airport Terminals 2 and 3 you can take Airport Shuttle Bus (all are wheelchair accessible) to get to Terminal 4 and the Sky Train.
- From Terminal 2 or Terminal 3 go to the street level, go across the street/crosswalk to the median and Airport Shuttle Bus (about 50 feet).
- Take Airport Shuttle Bus (all are wheelchair accessible) to Terminal 4.
- Enter Terminal 4 on street level (Level 1) and take elevator to Level 3, then follow clearly marked sign to "PHX Sky Train to: 44th St/Metro".
- Go about 50 yards (very level) and take elevator up to Level 4 PHX Sky Train.
- Sky Train has very easy roll-on access for all size wheelchairs.
City Bus (From 44th St. Station)
There are only bus 2 routes available from this location. You connect to other Phoenix area bus routes from these 2.
- Once you're at the 44th St. Station take the elevator down to Level 1 (street level) and follow signs for CITY BUS.
- Bus 1 Washington takes you to downtown Phoenix and points west.
- Bus 44 takes you north on 44th Street/Tatum Blvd. (44th St turns into Tatum).
- All Metro buses are wheelchair accessible.
Making Restaurant Reservations
When you book a restaurant reservation, let them know that a member of the dining party is in a wheelchair. You will receive preferred seating for your convenience and restroom access.
Additionally, if you are meeting in a private or banquet area of a restaurant, make sure that it is wheelchair accessible and has accessible restrooms.
Medical Supplies & Repairs
Sometimes things go wrong. Items get lost or broken, wheelchairs lose a screw or fall apart, or you just need something that you forgot to pack along for the trip. Not to worry, the Phoenix area has some great medical supply and wheelchair repair companies ready to give you a hand.
Med-Equip Home Health
(Wheelchair Sales & Repairs)
14216 N 31st Street.
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Phone: (602) 971-7809
Southwest Medical & Rehab
(Wheelchair Sales & Repairs)
513 W Thomas Road.
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Phone: (602) 230-9493
(Medical Supplies & Repairs)
2311 W Utopia Road.
Phoenix, AZ 85027
Phone: (623) 780-8686
Serene Mobility and Lifts
(Medical Supplies & Repairs)
22505 N 19th Avenue.
Phoenix, AZ 85027
Phone: (623) 580-8500