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Las Vegas is Very Accessible...

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    Las Vegas is Very Accessible...


    Las Vegas above average when it comes to meeting needs of disabled clientele


    Ricardo Rodriguez selects a drink at Mandalay Bay's gift shop April 8. "I think, as a wheelchair user, it's hard to get better overall accessibility than on the Strip," the California resident says.
    Photo by John Locher.

    Ricardo Rodrigez works on his computer in his room at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay in April. The 36-year-old lawyer has visited Las Vegas an average of four to six times a year for the past 10 years.
    Photo by John Locher.

    Ricardo Rodriguez makes his way through the lobby of Mandalay Bay during his April stay.
    Photo by John Locher.

    A ceiling track lift device hangs over the bed in one of the specially equipped rooms for the disabled at The Mirage.
    Photo by John Gurzinski.

    A roll-in shower is in a handicap accessible room at the Imperial Palace. Resorts built such amenities after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
    Photo by Isaac Brekken.

    For years, when Californian Ricardo Rodriguez arrived at McCarran International Airport, he bypassed the taxi line and hired a private car to drive him to his Strip hotel.

    The ride was $40 one-way and though he could afford it, Rodriguez didn't do it for luxury's sake. It was the only way to ensure he could get transportation in a reasonable period of time.

    On the occasions when he tried taking a cab, Rodriguez, confined to a power wheelchair for much of his adult life, often waited 30 minutes or more for a Strip-bound taxi that could accommodate his chair. That was a lot of waiting for a man who has visited Las Vegas an average of four to six times a year for the past 10 years. Most able-bodied visitors wait a few minutes for a cab at the most, he noticed.

    Rarely would he use a cab to get back to the airport, either. The service was just too unreliable to risk missing his plane, he said.

    But during the past five years, the situation changed. Now, the 36-year-old lawyer and father of two waits about 15 minutes for a wheelchair accessible taxi at the airport. He feels so certain of their availability that he uses one for his return trip, too.

    That improvement, something that may not have occurred to those who don't have to traverse a big city from the seat of a wheelchair, is indicative of just how accessible Las Vegas and the Strip are to those who do, Rodriguez said.

    "I think, as a wheelchair user, it's hard to get better overall accessibility than on the Strip," Rodriguez said. "I've traveled to a lot of different places and I think it's tough to find a place that is as readily accessible as Vegas."

    Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 specifies that businesses provide access to the disabled by widening doors, installing ramps, repositioning telephones and making other accommodations. Any business that provides services to the public, including casinos, falls under the law, said Bill Werner, an assistant professor who teaches hotel law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

    Overall, Strip resorts are accessible, said Paul Martin, director of Nevadans for Equal Access.

    "The casinos have done a pretty good job of making their places more user-friendly," said Martin, whose group serves as an ADA watchdog over local businesses. "They've provided wider aisles, ramps going to different areas; they've lowered some counters, made restrooms more user-friendly."

    Since the law's inception, complaints have been made against a handful of resorts. Currently, the Department of Justice is investigating possible accessibility violations at Mandalay Bay.

    "We do have an active ADA investigation of Mandalay Bay," said Eric Holland, spokesman for the Justice Department. "Because it's ongoing I cannot comment any further."

    In 1994 and 1995, complaints about lack of access were filed with the Justice Department against the MGM Grand; a settlement was reached in 1999.

    The Justice Department and New York-New York reached an agreement in December 2001 following a compliance review that began before the hotel was built and took more than two years to resolve.

    "The review was a cooperative effort resulting in a hotel and casino that has accessible gaming tables and penthouse suites," the Justice Department reported in a news release announcing the agreement.

    That agreement was reached based on a precedent-setting case decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Long v. Coast Resorts Inc.

    In that case, a wheelchair-bound tourist and the Disabled Rights Action Committee, a Utah-based nonprofit organization, sued The Orleans over accessibility issues, including bathroom doors that were too narrow. A confidential settlement was reached after the court's ruling, said the plaintiff's attorney, Rick Armknecht.

    Martin's group has twice filed complaints about The Venetian and a bridge at the property that he said is not accessible to people in wheelchairs. The Justice Department is reviewing the matter, he said.

    The Imperial Palace reached a settlement with the Justice Department earlier this year regarding a side stairway, said general manager Ed Crispell.

    Though it's scheduled to close, management must fix the problem, he added.

    Usually, monetary awards are not involved in settlements, unless a business doesn't fix the violation within a specified time frame, Werner said. Then the government assesses fines. The law also states that the plaintiff's legal fees be paid by the defendant.

    Despite these complaints, the Strip provides better access and service than any other travel destination in the country, said Candy Harrington, editor of Emerging Horizons, a magazine about accessible travel for the wheelchair user.

    "I think it's excellent, actually," Harrington said of her impressions of the Strip's access. "As far as our readers go, it's a very popular destination."

    Some hotels, such as The Mirage and Wynn Las Vegas, go beyond what the law requires, she noted. Both have ceiling track lifts in some handicap-accessible rooms, which aren't required by the Americans With Disabilities Act but are needed by some people in wheelchairs.

    "I can't think of another hotel in the U.S. outside of Las Vegas that offers that," she added.

    Resorts built after the law's passage feature similar amenities and services, including Braille signage for the blind; roll-in showers for wheelchair users; shake-awake alarm clocks that use motion instead of sound for the hearing impaired, in-room lights that alert hearing-impaired guests when someone knocks at their door and telecommunication devices, or TDD, for the deaf. Casinos also have tables that can accommodate wheelchairs, and sign language interpreters can be requested to interpret shows and concerts, said Tim Jones, MGM Grand's director of safety and ADA coordinator.

    By law, hotels must provide a certain number of rooms that are accessible to the disabled, somewhere between 1 percent and 5 percent, Jones said. The MGM Grand receives about five requests a day for a handicap-accessible room, and it usually has more than 100 available.

    Not every room provides every amenity. Some have roll-in showers while others have grab bars affixed to bathtubs.

    A roll-in shower is the one thing Rodriguez looks for when he travels. Over the years, he has stayed in many places, including the Stratosphere, Wynn, Treasure Island, The Mirage, The Venetian, Harrah's Las Vegas, Bellagio, Bally's, Paris Las Vegas, Aladdin, Monte Carlo, MGM Grand, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, The Hotel at Mandalay Bay and Four Seasons.

    Currently, his favorite place is Wynn for the casino and rooms with roll-in showers, king-sized beds and Strip views.

    "The one thing I have found the most annoying is that a lot of the hotels have put their accessible rooms with the worst views. You won't find an accessible room that faces the Strip" in most hotels, said Rodriguez, who has in the past toured hotel rooms to see if he would want to stay on future visits.

    Restaurants typically are the trickiest area when it comes to access, Harrington said. Because tables and chairs are movable, it's easy for a path of access to become blocked.

    Still, Rodriguez said that Strip restaurants are some of the more accessible he has encountered in his travels.

    Servers are trained to address the needs of disabled guests, Jones said. Sight-impaired guests can have menus read to them.

    Attorney Armknecht, who deals mainly with disability-related cases, agrees that Las Vegas does a good job of accommodating all visitors, disabled or not. But it's not enough, in his estimation.

    "Vegas overall is more accessible than many cities in the U.S. because it's so new. But because it's so new it should meet an even higher level of accessibility," he said.

    Armknecht credits the 9th Circuit Court decision in Long v. Coast Resorts Inc. with setting a standard for other resorts to follow.

    "With the Coast settlement, a lot of bigger resorts started talking seriously with the Justice Department," Armknecht said. "They decided they were no longer going to lock horns with the Department of Justice about these regulatory requirements. The case was precedent-setting and the (decision) was a bright ray of sunshine for the disabled-rights enforcement community."

    Resorts built before the Americans With Disabilities Act became law, such as most downtown properties, weren't required to be reconstructed, UNLV's Werner said. But they are under a legal requirement to make their properties accessible to the disabled.

    For instance, adding an elevator to an existing building is never required, he said, but installing grab bars next to toilets or widening doors are considered reasonable requests.

    Binion's Horseshoe reached a settlement with Nevadans for Equal Access in 2001 to improve restrooms and make other accommodations.

    The cost of making such changes to an existing structure can be inexpensive, Werner said, but not always.

    In the Long v. Coast Resorts case, representatives of The Orleans argued that the cost of fixing the bathrooms, estimated at $800,000, was too much of a financial burden to undertake. That argument failed, Armknecht said, because the resort was built after the law went into effect.

    "All of these economic interests are important when you're talking about structures that were built before the law," Armknecht explained. "But when you're talking about new construction, it's a very bright line. (The Orleans) couldn't argue against that."

    Anyone who believes a business is in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act can file a complaint with the Department of Justice, said Paul Martin, director of Nevadans for Equal Access.

    But just because a complaint is filed doesn't mean action will be taken. Not all complaints are found to be a violation of the act, Martin noted.

    For instance, in 1996, a woman complained to her congressman that two Las Vegas hotels required a blank credit card imprint to secure an assistive listening device. The Justice Department found that to be a reasonable request.

    Often, people will file a complaint without understanding the scope of the law. They are new to traveling and expect a hotel to have the same level of accommodations they have in their own homes, said magazine editor Harrington.

    The best thing to do if you think a business is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act is to contact a nonprofit organization that advocates for the disabled, such as Nevadans for Equal Access, Martin said. Or, contact the Justice Department's ADA hot line at (800) 514-0301.

    yeah Vegas is very accessible. The only thing that sucks is pushing a manual chair along that thick carpet in the casinos.


      or the carpet in the airport... (at least as of last Feb)


        Which hotels in Vegas have you guys stayed at and which ones do you like best? I'm going next week


          I've stayed at the Rio and the Venetian....both VERY accessible. The Rio was great because all the rooms are huge since they are all suites. Only problem it is not on the strip.


            I´ve stayed at the MGM, Caesar´s, Mirage, Bally´s and Luxor. All before my accident. Never been to Vegas after the accident. Was planning a trip this summer but my kids preferred to go on a cruise. Never been to a cruise either since my accident. Can´t say much other than vacation on a wheelchair is all new to me.
            T6 complete (or so I think), SCI since September 21, 2003


              I´ve been at the Bellagio, nice and plush. Excellent rooms but can be expensive. Treasure Island was good. Bally´s was so-so but worked out. So was the Flamingo. Mandalay Bay was good. Basic advice, the newer the hotel, the better the accessability but not neccessarily the best price. If your going to Vegas though, go for the gusto.
              "So I have stayed as I am, without regret, seperated from the normal human condition." Guy Sajer


                Has anyone rented an electric wheelchair in Vegas? Could you suggest a place to rent one and about how much it costs per day.
                C3/4 Brown Sequard


                  Originally posted by MattGimpin
                  yeah Vegas is very accessible. The only thing that sucks is pushing a manual chair along that thick carpet in the casinos.
                  ....or on the sunny side of the street of the strip in 115 degree heat,lol


                    Originally posted by MattGimpin
                    The only thing that sucks is pushing a manual chair along that thick carpet in the casinos.
                    Heh. That was the first thing I thought of when I saw this thread title. I once spent two entire months living in a hotel in Miami and my lats were huge at the end of it.



                      Anyone rent one of those 3 wheeled scooters and how'd that work out? I figure one of those would be great for the distance and carpets.


                        The hookers are accessible in Las Vegas as well.


                          I mostly want to rent a power chair because I am afraid of mine getting damaged on the airplane. I was thinking of travelling in my manual and then renting a power chair while there so I can go places by myself if I wanted and so noone would get tired of pushing me.
                          Does anyone know of a company that rents them?
                          C3/4 Brown Sequard


                            Call the motel your gonna stay at....they should have phone# to call....when I went a few years ago you could rent a chair.


                              Most accessible place I have ever visited. 12th trip this year since 1997. You can take a taxi from the airport or a shuttle. The taxi's are basically minivans with a ramp in the rear. When you go outside to get in the taxi line, just whistle the security guy over and he will call up an accessible taxi for you. That way you can avoid the long wait. Tell the taxi driver "No tunnel" so you don't get long hauled. Fare from the airport is about $12 + tip mid strip. Shuttles cost $8 a head one way. They are not reliable for the return trip to the airport - twice I had no-shows. We usually fly back at midnight so we have the hotel store our luggage until we get ready to leave. Be sure to give yourself extra time to get back to the airport because you will have to hail a WC taxi. I give myself 3 hours. You can take a Limo to and from the airport - $43 one way plus tip. Great if you are going with a group.

                              Hotels - I have stayed at Excalibur, Harrah's, Planet Hollywood, NYNY, and Treasure Island. All about mid price ~ $60 - $70 a night Sunday - Thurs. Prices go way up on weekends and during big events like New Years od the Super Bowl. I like Planet Hollywood because of the bang for your buck. They usually give me a free upgrade. Harrahs is my 2nd choice. The rooms are so so but it is near everything location wise. The hotel will always tell you they can't guarantee you a WC room but I always call 2-3 days in advance with my confirmation number and always get a WC room, no hassle.

                              Forget the monorail, to $$ and a pain in the ass to get to. Go with the bus. $5.00 for a 24-hour pass, buses run every 5 minutes, stop at every casino and are very accessible. It may look like a short hike from Bellagio to NYNY but it is a LONG haul in a WC. And yes, the carpet is a bitch.

                              Most of all - have fun!!! Set a daily budget and live by it. I budget $250 a day for my wife and myself and we never run out of $$. We are not high rollers but we both can play slots and table games and eat for $250 a day. Just don't get carried away. We go with a group of people and mainly casino hop.

                              Entertainment - Any of the Cirque shows EXCEPT Zumanity, Blue Man Group, Art Museums in the Bellagio and Venetian, Carrot Top. So many more I can't begin to name them all. Go to Dollar Rental at Mirage or Bellagio and get a car for the day. Much cheaper than the airport. Spend a day at Hoover Dam (a must see), 3 hours to the Grand Canyon, 2 hours to Bryce Canyon or Zion national Park in Utah. Get a Golden Eagle pass from National Park Service and you can see them all for free (except Hoover which is Dept of Interior). Also red Rock Canyon - 30 min drive or Valley of Fire, 45 minute drive.

                              Did I leave anything out? Cheap eats - Denny's next to Venetian, Lunchtime buffets change over to dinner at 5:00 PM. Go at 4:30 and pay the lunch price for dinner. Same goes for Breakfast/Lunch buffets. Most casinos have food courts. All have $$$$ restaurants if that is your game - Emeril L's, Wolfgang Pucks, Cheesecake Factory, Bobby Flays, Olives in Bellagio just to name a few. We always make a trip to Ellis island two blocks behind Ballys for the $4.95 steak (not on the menu, you have to ask for it). BTW I am a T-10 complete.
                              Last edited by monkster; 22 Jan 2008, 10:05 PM.