November/December 2001

Vacation Made Easier
for the Disabled

The islands’ wonderful activities are to be enjoyed by all, yet disabled people often encounter many difficulties trying to do just that. A greater awareness of the needs of the handicapped, largely because of the 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act, is helping reduce the difficulties.
    Listed here is information for disabled residents and visitors concerning recreational or medical equipment as well as accommodations. Also listed are additional resources.

Beach wheelchairs are available from Billy’s Rentals (formerly Island Moped). “They have big balloon tires,” explains employee Charles Frese. “They are all-terrain wheelchairs with lap belts, meant for people weighing 40 pounds or more. They are not self-ambulating so someone is needed to push it.” Frese adds that the beach wheelchairs are wonderful for people who might otherwise be “gazing longingly at the beach.” In addition, the shop’s owner, Billy Kirkland, recently purchased a Duet, a tandem bicycle/chair that allows a rider to pedal while the person in front is in an attached wheelchair. Billy’s Rentals lends the Duet for free for up to four hours; it is available to rent for longer periods. 1470 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, 941/472-5248, 941/472-8717, or 800/575-8717;
    Kirkland also runs Billy’s Beach Service out of two resorts—Casa Ybel Resort Gift Shop, 2255 East Gulf Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-5253, and West Wind Inn Resort Gift Shop, 3345 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-8494. His wife, Sally, owns Petals Boutique and Bicycles, which operates as a rental agent for Billy’s Rentals. 2427 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, 941/472-4546 or 800/575-8717.
   Several shops in addition to Billy’s Beach Service have jogging strollers, which are popular for able-bodied and disabled children. The single jogging strollers hold about 50 to 60 pounds and the doubles hold about 90 pounds. Jogging strollers are available for rent on Captiva from Jim’s Rentals, 11534 Andy Rosse Lane, 941/472-1296. On Sanibel, you’ll find them at The Bike Route Inc., 2330 Palm Ridge Road, 941/472-1955,, and Finnimore’s Cycle Shop, Winds Center, 2353 Periwinkle Way, 941/472-5577.
    Certainly no one plans to get injured while on vacation but accidents happen, nonetheless. Walkers, crutches, leg braces, and wheelchairs are available from Sanibel Rental Service, an island mainstay for nearly two decades. Jogging strollers are also available. 2246 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Square, Sanibel, 941/472-5777 or 941/472-3900.
    “There’s definitely a need for items for disabled people, and for people who get hurt,” reports Anne Ramsey, co-owner of Island Rental Services, Inc. “We have a beach wheelchair but most people rent regular wheelchairs. There is a big demand for bathroom items. Every year we add a bit more; Island Rental Services recently acquired adult bed rails. This is a whole learning experience for me. We try and make everyone happy.” Ramsey’s company, which provides equipment delivery and pickup, also carries jogging strollers. 941/

    Well-known Sanibel resident Abe Lerner, who died in May at age 90, was
the cofounder of the invaluable FISH (Friends in Service Here) of Sanibel. It is a “private, nonprofit organization of neighbors helping neighbors, offering a variety of services to island residents and visitors.” Volunteers make up FISH, which does not charge any fees. Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, raised commodes, shower benches, and other pieces of equipment are available on a temporary basis. FISH requests that “the equipment receives proper care and is returned cleaned and in good condition after it has served its purpose.” Post Office Box 854, Sanibel, 941/472-0404.

When contacting the islands’ choice of about 75 hotels, cottages, and rental condominiums, you’ll find that ADA regulations differ depending on the establishment’s number of rooms and when the structures were built. Private owners of condominium units do not have to comply with ADA regulations. However, several Sanibel and Captiva rental agencies manage some private properties specially equipped for guests with varying degrees of disability. When booking them, be sure to describe the disabled person’s needs to help in locating exactly what you want.
    Royal Shell Vacations, Inc. reservation agent Sally Davies notes, “We have two ground-level homes, available for 28-day minimum rentals, that are wheelchair accessible. Both have wheelchair ramps although the bathrooms have not been renovated. We also have a couple of homes with elevators; one is on Sanibel and one is on Captiva.” 1200 Periwinkle Way, Suite 3, Sanibel, 941/472-9111 or 800/656-9111; fax 941/472-1033;
    “We try to find out how disabled the person is and tell people to book ground-floor units. Some people also might have a handicapped visitor coming,” explains reservation agent Valerie Ganim of Sanibel Accommodations. “Unit No. 233 at Loggerhead Cay was renovated this past year for disabled guests. It has a wheel-in shower with a seat in the shower. It is tiled throughout the unit and has wider doors.” 2341 Palm Ridge Road, Sanibel, 941/472-3191 or 800/237-6004;
    Sanibel Arms West has “two units in our rental program in which the owners have disabled adult children,” reports employee Kathy Sterner. “Those two units are always ready for someone in a wheelchair. Both are ground-floor units and have grab bars. There is a boardwalk to the beach.” 827 East Gulf Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-1138.
    Jennifer Kendera, property manager at VIP Realty Group Vacation Rentals, says a unit at Pointe Santo is designed to accommodate a paraplegic resident. “That unit has a step-in shower and the master bathroom doorway has been widened,” and Pointe Santo has redone its pathways and installed ramps, she says. “Also, first-floor units at Loggerhead Cay are known for being ‘handicapped friendly,’ ” Kendera adds. “Loggerhead has cement walkways to the pool and beach, and most guest bathrooms have a walk-in shower.” 1560 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, 941/472-1613 or 800/237-7526;
    Not planning to stay on Sanibel or Captiva? The Greater Ft. Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce keeps on hand an up-to-the-minute, four-page list of accommodations, with the letter “H” indicating the many places that are accessible to handicapped guests. Pick up a copy of the helpful list at the chamber’s visitor information center, or call and ask to have it faxed to you. The list includes resorts, hotels, motels, condominiums, campgrounds, and recreational vehicle parks. 17200 San Carlos Blvd., Ft. Myers Beach, 941/454-7500 or 800/782-9283; fax 941/454-7910.
    In Cape Coral, the 143-room Quality Inn Nautilus offers five rooms for disabled guests, including one that is equipped with a wheel-in shower. Employees in the inn’s reservations department emphasize that they keep the rooms open for disabled people, not booking them for able-bodied guests until the end of the day. 1538 Cape Coral Parkway, Cape Coral, 941/542-2121.
    Victoria Schlosser, director of sales and marketing for the brand-new Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, explains that the luxury hotel complex “definitely is ADA compliant, following all laws and regulations.” She adds, “There are 456 rooms on 15 floors, with two rooms per floor for disabled persons. The large lagoon pool in back has easy accessibility, and our restaurants are completely accessible.” 5001 Coconut Road, Bonita Springs, 941/992-9850.
    The 60-room Baymont Inn, which opened in the spring of 2000 in Bonita Springs, offers four ground-floor rooms for disabled guests. All four are on the first floor and feature “nice large bathrooms with wheel-in showers,” according to the reservations department. 27991 Oakland Drive, Bonita Springs, 941/949-9400.
    On a smaller scale, the Flamingo Motel in Bonita Springs has renovated one room to accommodate disabled guests. Wider doors and a higher toilet have been installed. 4330 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs, 941/992-7566.

Additional Resources
The Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce has a “For Handicapped” link on its Web site. 1159 Causeway Road, Sanibel, 941/472-1080;
    Get a copy of an Access Ability Guide by writing the Lee Island Coast Visitor & Convention Bureau, 2180 West First St., Suite 100, Ft. Myers, FL 33901 or call 800/237-6444.
The U.S. Department of Justice offers information on the Americans with Dis-abilities Act. Call 800/514-0301 or 800/514-0383 (TDD);
–Libby Grimm