I knew Miami Beach was a very special place the first time I visited eight years ago. In addition to its beautiful surroundings, I experienced freedom in a way I hadn’t since becoming disabled. Leaving my hotel unescorted, with book in hand and thoughts of an espresso milling around my brain, I was overcome with a sense of joy for the long lost autonomy I was experiencing. I ventured up Miami Beach’s famous Collins Avenue in my wheelchair and everything appeared more beautiful as I realized streets could be easily crossed because of predictable and uniform ramping, audible pedestrian signals and plentiful accessible bathrooms! One of the main reasons visitors come to Miami is to enjoy the beautiful beaches. Those of us who depend on a wheelchair for mobility know they don’t move too well in sand. Check with your hotel concierge who may be able to provide you with a beach wheelchair rental specifically designed for our sandy beaches. You may also contact DMR at 305-666-9911 to purchase or rent a beach wheelchair. See ad on page 20 for additional information. At no additional charge, they can provide transportation from the airport directly to DMR, and then to your hotel. Their specialized concierge service can even assist you with accessible accommodations, doctor’s appointments, dining, shopping and sightseeing!
By Helen Condzal Swar tz, M. Ed. Even on land Miami has so much to offer, which is why more than 50 percent of visitors return! This world class city has many venues for fine and performing arts, and hosts one of the two Art Basel events in the world. The Design District and Wynwood neighborhoods and ArtCenter/ South Florida (800 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, Map I-13) have ongoing art events and shows featuring different themes from local, national and international artists. The city of Miami itself hosts the exciting Food Network South Beach Food & Wine Festival (February), and the Miami International Film Festival (March) affords many opportunities to see unique films and attend question and answer sessions with actors, producers and directors. Much awareness has been brought about in recent years by a citywide event called Ability Explosion, a weeklong event in October featuring “Dining in the Dark” as one of its most popular events. In addition, almost every restaurant in Miami Beach is accessible for wheelchair use and many have a heightened awareness of the obstacles faced by those with vision limitations.
There is truly something for everyone in Miami, and a plethora of activities are available to those of varied physical abilities. The outdoors and watersports make the most of Miami’s beautiful surrounding waters, and some activities are even suited to the disabled traveler.
Miami-Dade County Public Transit buses are available to take visitors around Miami Beach, downtown and to/from the airport. Simply dial 3-1-1 (TTY: 305-499-8971) to speak to a live assistant who can explain bus routes and times. A helpful, and free, iPhone, iPad and Android app called “Miami-Dade Transit Tracker” also provides bus routes, stops and times. Additional information about Miami’s public transportation can be found on pages 46-47.
At Shake-A-Leg Miami (2620 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove, 305-858-5550, Map K-8), the world’s premier adaptive and community watersports center, experience the magic of Biscayne Bay on a kayak, stand-up paddleboard, sailboat, powerboat and more! (Note: No prior boating skills required.) Fishing trips can also be arranged, or bring a picnic and enjoy a waterfront view on the deck, dock or nearby island. See special offer on page 81.
I believe that Miami’s accessibility is the result of ongoing concern and deliberate planning by city government. The city has an abundance of beautiful and accessible public space, including an ocean walkway that goes north from South Pointe Park past 41 Street. I live in what has been called one of the most accessible cities in the United States!
Programs are available for children and adults with physical and developmental challenges; liberating them from the realm of imagination, into the realm of experience! Shake-A-Leg Miami is South Florida’s “Gateway to Biscayne Bay.” 80