Wheelchair Accessible Branson, MO, 2005
by Judy Schletty 2005


Judy Schletty and Randy, her boyfriend, of Minnesota,  tackled Branson, MO, access again and share their hits and misses with our readers.

My boyfriend (companion) Randy and I took our third trip to Branson, MO,  last May, 2005. Our second Branson, MO, trip was written up as a feature trip last year.


Unfortunately, we were treated atrociously by several different businesses on our trip to Branson last May. I made the mistake of trusting a Branson Tourism Sales Agent to make wheelchair friendly reservations for us because we decided to be luxurious this year and not go on a  high-pressure timeshare sales tour, even though a tour like that generally includes some of your lodging, entertainment and dinners. The sales agent at the Branson Tourism Center, who  helped us plan our trip over the phone last spring, acted like it was a nuisance to answer all the accessibility questions we had and then when we arrived a day early in Branson, the first thing she said to us was,  "You're not suppose to be here until tomorrow."


By arriving early, we found that the information packet the sales agent gave us at the Branson Tourism Center didn't contain a complete coupon book, so we had to drive back and argue to get the more complete book which included many bargains for the various theaters in town (Buy one ticket and get one free). That was the kind of coupon book we had received last year. 


We found an excellent motel on our own (The Dutton Theater) our first night in Branson. Because we had reservations at this motel, they also gave us discount tickets to their show (excellent accessible seats to a great show) about an hour before curtain call.


Our Branson Tourism Center sales agent told us over the phone that we should get our tickets in advance or they'd be all sold out or we wouldn't be able to get good seats. This sales agent made reservations for us to attend the Baldknobber's show as part of our package, and I told her we needed accessible wheelchair seating. However, the seating she got for us was close to the front and in the center of the row. Since my companion couldn't transfer to this kind of seat, we had to sit along the far side wall where all the wheelchair seating is located. Most of the theaters we attended in Branson this year were only half filled and I can't remember seeing any 'no vacancy' signs lit up in front of the motels. 


The hotel our sales agent got for us was not accessible at all (Oak Grove Hotel). Their staff treated us like we were prisoners and I could hear the people in the next room whispering! My boyfriend who uses a wheelchair almost fell in their small, slippery shower, which was not ADA compliant.  The next day I spoke to the manager of the Branson Tourism Center, and he found us much better lodging at the Classic Motor Inn. This family-owned motel has quite a few rooms which are accessible -- large bathrooms, a roll-in shower, two double beds and a continental breakfast. We also appreciated their kind and friendly service.  The rule is that you must not bring food from the continental breakfast up to your room, but since my companion uses a wheelchair, I was allowed to take food back up to our room for my companion, even though they have an elevator to get to the lower level.


We especially enjoyed the Circle B Chuckwagon Supper and Cowboy Music Show. The food was excellent and so were the hosts, a family from the Black Hills, who were invited to come to Branson. The theater is on N. Wildwood Dr., across from the Grand Palace and next to Branson Variety Theater (www.circlebchuckwagon.com). Make sure you arrive at least 45 minutes early to this theater because you'll get to watch old black and white cowboy movies on a large screen while eating popcorn and drinking root beer before supper and the show. 


If you go to Eureka Springs, be sure to get there early, too,  if you decide to take the accessible van to take a tour of the Holy Land.  The accessible van takes off on their last trip of the day at about 2:00 p.m. and we arrived about 20 minutes later. Nice, however, that a ticket agent called the driver of the van back to pick us up so we could go on the tour.  Some of the van stops were not accessible (the Nazareth home of Jesus), but the kindness and compassion of our tour guide more than made up for my companion not being able to go through the house. I believe somebody told us that their Passion Play takes about three hours, but we didn't stay for that because it is in the evening. 


When I explained, via e-mail, about some of the problems we had in Branson to  Mel Tillis' daughter, who is a manager of the Mel Tillis Theater  (now called The Tri-Lakes Center where we attended a non-denominational church service on Sunday), she  apologized for the way we were treated in Branson and said that while we may have felt like we were given a black eye, we should not judge Branson by the way some of their businesses treated us as they are not representative of all the businesses in their city.  She also said that she hoped we wouldn't write Branson off our list and that we will come back again. The pastor of the church even wrote me and said that he would help us if we ever plan to travel to Branson again. 


The Tri Lakes Center also books various entertainers throughout the year. Their wheelchair seating is excellent with theater seats cut out in many different locations to accommodate wheelchairs and their restrooms are the best I've seen in Branson.


Many of the problems we had in Branson had to do with the various theaters' wheelchair seating and the nasty attitude of the staff when I complained. One theater referred to my companion in his wheelchair as a 'fire hazard' and again stuck us along the far side wall where he had a difficult time seeing and hearing the stage. Last year we went to the same theater and were given front row seats to the Haygoods. This year, we saw the Tribute to Red Skelton at this theater. My companion said he considers their handicapped accessible restrooms, dangerous.


Because we encouraged friends (a couple who are also handicapped) to go on a Branson sales tour last May and they purchased a timeshare, we may be able to travel to Branson again with them. Will make sure they know where and where not to go in Branson. Some day in the not too distant future, I hope we can travel to Branson at Christmas time because the whole city is lit up. Last year when we traveled to Branson, we arrived with a tornado and it rained just about every day.


When I mentioned some of the accessibility problems we had in Branson to handicapped organizations in Minnesota, they suggested I complain to the U.S. Department of Justice.  Hopefully, however, the theaters and hotel where we had problems, will take it upon themselves to voluntarily make their businesses more accessible, since I understand I am not the first person to complain about accessibility problems in Branson. I also believe our disabled and handicapped citizens are making the public more aware that accessibility is not just a nicety, it is now a law in the United States and has been for 15 years.


We must, we must, all believe because we're not alone!


Don't miss Read Judy Schletty's 2004 Branson, MO, report.

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