A Taste of L.A.
by Joye Dyer 1999    

Joye Dyer and a friend spent a whirlwind three days in Los Angeles and returned to share their insights.

Los Angeles, CA photoLos Angeles is more than a great big freeway; it’s a fun, lively metropolis with every type of entertainment available for disabled travelers.

I flew there with an able-bodied friend in November ’98, and we made the most of our three days there. We flew in from Portland, Oregon on Southwest Airlines – a superb airline that shows respect for both the wheelchair user and the chair he/she rode in on.

After renting a car at LA Airport, we drove to our Santa Monica Days Inn Hotel at 3007 Santa Monica Blvd. – approximately $80 per night plus tax (with our AAA discount) for an "accessible" double. This is a small, modern hotel room with fridge, TV, air conditioning and adequate room to maneuver, but the bathroom was hopeless.  Although the bathroom had a wide door, there was very little maneuvering room to reach the toilet or tub without assistance. There was no grab rail by the toilet, and the grab rail in the tub was placed in the far corner and almost seemed like an afterthought. No handheld shower or shower chair was available. I borrowed a deck chair for the shower. The sun deck, sauna, and exercise equipment on the top floor were accessible. On the plus side, Santa Monica is a lively part of the L.A. area, and our hotel was only a short drive to the Santa Monica Pier and the Promenade.

The Santa Monica Promenade, at the end of Santa Monica Blvd., is a super place to roll, shop, snack, people watch or enjoy the musicians, mimes, and performance artists who perform nightly on the mall. The Promenade is chock full of accessible shops, including a wonderful Borders Bookstore and a music store called Hear that allows patrons to pop a walkman on and sample any CD they fancy before buying.

For snacks we liked:

Benitas Frites, 1437 3rd Street Promenade. They offer Belgian-style fried potatoes with a delicious range of toppings from chili to garlic to jalapeno, green peppercorn and a host of others for about $2.50.

The Broadway Deli at the far end of the Promenade had delicious, inexpensive sandwiches,  potato salad, pastries croissants, and cookies. The restaurant was very accessible, but I didn’t check the bathroom.

Venice Beach is also a fun spot with plenty of entertainment. Arts and crafts, whirling skaters, and a sideshow of performance artists make this a lively place. One enterprising fellow set up dummies that looked like creatures from outer space sitting on the beach.  For a donation, he would snap a Polaroid shot for you as a souvenir.

Disneyland in Anaheim has all the lively sights, sounds, and colors that blanket their TV ads, etc, but in my opinion it falls short of being usable for many adult wheelchair visitors. The various rides’ small seating capsules proved too challenging for me to squeeze into. I am not a large person (5’7"’ and about 110 pounds). I can, however, see how a disabled child could be easily lifted into a ride  by a parent (but what if a parent needs to sit beside the child to steady him/her?). A disabled adult with good upper body strength and gymnast flexibility could squeeze into the small seating capsules, but for me, the Monorail and perhaps the Mark Twain Riverboat rides seemed like the most accessible rides the park had to offer. Long lines accompany each ride, so the management allows wheelchair users to enter the rides through the exit gate. Disabled riders must be able to enter and exit the rides quickly, which leaves many out in the cold. Accessible bathrooms were available, but they could never be mistaken for an amusement ride. I left the park wondering why Disney didn’t provide at least one longer seating capsule on each ride that would provide easier access.

The highlight of our trip was the new Getty Center. It would be difficult to find a more accessible museum than this one, sitting high on a hilltop overlooking Los Angeles. Of course, the fact that the museum had a few billion dollars to throw at the design and art exhibits had to make a difference. We took the San Diego Freeway to the Getty Center Drive exit. We found ample accessible parking and then took an elevator to the accessible high-tech tram ride to the top of the hill. After a  five-minute ride, an incredible view of LA lay at our feet.

The Getty Center Los AngelesThe Getty has five two-story pavilions that are situated in a courtyard with fountains. Everything is easy rolling including several eateries and a wonderful garden.

The pavilions house an amazing collection including Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Munch, Pissarro, Rousseau, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and Albrecht Durer. Photography, Greek and Roman antiquities, 17th and 18th century French decorative arts, and illuminated medieval manuscripts are also on display.

A full-range of eating spots is available. Visitors can either bring their own snacks and use the  tables on the plaza or choose a variety of meals from either the restaurant or several cafes.

Admission is free, but reservations are necessary as there are only 1,200 parking spaces. Parking is $5.00. Call The reservation line at (310) 440-7300. Hearing impaired people may call (310) 440-7305.

We left the "city of angels," vowing to return one day.

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