Wheelchair Accessible Sanibel Island, Florida
by Rebecca Mahoney 1995

In June 1995, Rebecca Mahoney and her husband, Dan, hit the beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida for an accessible holiday.

 We flew into Ft. Myers, Florida. Their airport was totally accessible. We experienced no problems, but we did not use the restrooms, however. We had an interesting experience on the plane. The USAIR plane was very full and they had reserved seats apart for my husband and I. We explained at the airport that we needed to sit together in case my husband needed assistance. So they put us in first class at no additional charge! It was really nice to have the extra room. Wish all airlines were so generous!

We rented a car from Hertz, and it was waiting for us at the airport. It was equipped with hand controls and so my husband did most of the driving. The only bad part was that all they had was a four-door car, so I had to assist Dan with putting his wheelchair into the car. He can do this independently with a two-door car. They did upgrade the car to a larger model at no extra charge. The rental car did not have handicapped plates so it is important to bring your placard. I think you do need a car to get the most out of Sanibel. The restaurants and shops are quite a distance from the beach. Around the beach area, along the road is a nice paved flat bike path which is conducive to wheelchair strolls.

We stayed at the West Wind Inn, (1-800-824-0476). Their office has one step, but they are very nice, though and will come outside to meet you. The price for off-season (June) was around $90.00 per night. The room had two double beds, a patio, and refrigerator. The bedroom was totally accessible around beds and furniture. The patio had a small lip over the sliding glass doors. The bathroom had a wheelchair accessible door, raised toilet, and and a sink with a cutout for a wheelchair to fit. There was a grab bar on the tub, but no toilet grab bar and no provided tub bench. The swimming pool at West Wind is accessible except for the poolside bar which is up a few steps.

My husband and I are basically beach bums, so we did not do any structured activities. The beach was flat and reasonably accessible. You have to roll across grass and firm to semi soft sand, but the beach is not too wide. We were able to manage with me helping to push. The return was slightly uphill. We rented a cabana (attached beach chairs with an umbrella). The water was calm so my husband was able to bump in and swim. Be careful of lots of shells, though! There is a wildlife sanctuary nearby which has a driving tour and a bike path. There are many accessible shops in town and The Everglades is an hour away.

Four restaurants we went to were: Tarwinkles, The Lazy Flamingo, The Bubble Room, Jacaranda and also the West Wind Inn Restaurant. All were accessible. The Bubble Room is very popular and is in a house with only a few wheelchair accessible areas. Be sure to make a reservation for this restaurant. The handicapped parking space at this restaurant is also hard to see. It is right by the door but hidden by trees; we missed it. Most of the other restaurants don't require reservations in the summer but they do in the winter.

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