“Where happiness lives.”
The Aruba Manual which was handed out to travel agents said, “an adventure in Aruba is most often found in a discovery of the unexpected.” The SATH Education on Site Group started their quest of this unexpected on June 15, 2005. We stayed at this beautiful island at the invitation of The Aruba Tourism Authority on a fact finding mission which involved study and familiarization of this “mouse of an island that roars”, with reason, “like a lion”!
Aruba is just 15 miles North off the coast of Venezuela and is approx. 70 sq miles (184 sq. kilometers. It is 19.6 miles (30 km) long and at the widest part 6 miles (9km) across. All that this island lacks in area is made up by the people with their well mannered and joyful nature.
Our trip started with a fabulous dinner courtesy of The Mill Resort & Suites.
The Mill Resort & Suites
J.E Irausquin Blvd 330, Palm Beach
(297) 586 7700 Fax: (297) 586 7271
Since the accessible room was occupied we were unable to see it. The corridor that leads to the room that we were able to see was made to be suitable for the environment of a beach resort. It is ideal when you have the guests coming in from the beach wet and full of sand. But it poses a big problem for the wheelchairs since the splints can get into their tires that can damage it… We were informed that in spite of the doors being not wide enough they were able to host a group of 30 guests with disabilities and they were commended for their services. The dinning area since it was outdoor was accessible. There are no facilities for the guests who are deaf and the blind.
On the second day, we started with a sumptuous breakfast at Holiday Inn where we had our accommodations. We then proceeded to experience the beauty of Aruba.
The Aruba Ostrich Farm is located on the road towards The Natural Bridge (297) 585 9630
The Aruba Ostrich Farm was opened recently. It is a 5-hectare farm to provide education as well as fun activities. The entrance to the reception area has a ramp. The front desk has to have a lower section for visitors using wheelchairs. The chairs, if you transfer into it may be a bit unsteady since they are rattan lounge chairs. The restrooms have a lot of space and the door is wide enough. They need to put in the grab bars. The pathway to see the ostrich and the rest of the farm is not paved and could be a bit too much if you are using a manual chair. They have to install facilities for the visitors who are deaf and blind.
The Natural Bridge
Since our visit, the Natural Bridge has collapsed into the sea. However it is still well worth your while to visit the location. There are no problems other than the rough surface to visit the Natural Bridge. There is a separate restroom for visitors using wheelchair. Unfortunately they have raised it on a platform which makes it very difficult or may be even impossible to transfer.
Casibari Rock Formations can be enjoyed from the ground level. Of course, there is no way a person with a wheelchair can get on to the top which gives you a fantastic view of the area.
The Butterfly Farm, J.E Irasusquin Blvd (across from Wyndham Aruba) (297) 586 3656 Fax: (297) 587 2344, has ramps to go into the reception area. But you have to go down a couple of steps to get into the butterfly viewing area. If you can manage to go in there it is well worth the effort. Guide was exceptionally good and detailed in his explanations.
After all that wonderful visits we were welcomed to Aruba Grand for a delicious lunch on the varanda overlooking the swimming pool. The service we got was impeccable.
Aruba Grand Beach Resort &Casino
J.E Irausquin Boulevard #79, Palm Beach
This Palm Beach hotel has 135 deluxe rooms that have been recently renovated.
The lobby is at the same level and manageable . Facilities for people who are deaf and blind are lacking and have to be looked into.There were adapted rooms some with roll in shower and others with bath tubs. The ones with bathtubs were suitable for people using wheelchairs who could stand up to get into the tub. The Roll-in shower has proper declination for the water to drain off. The bathroom mirror is too high which can be remedied by just tilting it forward.
The clothes rack in the closet was too high, which can be very easily remedied. The door handles are round and can pose a problem for people with little or no hand dexterity. The locker in the closet is not accessible since it is located too high for anyone using a wheelchair. We were informed that one of the reasons for this is the fact that they want it to conform to the rest of the rooms and to the other facilities.The rooms do not provide any facilities for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The outdoor dining area is accessible to wheelchairs. The tables have enough leg room. There are no Braille menu cards and the staff is not trained to deal with people who are deaf or blind.
Pool area is accessible but the way to the pool side with a wheelchair is longer and one has to go around the area to get there.
We were taken to a suite which has two huge windows that open out to the magnificent view of the sea which is breathtaking!
Tamarijin Aruba All-Inclusive Beach Resort
J.E Irausquin Boulevard, #41, Druif Beach
Divi Aruba Beach Resort Mega All Inclusive
J.E Irausquin Boulevard, #45, Druif Beach
There are 236 and 203 rooms each in these two hotels.
Tamarijin : There are only two adapted rooms. They were occupied hence we could not see it. The lobby is level and easily accessed with wheelchairs. No audio and visual alarm systems installed.
Divi: The adapted room has a roll in shower and the door is 32” wide. The grab bars have to be repositioned which could easily be taken care of.
Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa
J.E Irausquin Boulevard #55, Eagle Beach
Tel: (297) 582-3444
The restaurant in this hotel has level entry just like the lobby. The doors to the rooms are not 32” wide. Since they are going into renovations recently they have plans to have accessible rooms put in. This was the place of our remarkable dinner on our second day.
Our third day started with breakfast at Amsterdam Manor
Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort
J.E Irausquin Boulevard, 252, Eagle Beach
(297) 587 1492 Fax: (297) 587 1463
Some of the rooms have an entry from the parking lot which would have been an ideal situation if only there were no steps to come into the room. The room is large enough to maneuver a wheelchair once the furniture is repositioned.. However the bath room door is not wide enough for a wheelchair. The shower area is apt to be transformed into a roll- in shower. The present breakfast area is not accessible since it has too many steps to go down to it. The lobby has a ramp to reach it and is level. There is a board which informs “We gladly provide assistive devices upon request” which brought a wide smile to everyone’s face. The service at this place makes up abundantly for lack of facilities.
Hyatt Regency Aruba Beach Resort & Casino
J.E Irausquin Boulevard, 85, Palm beach
(297) 233 1234 Fax: (297) 586 5478
As we arrived we were greeted in front of their ramp which gives you access to their lobby. There is a need for handrails which can be gripped easily, as well as one which does not have a large space between the wall and the rail, so that people with no dexterity and low mobility can easily walk up. The flooring is great for wheelchairs since there are no carpets and it is smooth sailing for them. The public phone has to be fixed lower. Every floor has at least one room that is adapted. The bathrooms have grab bars and some have roll-in showers. There are Braille signages on the doors. There are also audio visual alarms. The iron and safe have to be repositioned to a better height..
There is a lift to go down into the casino. They have a pool lift.
Aruba Marriot Resort
J.E Irausquin Boulevard, 101 Palm Beach
(297) 586 9000 Fax: (297) 586 0649
The floors in this hotel are light colored and does not have elaborate patterns which is a boon to people who have some form of visual impairment. But where ever there is carpet this advantage is lost since the design is too busy. Braille signage has to be put up. We were not able to see the rooms since they were all occupied. Marriot has a beach wheelchair and we found it to be a well kept secret. After a lot of persuasion and insistence, we managed to get them to dig it out of the storage where it has been kept. We met at least three of their guests who were delighted to find out about the beach wheelchair since someone in their group needed it to be together with the rest of them at the beach.The lobby, the restaurants, and the casino have wheelchair accessibility. The public rest rooms and the guest bathrooms have raised toilets with grab bars. Acording to their manager who showed us around, they do not have any roll-in showers. Nor do they have hand held shower heads.
Radisson Aruba Beach Resort & Casino
J.E Irausquin Boulevard, 81 Palm Beach
(297) 586 6555, Fax: (297) 586 3260
They have adapted rooms with roll-in shower and grab bars. The lobby is level entry. The convention area is accessible with accessible restrooms and elevator to get to the meeting rooms. The swimming pool is also level entry and is set in a very pleasing surrounding which invites everyone to get into it. The bar has lowered counter. They also have beach wheelchair. The outdoor restaurant by the beach and the swimming pool, where we were treated to a delicious lunch, has a ramp and the tables have ample space under them for the wheelchairs. The board walk which connects all these hotels are very accessible for wheelchairs
Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort & Casino
J.E Irausquin Boulevard, 77, Palm Beach
(297) 586 4466 Fax: (297) 586 8217
They have one of the rarest facilities for people with disabilities. A suite which is fully accessible! They call it the Cadillac of an adapted room. Even though we were unable to see it for ourselves, it was described in detail to us. The doors are wide enough to allow you to go out on to the balcony to enjoy the view. The hotel is remodeling another 14 rooms to be fully accessible. Their convention area and most of the restaurants are wheelchair accessible. More facilities have to be provided for the deaf and the blind. The public bathrooms have grab bars but needs raised toilets. Wyndham has wide paths which make it easy to be rolling around in wheelchairs or walkers.
On the fourth day we visited a private island – De Palm Island
Trips to this island is run from the Renaissance Hotel. The area where you get into the boat is not accessible unless you can take a few steps to climb down into it. Even for one of our participants who walks with the help of a cane it was a bit cumbersome to get into the boat. On the other hand when you reach the island they have provided ramps and other facilities. The restroom is accessible for someone who is ambulatory. Facilities for the deaf and the blind are non existent. It is amazing to see flamingos at the adult beach.
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
L.G. Smith Blvd, 82 Oranjestad
(297) 583 6000 Fax: (297) 583 4389
Even though this hotel was not part of our itinerary, we decided to go and lok around.
The lobby of Renaissance has a public rest room which has two grab bars fixed to the floor which prevents transfers any other way except the direct frontal transfer. The Crystal Casino can be reached using the elevators which are in this lobby. The casino is accessible. They provide a ramp which is brought in and placed over the several steps that leads to their shows if you inform them in advance. They provide listening devices for the hearing impaired.
The Seaport market place has ramps for a lot of the shops. So also the center of the city, where you have find many brand name shops, also provide a certain degree of accessibility. Even though they have provided many curb cuts more have to be placed. They have to plan the placement of the curb cuts better.
We met the manger at Red Sail Sports, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard 83
Palm Beach, 297-586-1603, Fax: 011 297-586-6657, who took us into their boat and showed how they could accommodate someone using a wheelchair. They even have an instructor who had handled divers with disabilities in Bonaire. Even though there are ramps to go to the pier on the side of the Atlantis Submarine it is very difficult for a person who uses a wheelchair and is not ambulatory to get into their boats for their submarine trips.
Most of the restaurants in downtown have ramps even though it would be hard pressed to find an accessible rest room inside.
Papiamento Restaurant, Washington 61, (297) 586 4544, is very unique in their ambience and the food that they serve. It has outdoor seating and is accessible. We did not get to find out if they had an accessible rest room since the one inside the house is not accessible
Aruba Destiny Restaurant (297) 586 1100
This is a newly built and commissioned one. They are at the site of the Old Mill. It is run by a mother and son team who takes such good care of you that you want to go back every day. Since the tables are placed in a huge veranda as well as inside the building Getting in there and having your meal, which is exquisite, is no problem. The restrooms are too narrow. If the law permitted to have just one restroom for both genders they could combine the two and make a good accessible one.
Nos Cunucu, Tanki Leendert, 145; (297) 582 7122 was an experience. We had the most amazing local food. It is possible to get into this restaurant because they have a ramp. But the restrooms are not. There are two steps leading to it and there isn’t enough space inside.
LabMedical, Fergusonstraat 52, P.O. Box 1147 (297) 582 6651 provides services apart from their sales such as renting wheelchairs, scooter, Hoyer lifts, hospital beds, commodes and a complete system of oxygen therapy with cylinders and concentrators. They have most of the equipments that one may need. We had the opportunity to visit his shop even though they usually do not open the shop on Saturdays. However their service is a 24/7 operation.
They were instrumental in Lite Life Medicab, Hoolberg Kavel E 2, Santa Cruz, (297) 585 9764, starting an accessible transportation. They have three vans which have lifts. Another transportation company which has a van is not quite reliable by his own admission. When ever the lift or the vehicle need a part he has to wait for weeks and is not able to provide the service.
DePalm tour that is the biggest transportation service in the island does not have a wheelchair lift equipped van yet. They provided us with all our transportation needs. We experienced that even though they do not have the equipment, they make it up a lot with their attitude. For sensitivity and consideration to the clients needs, De Palm drivers rate among the best.
Aruba has a new cruise Port. They have provided ramps to come into the building. However the restrooms do not have enough width for a wheelchair to go through. Grab bars are also absent. They have devised a ramp which is put on for the passenger to get on and off the ships.
At the Queen Beatrix International Airport facilities have improved a great deal since they rebuilt the airport. There are jet ways so arrivals and departures will not be much of a problem. There are accessible restrooms at the airport. The rental car facilities at the airport are not accessible. Most of the time they want you to leave the car there and lug your bags on your own to the terminal. It could pose a serious impediment to travelers with low mobility or using wheelchairs.
When our trip finished we felt as if we are leaving behind some of our family. The people in Aruba are definitely the reason why tourists go back again and again to this magical island. Somehow their attitude and care to attend to every desire of each and everyone makes you forget the physical features that may be lacking for a person with a disability. Our discovery of the unexpected was undoubtedly the people. They make all the difference!
Thank you, Aruba Tourism Authority and your magnificent staff, for an unforgettable five days in the golden sun, and the amazing trade winds!