Topics Covered:

Los Angeles: airport transportation, medical rentals, wheelchair taxis, the Staples Center, Universal Studios
Maui: airport transportation, accessible accommodations, hoyer rental, Lahaina, Old Lahaina Luau, accessible sightseeing tours, Haleakala, Hana
Oahu: accessible hotel, hoyer lift rental, airport transportation, Waikiki beach, accessible Waikiki cruises

For additional information on Oahu accessibility, see "AUSTRALIA/HAWAII 2000" & "KAUAI/BIG ISLAND 2002"
For additional information on Los Angeles accessibility, see "CALIFORNIA 2001"

By James Glasbergen

Our trip to Hawaii began with four days in Los Angeles. Since we could not get a non-stop flight from Toronto to Maui, we decided to stop over in Los Angeles for a few days before flying non-stop from LA to Maui. We then spent a week in Lahaina, Maui and a week in Waikiki, Oahu before returning home to Canada.

Upon arrival at LAX, we went out to the curb to find our accessible airport transportation. I had prearranged a ride with a company that had a wheelchair accessible minivan, so I did not have to wait long for their van to pull-up. They required advanced notice for the wheelchair van to ensure that it would be available on a particular day. They immediately brought us to the same hotel I stayed at on my previous trip to Los Angeles (see "California 2001"). We rented a lift from a company that rents out vans and medical equipment. They delivered the lift to and from our hotel.

Instead of renting a van, we decided to rely on wheelchair accessible taxis to get around town. We relied on two different companies. Overall, their response time was really good when they got their messages straight, usually within 15 or 20 minutes. However, we had a few problems with the first company's dispatchers messing up our calls. We used wheelchair taxis a total of 8 times in Los Angeles—6 with one company and 2 with another company. Our 2 experiences with the second company were great. Both times we were picked up within 10 or 15 minutes. Only 3 of our 6 rides with the first company went smoothly where we were picked up within 15 or 20 minutes. Twice we phoned the dispatcher for a taxi only to wait an hour, phone them back, and have them tell us that they had no record of our call. A couple times we waited for at least an hour and a half.

The other incident happened at Universal Studios. Apparently Universal Studios has a contract with a particular taxi company which gives that taxi the exclusive right to pickups at Universal Studios. Therefore, neither of the 2 taxi companies we had used could come and pick us up. Unfortunately, the company with the Universal contract did not have any wheelchair accessible cabs available. Therefore, we had a guest services agent from Universal call a different taxi company for us and give them permission to pick us up at Universal. We waited for about an hour for someone to come before getting the guest services guy to call again. They assured him that someone was on the way. After waiting another hour (in the cold rain) for a total of 2 hours, I called the taxi company myself to see what was going on, and the dispatcher had no record of our call and claimed they could not pick us up on Universal property. Therefore, we had to walk down the road off of the theme park grounds to the Universal Hilton, where the concierge was very pleasant and helpful. They called a taxi for us, and it arrived 10 minutes later.

We did not do a whole lot of sightseeing in Los Angeles since I was just there the previous summer. We went to a Laker game and a Kings game at the Staples Center. The Staples Center has a great range of accessible seating. Tickets for Laker games are extremely hard to get, though. I called the minute they went on sale before the season, and I got nothing but a busy signal for 3 hours before finally getting through to an operator. By that time, most games were sold out for the whole year and only scattered seating remained. I was lucky enough to get a couple wheelchair tickets way up in the upper level, although me and my friend were a section apart. Getting tickets for the Kings was a lot easier. We had excellent seats near the ice.

We also went to Universal Studios, which is probably one of the most accessible theme parks around. They had a helpful disabled guide available at guest relations that listed which attractions one can stay in their chair for and which attractions one had to transfer out of their chair for. The only disappointment came at the E.T. ride. It said in the pamphlet that there was an accessible car on the ride for people who want to remain in their wheelchair. The worker at the entrance to the ride told us the same thing, and that we would just have to wait a few minutes for them to bring out the accessible car. After a few minutes of waiting, a girl came out to help us. She looked at my electric chair and immediately said that I would have to transfer into their manual chair which had a special bar on the bottom that connected to the tie-downs, which my chair obviously did not have and therefore could not be tied down. I told her I could not transfer into their chair and she looked at me as if to say "sorry about your luck, there's nothing we can do." She basically stood there waiting for me to make a decision, so we left. The fact that the ride was clearly not totally accessible did not bother me, but it was irritating that the accessibility guide and the Universal worker both stated that I would not have to transfer out of my wheelchair, which was clearly not the case.

After some unusually cool weather in LA, we were happy to be on our way to Maui. Upon arrival at Kahului Airport, they immediately brought my chair to the door of the plane and helped with the transfer. An accessible taxi service was waiting outside the baggage claim with an accessible minivan to take us to our hotel. They were the only wheelchair accessible taxi company I could find in Maui, and they required reservations at least 24 hours in advance.

We stayed at a hotel in Lahaina. Our unit included a bedroom with two twin beds, a living room, and a kitchenette. It was very accessible. There was a nice roll-in shower and plenty of space under the bed to accommodate a hoyer lift. We rented a hoyer from a local medical company who delivered it to and from the hotel. It was nicely waiting for us upon our arrival at the hotel.

Lahaina itself was very accessible. There were curbcuts generally everywhere and most stores were accessible, although not all. There was only one beach in Lahaina and it was very small with not a whole lot of people, but that was fine by us. For those wanting a nice beach, Ka'anapali Beach is 4 miles north of Lahaina. It is a big touristy beach 3 miles long and lined with hotels and resorts.

On our first night in Lahaina we went to the Old Lahaina Luau. It is generally regarded as the best luau in Maui. We made reservations a month in advance because they always sell out. In fact, they turn away people every night who just show up hoping to get in. We walked to the luau all the way from our motel. It was quite a ways, probably a bit more than a mile, but easily walkable if you don't mind the exercise. Anyway, the luau was really good. It was totally accessible, and the food and the entertainment were great.

We took three island tours with a sightseeing company that had a wheelchair accessible bus. I was told the bus should be reserved at least 2 weeks in advance. The first tour picked us up at 3 a.m. and brought us to the top of Haleakala volcano to see the sunrise. I was told the sunrise is phenomenal from up there. Even when it is overcast and raining down below, the viewing area is usually above the clouds so it doesn't matter. Unfortunately we went on a bad day because when we got to the top, we were still in a huge cloud of cold misty rain and fog and could not see 10 feet in front of us, so we didn't see a thing. We waited around for an hour hoping it would clear, but it never did, so we ended up going back to our hotel having seen nothing. We were told that this doesn't happen too often, but that it does happen—no kidding. Oh well, it gives me an excuse to go back to Maui!

The second tour involved going up Haleakala again, this time during the day, as well as a drive through Wailuku and the Iao Valley. Thankfully for us, it was a crystal clear day this time, so we actually saw something from Haleakala. The views from the crater and the summit of Haleakala were spectacular. Just a note for quadriplegics though. I experienced a little bit of dysreflexia both times as we neared the top of Haleakala due to the high elevation (10,000 feet). It was nothing major, just some sweating and a tingling sensation in the face. I didn't understand it at first because I felt fine and the thinner air didn't affect my breathing at all (I didn't even notice the difference), but I found out later that high and low altitudes do apparently have that affect on quadriplegics.

The last tour we took was a scenic drive along the road to Hana. It was a very bumpy ride along the eastern and southern coast on winding, single-lane gravel roads. The driver warned me when we started the tour that it was not very wheelchair friendly given the tremendously bumpy and rough nature of the roads. It was well worth it though because the scenery along the coast was amazing. I would not advise trying to drive this road yourself because there were a lot of sharp, hairpin turns and it was mostly cliff driving on single-lane roads, so I was thankful to have an experienced driver doing our tour.

At the end of the week it was time to fly to Oahu and spend another week in Waikiki. I was sad to leave Maui because I enjoyed it even more than Oahu (and that's saying something), which I had been to once before in 2000. I just found Maui to be far less busy than Oahu with beautiful scenery and more sunshine (at least in Lahaina) than in Waikiki.

In Waikiki, our wheelchair accessible room had one bed in the bedroom, a sofa bed in the living room, and a bed that pulled out of the wall in the living room. Unfortunately, the door to the bedroom was so narrow that I could not even get through it, and my wheelchair is not even overly wide. That left the sofa bed for me. The bathroom was pretty good, although small and tight. It did have a roll-in shower.

One thing I did not like about the hotel was their policy regarding their wheelchair accessible rooms. When I made the reservation through e-mail, she sent back a confirmation e-mail and noted that while the wheelchair accessible room was requested on my reservation, it could not be guaranteed. This was the first time I ever heard of this, so I asked what exactly that meant. Apparently if the hotel is full, their ADA rooms may be given away to someone else (who might not even be disabled), which means a disabled person arriving the next day who had made a reservation for the ADA accessible room could be out of luck. I immediately wrote back to them and told them what I thought of their policy. A disabled person has to be able to rely on certain accommodations when they are on vacation because normal rooms will not work for many people. She wrote back saying that it was indeed their policy, but that it is usually never a problem. I kept the reservation because the hotel is at a great location and it has a pool on the roof located on the 27th floor. I thought it would provide a cool view of the beach and the city, but it was highly disappointing as you could not see much more than other buildings.

I had made a reservation to rent a hoyer lift from a local medical company. Unfortunately, it was not there yet when we arrived so I immediately phoned them to make sure it was coming. The lady told us that someone must have written the wrong date down because she had the hoyer scheduled to be delivered the next day. There was no one that could bring it out to us that day either since it was already after 5 p.m. However, she promised it would be there first thing in the morning and she gave us a 10 percent discount for the inconvenience. This was fine with us, although it meant a couple of manual transfers for my attendant which are not easy. I guess the lesson is to always confirm the reservation the day before you arrive.

For our airport transfers, we used an accessible taxi service. Although they were quite reliable, they required reservations 24 hours in advance and were quite expensive. Airport transportation round-trip from Waikiki costed $80. We also used them to bring us to Aloha Stadium which costed $90 round-trip. The only thing that concerned me about them was that I think you could only reach them during office hours, so if you had a late night ride scheduled and they missed it for some reason, there was no emergency number where you could contact someone. I asked one of the drivers about this and he did not really know what to say. (Note: I asked the dispatcher about this question on my next trip to Hawaii, and she said that there is always someone on duty at night who checks the messages regularly.)

We did not do a whole lot of sightseeing in Oahu this time. We spent a lot of time sitting on Waikiki beach, which is still the most wheelchair friendly beach I have ever been to since the sand is actually hard enough in certain places for a wheelchair to wheel right on to the sand. We also took a lunch cruise which began and ended at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. They provided round-trip transportation from Waikiki aboard a wheelchair accessible motorcoach. The cruise ship itself was totally accessible. There were accessible bathrooms and an elevator enabling wheelchairs to get to all four decks.

For additional reviews on Hawaii, see:

Hawaii Pictures:


For additional accessibility information on Los Angeles, see:

Los Angeles Pictures:

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