Most disabilities shouldn't stop anyone from traveling, even in the islands, where ramps, handles, accessible toilets, automatic opening doors, telephones at convenient heights, and other helpful aids are just beginning to appear.
Some hotels provide rooms specially equipped for people with disabilities. These improvements are ongoing; inquire when making a reservation whether such rooms are available.
A majority of hotels here consist of bungalows separated from the restaurant, bar, and other facilities, sometimes by long distances. A few upper-end resorts have golf carts or other means of transporting their guests around their properties, but most hotels do not. Anyone who has trouble walking should request accommodations near the central facilities. Make this absolutely clear when you or your travel agent make your reservations, preferably in writing. Not all hotels remember to honor such requests, so take copies of your request with you, and reiterate it when checking in.
The major international airlines make special arrangements for travelers with disabilities. Be sure to tell them of your needs when you reserve. Repeat it at the check-in counter for Air Tahiti Nui, which does not have a pre-boarding option at all airports, and whose planes often park out on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport, where you may ride a bus and then climb up stairs into the aircraft.
Airport security and Customs officials also will make special arrangements for travelerswith disabilities, but this is not always obvious and must be requested.
Although Air Tahiti and Air Moorea, the domestic carriers, use small planes that are not equipped for passengers with disabilities, their staff members go out of their way to help everyone get in and out of the craft.
Organizations that offer a vast range of resources and assistance include MossRehab (tel. 800/CALL-MOSS; www.mossresourcenet.org); the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) (tel. 800/232-5463; www.afb.org); and SATH (Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality) (tel. 212/447-7284; www.sath.org). AirAmbulanceCard.com is now partnered with SATH and allows you to preselect top-notch hospitals in case of an emergency.
Access-Able Travel Source (tel. 303/232-2979; www.access-able.com) has a comprehensive database on travel agents from around the world with experience in accessible travel; destination-specific access information; and links to such resources as service animals, equipment rentals, and access guides.
Many travel agencies offer customized tours and itineraries for travelers with disabilities. Among them are Flying Wheels Travel (tel. 507/451-5005; www.flyingwheelstravel.com); and Accessible Journeys (tel. 800/846-4537 or 610/521-0339; www.disabilitytravel.com).
Flying with Disability (www.flying-with-disability.org) is a comprehensive information source on airplane travel. Avis Rent a Car (tel. 888/879-4273) has an "Avis Access" program that provides services for customers with special travel needs. These include specially outfitted vehicles with swivel seats, spinner knobs, and hand controls; mobility scooter rentals; and accessible bus service. Be sure to reserve well in advance.
Also check out the quarterly magazine Emerging Horizons (www.emerginghorizons.com), available by subscription ($16.95 a year U.S.; $21.95 outside U.S.).
The "Accessible Travel" link at Mobility-Advisor.com (www.mobility-advisor.com) provides a variety of travel resources.
British travelers should contact Holiday Care (tel. 0845-124-9971 in U.K. only; www.holidaycare.org.uk) to access a wide range of travel information and resources for travelers with disabilities and seniors.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.