Most disabilities shouldn't stop anyone from traveling. There are more options and resources out there than ever before. Because of Madrid center's narrow roads and endless flights of stairs, though, visitors with disabilities may have difficulty getting around the city. But conditions are slowly improving: Newer hotels are more sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities, and the more expensive restaurants are generally wheelchair-accessible. Newer stations on the metro have increasing facilities, including more escalators or sliding stairs and lifts covering all levels. However, since most places of interest have very limited, if any, facilities for people with disabilities, consider taking an organized tour specifically designed to accommodate such travelers.
If you're flying around Spain, the airline and ground staff will help you on and off planes and reserve seats for you with sufficient legroom, but it is essential to arrange for this assistance in advance by contacting your airline.
Avis has an "Avis Access" program, which offers such services as a dedicated 24-hour toll-free number (tel. 888/879-4273) for customers with special travel needs; special car features such as swivel seats, spinner knobs, and hand controls; and accessible bus service.
The community website iCan (www.ican-network.com) has destination guides and several regular columns on accessible travel. Also check out the quarterly magazine Emerging Horizons (www.emerginghorizons.com) and Open World magazine, published by SATH .
For the blind or visually impaired, the best source is the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), 15 W. 16th St., New York, NY 10011 (tel. 800/232-5463 to order information kits and supplies, or 212/502-7600; www.afb.org). It offers information on travel and various requirements for the transport and border formalities for Seeing Eye dogs. It also issues identification cards to those who are legally blind.
Other organizations that offer assistance to travelers with disabilities include MossRehab (www.mossresourcenet.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.
For British travelers with Disabilities -- The annual vacation guide Holidays and Travel Abroad costs £5 from Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR), Unit 12, City Forum, 250 City Rd., London EC1V 8AF (tel. 020/7250-3222; www.radar.org.uk). RADAR also provides a number of information packets on such subjects as sports and outdoor vacations, insurance, financial arrangements for persons with disabilities, and accommodations in nursing care units for groups or for the elderly. Each of these fact sheets is available for £2. Both the fact sheets and the holiday guides can be mailed outside the United Kingdom for a nominal postage fee.
Another good service is Holiday Care, 2nd Floor Imperial Buildings, Victoria Road, Horley, Surrey RH6 7PZ (tel. 01293/774-535; fax 01293/784-647; www.holidaycare.org.uk), a national charity that advises on accessible accommodations for elderly people or those with disabilities. Annual membership costs £25 (U.K. residents) and £40 (abroad). Once you're a member, you can receive a newsletter and access to a free reservations network for hotels throughout Britain and, to a lesser degree, Europe and the rest of the world.
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.