Thanks to provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act, most public places in the U.S. are required to comply with disability-friendly regulations. Almost all public establishments (including hotels, restaurants, museums, and so on, but not certain National Historic Landmarks), and at least some modes of public transportation provide accessible entrances and other facilities for those with mobility challenges.
The America the Beautiful -- National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass -- Access Pass (formerly the Golden Access Passport) gives visually impaired or permanently disabled persons free lifetime entrance to federal recreation sites administered by the National Park Service (NPS).
The America the Beautiful pass can only be obtained in person at any NPS facility that charges an entrance fee. The pass also offers a 50% discount on some federal-use fees for facilities such as camping, swimming, parking, boat launching, and tours. For answers to common questions, visit www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm or call the United States Geological Survey (USGS; tel. 888/275-8747), which issues the pass.
Though hundreds of hotels and restaurants in North Carolina now provide easy access for those with disabilities, it's always a good idea to call before you book to find out just what the situation is.
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), Access-Able Travel Source (tel. 303/232-2979; www.access-able.com), and Accessible Journeys (tel. 800/846-4537 or 610/521-0339; www.disabilitytravel.com).
Organizations that offer assistance to travelers with disabilities include MossRehab (tel. 800/CALL-MOSS [225-5667]; 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.
Also check out the quarterly magazine Emerging Horizons (www.emerginghorizons.com).
A helpful website for assistance while traveling in the U.S. is www.disabilityresources.org, a nonprofit group that supplies information about available resources. Just click on the state you are traveling to.
Amtrak (tel. 800/USA-RAIL [872-7245]; www.amtrak.com), with 24 hours' notice, will provide porter service, special seating, and a discount.
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.