Most disabilities shouldn't stop anyone from traveling. Because of Portugal's many hills and endless flights of stairs, visitors with disabilities might have difficulty getting around the country, but conditions are slowly improving. Newer hotels are more sensitive to the needs of those with disabilities, and the more expensive restaurants, in general, are wheelchair-accessible. However, since most places have limited, if any, facilities for people with disabilities, you might consider taking an organized tour specifically designed to accommodate travelers with disabilities.
In general, facilities for persons with disabilities lag behind what is available in the United States or even in Spain. Of course, you'll fare better in big cities such as Lisbon and do less well in rural areas. Many modern museums are equipped to handle persons with disabilities, especially in Lisbon.
The preferred mode of transportation in Portugal for those with disabilities is the train. More and more stations have ramps, and many trains are equipped with wheelchair lifts, specially equipped toilets, and even separate seating areas. All Eurostar trains are wheelchair accessible and most InterCity (IC) trains and some EuroCity (EC) trains are as well. If a person with disabilities can drive a car, Hertz and Avis seem to offer the best selection of hand-controlled vehicles.
Organizations that offer assistance to travelers with disabilities include MossRehab (tel. 800/CALL-MOSS [225-5667]; www.mossresourcenet.org), which provides a library of accessible-travel resources online; the Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH; tel. 212/447-7284; www.sath.org) which offers a wealth of travel resources for all types of disabilities and informed recommendations on destinations, access guides, travel agents, tour operators, vehicle rentals, and companion services; and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB; tel. 800/232-5463 or 212/502-7600 in the U.S.; www.afb.org), which provides information on traveling with Seeing Eye dogs.
Many travel agencies offer customized tours and itineraries for travelers with disabilities. Flying Wheels Travel (tel. 507/451-5005; www.flyingwheelstravel.com) offers escorted tours and cruises that emphasize sports and private tours in minivans with lifts. Access-Able Travel Source (tel. 303/232-2979; www.access-able.com) offers extensive access information and advice for traveling around the world with disabilities. Accessible Journeys (tel. 800/846-4537 or 610/521-0339; www.disabilitytravel.com) caters specifically to slow walkers and wheelchair travelers and their families and friends.
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 offers 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 year U.S.; $21.95 outside the U.S.).
The "Accessible Travel" link at Mobility-Advisor.com (www.mobility-advisor.com) offers a variety of travel resources to disabled persons.
British travelers should contact Holiday Care (tel. 0845/124-9971 in the U.K. only; www.holidaycare.org.uk) to access a wide range of travel information and resources for those with disabilities and seniors