Most disabilities shouldn't stop anyone from traveling in the United States. There are more options and resources out there than ever before, and San Diego is one of the most accessible cities in the country. Most of the city's major attractions are wheelchair friendly, including the walkways and museums of Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo (which has bus tours to navigate the steep canyons), SeaWorld, the Zoo Safari Park, and downtown's Gaslamp Quarter. Old Town and the beaches require a little more effort, but are generally accessible.
Manual wheelchairs with balloon tires are available free of charge daily at the main lifeguard stations in Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla, and Del Mar, among others. Beach conditions permitting, the Mission Beach, Coronado, and Oceanside lifeguard stations have electric wheelchairs available. Mission Beach hours are daily (except Tues) 11:30am to 4:30pm from May through October, and Friday to Sunday, 11:30am to 3:30pm, from November through April (tel. 619/525-8247 or 619/980-0275). For Coronado information call tel. 619/435-0126; for Del Mar, tel. 858/755-1556; and for Oceanside, tel. 760/435-4018.
Obtain more specific information from Accessible San Diego (tel. 619/325-7550; www.asd.travel), the nation's oldest center for information for travelers with disabilities. The center has an info line that helps travelers find accessible hotels, tours, attractions, and transportation. The annual Access in San Diego pamphlet, a citywide guide with specifics on which establishments are accessible for those with visual, mobility, or hearing disabilities can be ordered online for $7.50; a downloadable version can be purchased for $5.
On buses and trolleys, riders with disabilities pay a fixed fare of $1.10. Because discounted fares are subsidized, technically you must obtain a Transit Travel ID from the Transit Store (tel. 619/234-1060); the ID card certifies that a rider is eligible for the discount, but most drivers use visual qualifications to establish criteria. All MTS buses and trolleys are equipped with wheelchair lifts; priority seating is available on buses and trolleys. People with visual impairments benefit from the white reflecting ring that circles the bottom of the trolley door to increase its visibility. Airport transportation for travelers with disabilities is available in vans holding one or two wheelchairs from SuperShuttle (tel. 800/974-8885 or 858/974-8885, TDD 866/472-4497; www.supershuttle.com).
The America the Beautiful -- National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass -- Access Pass (formerly the Golden Access Passport) gives visually impaired travelers or travelers with permanent disabilities (regardless of age) free lifetime entrance to federal recreation sites administered by the National Park Service, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation. This may include national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges.
The America the Beautiful Access Pass can be obtained only in person at any NPS facility that charges an entrance fee. You need to show proof of a medically determined disability. Besides free entry, the pass also offers a 50% discount on some federal-use fees charged for such facilities as camping, swimming, parking, boat launching, and tours. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm, or call the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which issues the passes, at tel. 888/275-8747.
Organizations that offer a vast range of resources and assistance to travelers with disabilities include MossRehab (tel. 800/225-5667; www.mossresourcenet.org), the American Foundation for the Blind (tel. 800/232-5463; www.afb.org), and the Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (tel. 212/447-7284; www.sath.org). Air Ambulance Card (tel. 877/424-7633 or 205/297-0060; www.airambulancecard.com) allows you to preselect top-notch hospitals in case of an emergency.
Many travel agencies offer customized tours and itineraries for travelers with disabilities. Among them are Flying Wheels Travel (tel. 877/451-5006 or 507/451-5005; www.flyingwheelstravel.com) and Accessible Journeys (tel. 800/846-4537 or 610/521-0339; www.disabilitytravel.com).
British travelers should contact Tourism for All (tel. 0845-124-9971 in the U.K. only; www.tourismforall.org.uk) to access a wide range of travel information and resources for seniors and those with disabilities.