Jan. 31, 2005 Maho Bay Camps owner Stanley Selengut is pushing to make all of St. John accessible to those in wheelchairs and with other disabilities.
He said Monday that 24 percent of the U.S. population has need of such services.
"It's one of the biggest tourism markets," he said.
He said research by the Travel Industry Association of America shows that disabled travelers take 31.7 million trips a year and spend $13.6 billion each year.
He's gotten the ball rolling with four handicapped-accessible units at Concordia Eco-tents.
"We designed it based on ADA guidelines," Maggie Day, Maho Bay manager, said referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And he's hosting a July conference that includes disabled adults, government officials, businesses, and V.I. National Park officials who will evaluate the accessible eco-tents as well as the rest of St. John.
"Theyll make recommendations on developing St. John as an inclusive travel destination," Day said.
Selengut said the challenges start with just getting to St. Thomas. After that hurdle is passed, handicapped people still face a trip across St. Thomas in a taxi, a ride on the ferry from St. Thomas to St. John, and the trip to Concordia.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley gave St. John an F+ when it comes to handicapped accessibility.
"We're not doing well at all," he said.
St. John has only a few handicapped parking spaces, which Harley said were often occupied for the entire day by cars with handicap stickers. He said they are driven by people who go to St. Thomas.
Cruz Bay has a few curb cuts that allow wheelchairs to cross the street, and a few buildings have ramps.
However, most hotels, restaurants and campgrounds are not accessible.
"Especially the restaurants," he said.
Harley said that he when he met with consultants on Selengut's project, he learned many things about how difficult it is for disabled people to gain access.
For example, he said that people with mobility problems, including arthritis, in their hands and wrists, may have trouble turning conventional doorknobs. He said that ones that can be pushed down make life lots easier.
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