From the 126th Annual Meeting column of the October 2011 issue of Perspectives on History
Information and Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities
AHA Staff, October 2011
Chicago is one of the most accessible cities in the world for visitors with disabilities. Here are some useful resources and general information.
The Open Doors Organization created Easy Access Chicago (http://easyaccesschicago.org) to provide accessibility information for Chicago. Information is available on the web site and in abridged print versions downloadable in PDF format. The detailed information in the guide enables visitors with disabilities, as well as mature travelers, to decide which restaurants, attractions, and transportation suppliers meet their specific needs. Under the site's "Transportation" subhead, visitors will find information on disability parking placards, accessible taxis and van transportation, and paratransit services.
The city's public transportation system, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), has a video on its web site (www.transitchicago.com) with information on how to ride CTA using accessible services. In the site's search engine, type "CTA Accessibility How-To Video." Individuals can view specific chapters online, or order a free DVD copy by contacting CTA at 888-968-7282 at prompt #2 to request.
Chicago's regional transportation authority offers a Reduced Fare Permit to people with disabilities, which provides a discount on rides and transfers. It allows both the permit holder and an accompanying personal attendant to ride at the reduced fare. For more information or to apply, call 312-913-3110 (voice) or 312-836-4949 (TTY).
O'Hare International Airport has numerous accessibility services, such as Teletypewriters (TTY) telephones, visual paging monitors, and public services information booths with TTY. Each bank of pay telephones is equipped with an amplified handset telephone for hard of hearing users. Operator-assisted TTY are adjacent to the airport information booths located on the lower level of Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and on the upper level of Terminal 5, and are available 24 hours a day. A visual paging system in the international terminal allows airlines and airport operators to send visual messages to the public. The visual paging system is located adjacent to the flight information monitors. Animal relief areas are located curbside, on the lower levels of Terminals 1 and 5. They are gated areas designated for service animal relief and are accessible at all times. All animals must be leashed and accompanied by the owner. For additional information on O'Hare's accessible services, call 773-686-8040. All points on the airport transit system route are fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Elevators are available at each of the five stops.
O'Hare's elevated parking structure (Lot A), adjacent outdoor lots (Lots B and C), the parking lot serving the international terminal (Lot D), and Economy Lot E have approximately 250 parking spaces clearly marked with the international access symbol for motorists with disabilities. For further information, call 773-686-7530.
Travelers Aid Chicago is a social service agency located at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. The main Travelers Aid office is located in Terminal 2, and is open all seven days. Travelers Aid provides guidance, support or advocacy services for passengers who need it as they travel. Professional staff are available to assist with crisis intervention information, and social services to travelers and visitors at O'Hare, 773-894-2427.
The AHA's two official airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines, each has specially designated lounges to provide assistance to travelers with disabilities. American has a special service lounge in the K Concourse and United has special service lounges in both the B and C Concourses. Both carriers also offer mobile carts in their concourses to transport passengers needing this service. Travelers can contact the airline directly or an airline representative for use of a mobile cart.
The CTA Blue Line train provides 24-hour service between downtown Chicago and O'Hare Airport. The station is equipped with an elevator to take passengers with mobility impairments to and from the platform. Other CTA stations on the Blue Line equipped with elevators from O'Hare to downtown are at Rosemont, Cumberland, Harlem, Clark/Lake, and Jackson. For further information, call 617-222-3200, 312-836-7000, and 312-836-4949 TTY phone.
Midway International Airport has accessibility services available to travelers. TTY are located at designated locations throughout the terminal facility. Elevators located in the terminal building provide access to all passenger levels of the airport complex. All elevators have Braille and raised letters/numerals. The Animal Relief Area is curbside, on the lower level. It is a gated area designated for service animal relief and is accessible at all times. All animals must be accompanied and leashed by the owner. Visit the airport's web site for a downloadable Access Guide for Midway. For additional information on Midway's accessible services, call 773-686-8040.
Volunteer Assistance is available for travelers at Chicago Midway Airport. The personnel are available at designated areas throughout the airport.
There are two parking facilities at Midway airport, terminal and economy parking. Both garages have designated parking spaces for motorists with disabilities located near each of the three elevator cores. Passengers should use the center core elevators to reach the third floor to access the pedestrian bridge to the terminal building.
The CTA Orange Line provides service between Midway International Airport and downtown Chicago. The station is equipped with an elevator to take passengers with mobility impairments to and from the train platform. All stations en route to downtown Chicago are equipped with elevators. For additional information, contact 312-836-7000 and 312-836-4949 (TTY).
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement has an online guide, "New Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability (http://airconsumer.dot.gov/publications/horizons.htm#AirportAccessibility). This site also explains how to file a complaint with the department.
A general resource is Barrier-Free Travels: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers ($19.95; 2009, 3rd edition; http://barrierfreetravel.net/). It contains detailed information about the logistics of planning accessible travel—whether by plane, train, or bus. The book includes important details about accessible air travel, traveling with oxygen, accessible ground transportation, choosing a travel agent, online booking, accessible recreation, and budget travel. It is available in bookstores, or online at www.barrierfreetravel.net.
Information about Hotels
The information that follows is provided to assist AHA Annual Meeting attendees with disabilities in obtaining the reasonable accommodations they require. Please refer to this information when making hotel reservations or arrangements to participate in program sessions and other events. In particular, guests should advise the selected hotel about specific needs when making room reservations.
All hotels have accessible lobbies; several have autoslide doors. Thresholds and doormats are in compliance with American with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and door-service personnel are available at most properties. Lobbies have marble floors and/or low-pile area carpeting. All hotels have accessible registration desks or provide clipboards to guests to complete registration documentation. Elevators connect all levels of each hotel. Each elevator has a wheelchair accessible keypad, Braille numerals beside each control button, and audible direction. Restrooms in lobbies and on meeting room floors are wheelchair accessible and have tactile signage.
All hotels have accessible guest rooms. The number of such rooms at each property is noted in the listing below. Among other amenities, these rooms feature: wheelchair-accessible doors, lever/lever door handles, security peepholes, ample room space, grab bars in restrooms, low sinks with insulated pipes, accessible towel racks, and accessible mirrors. The following auxiliary aids are available at most properties: flashing fire alarm, doorbell, and telephone; vibrating alarm clock; closed-caption decoders; Braille signage; and TDD telephones.
Entrances: The hotel's main entrance on East North Water Street is accessible.
Parking: Accessible parking spaces are available, and the hotel has two accessible entrances from the self-parking facilities.
Guest rooms: The hotel has 51 king and 3 double/double room accommodations designated for persons with accessibility requirements. TDD devices (printing and nonprinting), knock alerts, telephone alerts, visual smoke alarms, time clocks, and bathtub seats are available upon request.
Restaurants: The hotel's five eateries are all accessible: Chi Bar, Chicago Burger Company, Java Bar, LB's Bistro & Pâtisserie, LINK @ Sheraton Café, and Shula's Steak House.
Chicago Marriott Downtown
Entrance: The hotel's Rush Street and Michigan Avenue entrances are accessible.
Parking: Valet parking at the Rush Street entrance. The Self-Park lot is located at the corner of Rush Street and Ohio Street with 20 accessible spots.
Guest rooms: The hotel has 25 accessible rooms, six with roll-in showers. Twelve Assistive Device Kits for use in any guest room with closed caption television decoders, text telephones, audible and visual emergency warning devices are available.
Restaurants: Rush Bar and Lounge, Harvest, and Starbucks Coffee House are all accessible.
Westin Chicago River North
Entrance: The hotel's main entrance on North Dearborn Street is accessible with power doors.
Parking: Valet-only parking available, with several accessible parking spaces.
Guest rooms: The hotel has 17 accessible rooms, four with roll-in showers.
Restaurants: The hotel's restaurants are accessible, Ember Grille, Hana Lounge, and Kamehachi Sushi Bar.
Courthyard Chicago Downtown/River North
Entrances: The hotel's entrance on East Hubbard Street is accessible.
Parking: Valet-only parking available at the hotel, and the garage can accommodate accessible vehicles.
Guest rooms: The hotel has 12 ADA-equipped guest rooms, three with roll-in showers.
Restaurants: The hotel's two cafes are accessible, Starbucks Coffee and State Street Bread Company.