Why sell it
Florida has been investing heavily in improving accessibility for travellers with a broad range of disabilities. Many theme parks, national parks, state parks and museums are accessible to wheelchair users, while some beaches – including Daytona, Fernandina and New Smyrna – offer all-terrain beach wheelchair rentals.
LEGOLAND, Peppa Pig Theme Park and Dinosaur World are now Certified Autism Centers (meaning staff have had neurodiversity training and are equipped to better serve guests with ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia and sensory sensitivities), while braille trails and audio guides are available in tourism hotspots like Saint Augustine.
For the hearing impaired, hearing assistive systems, amplification headsets and sign language interpreters are widely available at theme parks and attractions, including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, Everglades National Park and Kennedy Space Center.
Adventure operators are also opening up experiences to visitors with physical and sensory impairments, Downs Syndrome and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), with accessible kayaking, horse riding and scuba diving on offer.
What to sell
The Accessible Travel Hub at VisitFlorida.com is a great resource for finding accessible attractions, tours, beaches, parks and events. The website also showcases travellers with disabilities in its Limitless Florida video series.
Harry Hastings, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Ocean Holidays, Europe’s leading Florida holiday expert and a registered member of the global Hidden Disabilities Sunflower network, says: “Florida holidays have been redefining what all-inclusive travel means in recent years. Attractions and accommodation across the state have vastly improved their accessibility, including special assistance programmes at all major theme parks and an array of wheelchair-friendly beach hotels. This widespread adoption of accessible services has left little need for disabled travellers to look beyond the most popular holiday options, with Orlando firmly remaining in the top spot.”
The company’s new Accessibility Programme aims to remove any remaining barriers for customers, offering personalised assistance, from concierge support at UK airports, to adapted car hire in the USA.
“The mission to improve accessibility in the travel industry isn’t over,” says Hastings. “And we plan on being at the forefront of change for years to come.”
The winter months (November to February) are a good time to go as temperatures are mild and dry and parks are generally less busy.
Booking ahead is also recommended, especially during peak holiday times. Hastings says: “We advise booking early as accommodation and adapted vehicles with special assistance facilities can be limited and we see that it can be more challenging if someone books last minute.
“We are offering special assistance holidays to Florida up until 2025, to give everyone that extra piece of mind when it comes to planning and securing their dream holiday.”
The world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park opened next to LEGOLAND in Winter Haven in 2022, with fun rides for pre-schoolers, a splash park, cinema and live shows. The theme park offers a HERO pass for visitors with disabilities, and is also a Certified Autism Center. peppapigthemepark.com
Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex opened at Kennedy Space Center in 2022, showcasing space artefacts, interactive displays and games, and simulated space journeys. The site is wheelchair accessible, complimentary KSC SmartGuides are available to visitors with hearing impairment, and American Sign Language interpreters can be booked in advance. kennedyspacecenter.com
The new Florida Children’s Museum opened in autumn 2022 at Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland, with six interactive galleries for children of all ages and abilities. The museum works in partnership with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) and offers visitors autism-friendly Sensory Kits.
The JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is the first of the 560 refuges in the US National Wildlife Refuge System to include a spotting scope for colourblind visitors on its wheelchair-accessible Wildlife Drive observation tower. Check the website for recovery updates post Hurricane Ian. fws.gov/refuge/jn-ding-darling
Visit Tampa Bay has created online accessibility guides with its partners, including sensory-friendly activities and accessibility to the region’s events, including Tampa Pride. There is also an accessibility module in the Tampa Bay Travel Agent Training Academy. visittampabay.com/academy
Book it with… Ocean Florida
Leading the way with accessible holidays, Ocean Florida offers an autism-friendly holiday from £1,499pp, including seven nights at the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld (a Certified Autism Center) and seven nights at the Tradewinds Island Grand Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach (a certified Center for Autism & Related Disabilities), with return international flights and car hire, plus Meet & Greet services at the UK airport.