As someone who uses a scooter to get around, I am always looking for attractions I can visit on a family vacation that works just as well for me as it does for them. On a recent family visit to the Georgia Aquarium, I found some things that needed improvement.
The issues didn’t prevent me from spending hours there and being amazed by the world’s largest aquarium. But it did make the visit less fun overall than I had hoped.
My Issues with accessibility and how I would have liked to see the aquarium handle them:
• Because of the crowds, people bumped into me and blocked my way. This does happen at other crowded attractions, but it was more frustrating here because the Aquarium is indoors and has some small areas where people congregate to see popular displays. Perhaps in these areas, more staff is needed. A note to others: please watch out for wheelchairs and scooters. Many of us who use them cannot stop on a dime and we are afraid of hurting you, your children and ourselves.
• The restrooms are small and difficult to maneuver. There is a narrow aisle in between the two sides of bathroom stalls. Each time I went to the restroom, there was a line. Because I had to use one of the two handicapped stalls, my wait was longer than others and I blocked the entry way for others. It was also difficult to open the stall and to use the sinks because of the lack of space. Attendants in the restrooms would do wonders for this space. Of course, another set of larger restrooms would be the best solution, but it is costly.
• The mats in front of exhibits that specifically make room for those in mobility devices were often covered by people standing on them. In one case, either a staff member or a volunteer was standing on the mat. I look forward to better training of the staff and volunteers on how to politely ask those who are not disabled to leave this space open.
The time at the Aquarium was fun and educational. I had a blast watching the Dolphins perform tricks during the Dolphin Show and viewing the huge tanks filled with all types of fish, from Electric Eels to Beluga Whales. I was awed by colorful Rainbow Angel Fish and and Lion Fish. The volunteers kept me entralled with facts and their ability to point out hidden fish. The staff were helpful and knowledgable. My family and I spent time together and created memories.
Accessibility at the Georgia Aquarium:
- Wheelchairs are available for use free of charge
- Elevators take you and your party to the Dophin Tales Show
- Mats with Handicapped Logos are located in front of many exhibits for (what should be) uninhibited access
- Touch pools have wheelchair accessibility and staff to provide one-on-one experiences
- Tactile exhibits are available for those with visual impairments
- Staff can provide three dimensional models for people with visual impairments
- Videos have closed captioning
- Visual scripts are available cell phones and Ipods
Again, my visit to the Georgia Aquarium was extremely enjoyable. As an advocate for people with disabilities, though it is vital to bring these issues to those who plan to attend and to the Aquarium itself. Here’s hoping the aquarium makes changes to improve the experience for disabled visitor in future–by educating staff and volunteers in the near term and by adding another set of more accessible restrooms over the longer term.
Connie Roberts is a professional blogger who makes it her mission to advocate for people with medical issues. Travel with a disability is not a struggle, but an opportunity to see the world and let others see that it’s possible and a lot of fun. Tweet with her @ConnieFoggles.
Disclosure: Tickets were provided free of charge for me and my family. All opinions are my own as always.