Dear Editor,

IF YOU ARE IN A WHEELCHAIR, FORGET SOUTH AMERICA. I was treated very nicely and the people were very “helpful” but the facilities, even in American named hotels were almost non-existent. The facilities in Rio were none. You could not ride down a sidewalk without fear it would run out on a moments notice. The handicapped equipped bathrooms in Rio were one in a million. Checking into a hotel was a crap shoot, even with advance reservations for handicap equipped rooms that had been confirmed and reconfirmed, sometimes at great expense of a person-to-reservationist at the Rio facility. I found travel agents KNEW nothing, even though they made promise after promise. There is not a wheelchair-ready taxi cab in Rio and only one company in Santiago, Chile that I could locate. But forget transportation because there is NOWHERE to be transported to. Seems that several centuries ago the local businesses decided that all store entrances should be accompanied by a 3″ curb to cross the “threshold”.

My experience in the Falklands, and the countries of South America ( Terra Del Fuego, Valparaiso, Puerto Mott, Punta Arena, Buenos Aires and Rio ) on a round-the-horn trip to SA was one of feeling like a prisoner on a floating jail. I exited the ship in Montevideo and rode though a small market, I exited in Buenos Aires and found the port was 2 miles from any activity and 10 miles from a center of the action – not fun.

There was one bright spot – the Santiago Sheraton was splendid with great, great food and drinks and pool and one room, which I was able to secure after several confirmations and speaking directly with the hotel General Manager. The hotel was almost too nice, acting as if they had never seen a guy in an electric wheelchair. I hired a taxi and “toured” Santiago by private taxi. I did not see ONE OTHER person in a wheelchair in all of Santiago even though I traversed hundreds of streets: in fact; I never saw a mother pushing her babies around in a baby stroller, the curbs were so frequent and HIGH. Bread and Coke delivery personnel in the streets never left the street and braved unconscious drivers weaving around as if the lines in the road meant to be straddled.

I have never had so much trouble in Europe, Japan, or Canada. South America cities might as well be the sands of the “outback” or the flooded plains of Africa. Remember one thing and only one thing: FORGET SOUTH AMERICA if you are wheelchair bound, It is not even good if you have ANY ACCESS ISSUES. –Charles Ross

Thanks for the detailed insight. One note- Peru is making a concerted effort to improve accessibility throughout its major cities and even Machu Pichu. They still have a long way to go, but are at least cataloging the accessibility of facilities and planning changes for the near future. We’ll be following their efforts in a coming article.