Handicapped Services - Scooter Travel and Access
By Kimmi Allbee
I happened to be at the pre-Con planning meeting that happened in March, and thought I would take the opportunity to rent a mobie scooter, and see what it was like getting around the convention space. Now I know what to expect when August comes around, and I thought I'd share some of my top hints, tips and insights with anyone else planning on using a scooter for getting around in all this space!
My number one piece of advice? Try to always travel with a walking buddy! There are quite a few places where the handicap access buttons for the doors are just far enough away to make getting in and out of the doors precarious, and some of them only open one side of a two-sided door, but both sides really need to be open for some of the larger scooters to make it through without incident. There are other places you might want to go, including some of the elevators or restaurants where having someone else along with you to keep a door open is going to make your time here much easier.
The open road between the Atlantis and the Peppermill hotels CAN be managed by a scooter without need of taking a shuttle or special transport, but there are some tricks to it. First - you can do it in 20 minutes, but you'll be happier to leave yourself 30 minutes to get from door to door, and that doesn't include the time to then navigate through the casino floor and lobby areas to get to your inside destinations. Also - if at ALL possible, do your travel on the Atlantis side of Virginia Ave., and avoid all the places where the sidewalk gets very narrow thanks to the power line poles eating up large chunks of space. Take your time going up and down the sidewalk ramps when you have to cross the street - they're occasionally a little steep. This is also another time where having someone to go with you, or even multiple someones, is a safer way to travel - there's going to be loose gravel and broken pavement, and having someone else around to keep an eye out or to help you if you look like you're about to capsize is truly preferred!
It's never easy getting around in space that's designed for walking on two legs when you're on four wheels - but be aware that a casino floor is even less optimal to have to navigate. It's crowded even in the wee hours of the night, and that's without the added population of a WorldCon. There will be chairs and stools pushed out into the walkways all over the gambling floor, and sometimes you have no choice but to squeeze through very narrow spaces left between machines and other fixtures. You will have to traverse some section of casino floor in either hotel at one point or another - so just plan on taking it slow, and exercising an extra dose of patience. Of particular note to Renovation members will be the hallways and spaces in the Peppermill resort, specifically up around the Capri rooms. Some of the walkways there will be bottleneck points for traffic, and a scooter will only fit through with one or two other people abreast.
Good news- the local restaurants that I visited while there over the weekend seemed to be not only accessible, but welcoming to scooter traffic! I had no issues finding places to park my scooter when I was out to eat, either in or out of the resort hotels and casinos. While some places were too small to allow me to pull the scooter up to the table, there was typically space within a couple of steps, or within eye sight of my table, and I just made sure to take the power key with me. This was true even in the buffet seating areas, where I was able to park my scooter nearby, and another staff member was able to roll her scooter right up to the table.
I stayed in the Peppermill Tower of the Peppermill resort for the weekend, and in a double-queen bed room, had no issues with space to pull the scooter into the room, and park it out of the way, near a plug, and still have space for all four roommates to be able to move past it to the bathroom and doorway. I got an opportunity to look at the rooms in the Tuscany tower, and the one place I would be worried is the exterior foyer that connects each set of rooms. There's a slight dogleg in there, and those not experienced with driving a scooter through tight turns might have some issues navigating it. Also, the added door will require extra hands to help get the scooter in and between the room and the main hallway. Once inside the Tuscany Tower rooms, however, I didn't foresee any problems parking the scooter in there as well. I'm afraid I did not get an opportunity to see inside any of the hotel rooms at the Atlantis.
The convention center is large, and I am sure folks with scooters will be envied for being able to get from one end to the other at a faster pace, but be aware that the convention center bathroom access can be a little tricky for scooter riders. Bathrooms out in the main thoroughfare have wide enough doorways and stalls to get in and out with a scooter, but once inside Hall 2 where the Dealer's room and Art show will be located, the bathrooms will not allow any size scooter inside because of the sharp angles just inside the doorways, and so you'll have to park it outside, and walk in.
Anyone who has ever used a scooter knows how much fun (and I use the term loosely) elevator rides can be. Both hotels seem to have plenty of elevators in each bay, and I didn't have any issues with any elevators being too small for me to drive my large-sized scooter into, and still have room on either side for standing passengers to join me. I will caution folks staying in the upper floors of the towers at the Peppermill to expect long waits around check-in and check-out time, because obviously, it's not just bodies traversing the vertical space, but luggage and sundry belongings as well. I will assume it will be the same way over at the Atlantis.
All in all, I was pleased with the experience, and I know I'll be happier having had a test run through the various spaces. I hope my insights are helpful to anyone else needing to use mobility access scooters over the run of the convention, and I'll see you at Renovation!