Rate Las Vegas







    


ADA Ratings For Select Hotels
by Paul S. Felix

Las Vegas is, perhaps, the most popular vacation destination in the world. In any given year, between 30-million and 40-million people go there to be entertained in a variety of ways. It’s a non-stop party, twenty-four hours a day. Some periods are less active and intense than others, of course. Even Vegas has its “off season” where hotel rooms are cheaper, casino floors are less crowded, and good show seats are easier to obtain.

In planning our trips to Las Vegas, my wife and I must take into account an extra bit of personal perspective. My wife is “mobility impaired”: handicapped for those less inclined to politically correct terminology. She is not confined to a wheelchair full-time, yet, but daily tasks pose a greater difficulty for her than for most. If just living at home is difficult, how much more grief awaits the handicapped traveler when going to Las Vegas? The hustle and bustle can be monumentally intimidating to someone who can have trouble putting on their own socks by themselves.

Vegas resorts all boast their level of service. They brag about how well every “guest” will be treated and vie with each other to be seen as the most ingratiating. To the more sophisticated traveler, Las Vegas is a Mecca of entertaining diversion and opportunity. But how well do the hotels and casinos oblige the handicapped? How much of this non-stop party can a person in a wheelchair share? Do Las Vegas casinos really come through with their vaunted service for this slice of the population? Or, are they just paying lip service to the law? That’s what I set out to discover.

During this visit we took a special look at several aspects of “getting around” in Las Vegas. We experienced, and rated, items ranging from Valet Parking to the layout of casino floors. We visited several hotel/casino properties.

Here’s the list of places we visited, along with a number rating (1 = worst, and 10 = best) for each of the items we rated. Following is a key code to help you decipher what was involved in rating each category. A blank in any category means we had no interaction with that portion of the property. Within the comments, below, mention will often be made regarding one or more specific properties. In this instance, such mention is meant to give some detail about our experience and/or impression regarding this aspect of that property. If a rating number is given, but no specific mention is made, we only viewed that aspect while “passing through”. In other words, we looked at that portion of the property but had no true interaction with it, so take the rating with a grain of salt because your experience with it, if more direct and personal than ours, might give you a different impression than ours. That being the case, here we go.

Property Valet Entry Lobby Casino Restrooms Food Shops Shows Outdoors
Aladdin’s      8   7   9   9       9       8 
Barbary Coast      7   6   6                   8 
Excalibur  6   5   8   6    9   8           6 
Fitzgerald’s  7   8   8   7   9               8 
Flamingo  5   4   6           8           8 
Golden Nugget  9   9   9   7                   8 
Imperial Palace      4   5   5               7   4 
Luxor          8   8                     
LV Hilton  9   7   8       8   9   7   5   7 
Main Street  7   7   7   5   5               9 
Monte Carlo  8   9   8   9           7         
NYNY      8           8   8           6 
Paris  8   7   8   8   7   8   8       9 
Rio  7   8   6   8   5           7     
Riviera      8       7               7     
Sahara  9   7   8   9   9               9 
TI  6   6       7   8   7       8     
Venetian  4   6   6   7   6       6   7     

VALET

Finding parking in Vegas can be difficult without the garages and other facilities provided by the hotels. Thankfully, they had enough foresight to build parking in excess of that needed just for hotel guests and we, the visitors, can be assured a very good chance of finding a place to put the rent-a-car. To the handicapped visitor, however, even Valet parking can become a bothersome, challenging obstacle. If the Valet lanes aren’t close to the entrance, that necessitates crossing lanes of traffic in the parking area in order to get to the doors, and that’s a problem. If Valet staff are either not trained how, or not inclined, to help handicapped patrons with various mobility aides (crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, etc.) or in helping them in or out of the vehicle when needed, that’s a problem. If you do have to cross in-parking traffic, and Valet personnel don’t help you cross, that’s a problem. If you have to ask them to do any or all of the above, that’s a problem. This category looks at this aspect of hotel/casino property operation from the perspective of someone who can’t walk well or quickly, may need help standing and moving and, in general, just can’t dodge very well.

Valet entrances varied widely, both in the physical approach and layout of the property, and in how the personnel acted and interacted with us the handicapped visitor and companions. Of the properties we visited, the Sahara came out best, just slightly ahead of the Golden Nugget and LV Hilton as the most friendly and helpful.

The approaches to each of these three valet entrances are clearly marked and easy to follow. The valets themselves were always friendly and helpful, assisting in lifting my wife’s electric cart out of the back of our rental van without being asked. Upon departure, the experience was the same: no muss, no fuss. There were few lanes of traffic to cross to get to the doors and the way was easily cleared. They are all to be commended.

As we go down the list the properties slowly but steadily decline in their friendliness and efficiency regarding handicapped access and use. The most consistent problem experienced at almost every property: personnel who needed prompting to help with lifting the scooter. In general, if the property scored below a “7” they were not very cooperative in this regard.

Other valet notes are in order, for various reasons. I’ll take the properties alphabetically for ease of matching them with the chart above. Excalibur’s main problems include: (1) The long approach to the valet over all those speed humps. These things have their use, I’m sure, but they do make trouble for a handicapped rider who is sensitive to all that rocking and shaking. (2) The number of traffic lanes one has to cross from the valet lanes to the front doors. Handicapped visitors are rarely inclined towards gymnastics or track and field exercises, which is what we felt we needed to navigate through all the cars. (3) Exit from the property needs better signage. Directions for a particular street exit are not very clear and can easily lead to another lap of the entrance gauntlet if one is not careful.

The Flamingo’s valet is very hard to find. A small entrance along the strip between Flamingo and Barbary Coast is easily missed, requiring “making the block” at least once, if not more, in order to catch it. The back entrance is very confusing, provided one even knows how to find it. The long approach first leads to an airport shuttle/bus drop off which has no valet personnel in attendance and, if used, almost doubles the distance one must travel from drop off to the lobby once inside. One must drive further on to reach the right place. The covered lanes are almost always crowded, with ramps and traffic flow of other guests always at odds with smooth travel for a chair or scooter. The covered waiting area is not environmentally controlled at all. In our late August visit this meant a whole lot of heat retention and a noise factor that must be heard to be believed. My wife’s discomfort in this environment was plainly evident and our first experience with it was not heartening.

Paris’ primary problem is the numbers of traffic lanes one must cross after dropping the car off. At slow periods this might not be much of a problem, but during peak times, the sheer number of busy lanes to cross can range anywhere from very intimidating to downright dangerous. On pickup, there is very little room for maneuvering wheelchairs or scooters for loading. Outbound traffic was funneled uncomfortably close to our vehicle and the feeling of needing to hurry to avoid an accident was very real.

Treasure Island’s main problem is sort of the opposite of Excalibur’s. Their entrance is short and easy, but the exit is a long trial of poorly marked routes and the need, on at least one occasion, to U-Turn across oncoming traffic in a spot that has extremely poor visibility. This isn’t just a problem for a handicapped visitor; it’s dangerous for everyone. The added factor of a speed hump right at the turnaround, combined with the possible need of a heavy foot on the gas pedal could easily cause a motion sensitive rider a lot of distress.

The Venetian scored so low because it needs help, badly. Upon arrival, we had not idea there were two valet inlets. One for the main entrance at the front of the property while a second, for the Canal Shops, was in back in an elevated parking garage. During some recent (last couple of years) construction, the signs that direct visitors to these two different spots have become confusing. We zigged when we should have zagged and the result left us, unknowingly, at the Canal Shops valet. Personnel were abrupt and unhelpful. Our valet turned his back on me before I could even make my request for assistance with the scooter and left me to ask a friend on our trip for help. She did so, but I could tell she was no happier than I. From there the trip to the doors was rather long, non-air-conditioned and terminated in a pair of tightly sprung glass doors that had no handicapped assist. A lone visitor in a chair or cart would not have been able to get in. We spoke to the hotel concierge about our problem but left feeling like we’d been presented an advertisement rather than an apology. Thankfully, upon departure, we were able to present the valet claim ticket at the main valet desk in front of the hotel and they went to the other garage and got the car. We were treated better at the front than in back, but the Venetian should seriously address the signage problem to avoid a repeat.

ENTRANCE

Regardless what you may have seen on the Tim and Tom show, the Golden Nugget is fairly easy to get in to. Those large golden doors are actually a little lighter than they look, but that doesn’t really matter. Nugget personnel practically fall all over themselves to get those doors open for guests going either direction. The problem is that the front entrance is not where the chair ramps are. That requires going to the other side of the building. Getting to the main lobby is then mainly an exercise in endurance and orienteering. The doors off of Fremont St. are reasonably easy for most chair and scooter users and the traffic that flows through most of the time prevents them from being shut for long periods. Surprisingly, we found that other visitors, like ourselves, were more likely to hold a door for us downtown than elsewhere. Why this is I don’t know, but it was consistent enough during this visit, I felt the need to mention it. Also, we saw many examples of revolving doors. Though these are a nice idea, they had one very consistent problem: sensors that slowed the turn of the doors if large objects or lots of people entered a single section. This isn’t a real problem. If power assist doors are not available, revolving doors are the next best thing, just be aware of a possible need for a sudden change in speed and be prepared to react accordingly.

At NYNY, we reached the building by using the overhead walkway from Excalibur. Though this avoided the need to play with traffic lights and such at street level, it proved a bit of a problem in its own right. The walkway was very steep on the Excalibur side. My wife’s electric scooter handled it without any trouble but a non-motorized chair could cause the user a great deal of trouble. At NYNY itself, we found very tight side ramps that a chair might negotiate with little difficulty, but scooters or carts much larger than the small one we had would have had problems. On the inside, we needed to use the elevator to gain access to the main floor. These are a bit out of the way, but well marked and roomy.

Rio had everything under control, despite some ongoing construction, though the doors were a little hard to open. The mono-directional swing could cause a chair or cart problems if the user doesn’t have some arm reach or strength, but were otherwise tolerable.

At Sahara, Paris and LV Hilton, ramps and doors were easily accessed, but the doors were tight and had no assist buttons. Barbary Coast and Main Street Station had ramps that were obvious add-on afterthoughts brought about by ADA requirements. Though they sufficed for the job, they tended to be a bit steep and out of the way. Doors were tight, without power assist, mono-directional and little help was available. Someone in a chair or scooter, alone, would have quite a bit of trouble.

TI and Venetian also suffer from the same basis problem: the doors we used are very stiff and not handicapped friendly. Though the Venetian has some people stationed at the main entrance to do the doors for you if need be, our entrance through the wrong valet, as explained above, put us on the backside of the Canal Shops and that meant no help. Tight mono-directional doors would have been impossible for a lone chair-bound visitor and the long, long trip from that door to the main lobby would have required determination and endurance. TI is a little better, but crowding made it just a bit confusing as to which doors were best to use. I just ploughed through people and opened a door to let my wife through.

At Excalibur, the street-side non-valet entrance has a long, steep ramp that approaches the building from below the main floor, and actually getting inside still requires the use of doors that are hard to manipulate. The valet entrance doors are also tightly sprung and require a second person to use. I must say, though, that the indoor connection between Excalibur and Luxor is very nice. It is wide and airy with plenty of maneuvering room. Though chair-using guests are asked not to use the moving walkways, anyone with powered transport like a scooter or cart can buzz along at top speed without risking losing a walking companion. I had no trouble keeping up with my wife’s best Chuck Yeager impersonation (an attempt to break the sound barrier, for those who don’t recall their history). It would, at this point, be best to note the only monorail/tram we occasioned to use, this trip. This monorail/tram runs from Excalibur straight to Mandalay Bay. On the return trip, it stops by Luxor. Elevators to the loading ramps were out of the way, not readily marked and fairly small, causing three walking adults and one scooter to crowd the car severely. In inclement weather, this travel route to and from the trams could prove very uncomfortable. Otherwise, the tram itself was smooth and fairly roomy, all things considered. There was plenty of time to board and secure before the doors closed and both acceleration and deceleration were smooth and without jars.

At Flamingo, we used two entrances. The first we found was the airport shuttle/bus drop-off in the back of the property. This entrance had plenty of ramp room and there was some assist with the doors, but the elevator we had to take to the main floor was very small, crowding four people (one with a cart) badly. Also, there was little explanation that the elevator opened on both sides, so when we reached the floor we needed there was some delay and confusion getting out. Using this entrance also entailed traveling a great deal farther in crowded casino conditions to get to the lobby for check in. The second entrance we used, later, was the main valet, again in back. As mentioned earlier, it is crowded and noisy most of the time. In summer it’s stiflingly hot and heavy foot traffic is almost always an impediment. This can make travel by any handicapped means slow and very troublesome. Once we checked in we got some explanation from hotel staff about an alternate means in and out, which helped later, but without that information in advance, first time visitors like us can get a bad first impression, as we did.

We went to Imperial Palace for one purpose: to see the classic car exhibit. The “front entrance” is a separate building from the main hotel and not at all handicapped friendly. There are no ramps of any kind, and a wheeled visitor must go around the building’s side to the valet entrance behind the small “out building”. There, the handicapped entrance and exit is a door that leads through a short, narrow L-shaped hallway lined with “employee only” doors. This hallway emptied out in an out of the way corner of the casino and left us feeling like we’d just come in the servant’s entrance. We were not amused. To get to the exhibit, we found ourselves touring through very narrow confines to reach an elevator hidden behind some extensive remodeling work occurring close by.

LOBBY

Once inside, if you need to check into the hotel, or need to have business of any sort with hotel staff (concierge, housekeeping, bell desk, etc.,) you probably have to wade through the lobby. Accessibility here can be even more problematic than in some other portions of the building. A lobby that is not close to the entrance is a problem. Some people in wheelchairs just can’t take having to go a block out of their way to get to the front desk, just because the lobby is located in an odd place with respect to the doors. “Cattle ropes” that are tightly spaced, or angled without mobility aides in mind are a problem. Counters that are too high and/or do not have cutouts or overhangs, keeping someone on wheels from reaching paperwork and writing surfaces, is a problem. Elevators that are not near the lobby and/or bell-desk are a problem.

The Golden Nugget’s lobby, once you get to it, is very good. Counter height is no problem, overhands and cutouts help with reach and staff members twist and lean as much as necessary to help overcome any remaining difficulty. The main problem is in getting to the desk. As explained under “Entry”, above, the handicapped entrance is on the opposite side of the building from the main doors, which have no ramps. This arrangement requires a long trip across most of the hotel before reaching check in. Baggage assistance at the alternate entrance is problematic. They’re friendly enough when they’re there, but in my experience, this isn’t as often as it should be. More often than not, handicapped people, and anyone who accompanies them, are usually relegated to toting their luggage all the way to the main lobby before it gets picked up. This is very inconvenient and shortsighted on the Nugget’s part. Every good impression the place might make later in a trip can be wiped out by this one gross fault. In this instance I would have to say that the Nugget, though the “Winner” in this category still hasn’t fully grasped the need for better access for the handicapped at their property. Thankfully my wife is still mobile enough that, at need, she can do short stairs so we usually use the Nugget’s main entrance and deal with the cart as a separate problem. Others not so able or inclined are in trouble.

The Sahara’s Lobby is a bit out of the way. Once inside the building it takes some travel to get to and we had to ask directions twice before we found it. After that, things were good. Counter height, overhangs, etc., were all well within acceptable limits. The trip from door to counters is nowhere near as long as at the Nugget, but long enough to pose a problem for someone on non-powered wheels, especially if trying to drag along some luggage.

Excalibur’s lobby is a small hike from the main doors. Counter height is ok, but the overhangs are small and a little frustrating. Crowding is a problem and the ropes are fairly tight to navigate. Like the Nugget, luggage assistance is dicey. If you haven’t checked them with a carrier out at the valet entrance, you’ll have to drag them all this way yourself before finding the bell desk.

LV Hilton’s lobby is roomy, but counter height is a problem, as are the tight ropes. The distance from the entrance is a bother, but not greatly so.

Finding Aladdin’s lobby is like an Easter-egg hunt. The interior layout of the building will have you going in circles trying to find it, and once you do, getting back to where you started could require native guides and a state of the art GPS system. Counter height isn’t bad but ropes are tight.

The Flamingo’s lobby is roomy. Their ropes are a little tight, but floor personnel were on the ball and unhooked them so we could roll through without getting dizzy. Their main problem is counter height. I’m 6’2” and the counters came to mid-chest height for me. Though they had cutouts to facilitate passage of documents, etc., there were no overhangs so a guest on wheels cannot approach close enough for convenience.

Rio’s lobby is confusing because there’s more than one. We saw at least two separate check-in areas, each for a different kind of guest. One seemed for the average guy, while the other was marked for the “Platinum Card” types. Without good signage or other direction, a guest could easily end up at the wrong set and wait a while before getting correct information. They would then have to travel a bit and wait some more before being served. Counter height, etc., at both areas seemed ok; it’s just the dual nature that could cause real problems.

Venetian’s counters are high, overhangs small, ropes very tight and very long. Crowding is a problem. Even at 6:00 in the evening there must have been twenty people waiting for service from the three desk personnel available. Though they’ve taken pains to accommodate ADA access everywhere else, the Venetian doesn’t seem disposed towards handicapped guests who want to stay at their place. Checking in and out can be real headaches.

CASINO

Getting around the casino floor can be a nightmare. Slot machines packed too tightly together for a walker, wheelchair, etc., to fit, are a problem. Table games that are too high to reach are a problem. Cashiers cages, like lobbies, that have counters too high to reach and/or no overhangs for writing materials, is a problem. Restrooms located in inconvenient locations are a problem. Lack of signs or other direction aids for those who cannot see through or over crowds of people is a problem. Service that is slow or sloppy because cocktail waitresses think someone in a wheelchair is too stupid to know the difference, or too poor to worry about, is a problem. A lack of consideration for a handicapped person’s limitations by floor personnel is a problem (i.e., my wife and I visited MGM Grand shortly after they opened. She was in a wheelchair at the time, still recovering from surgery. While she played a slot machine, an MGM employee tripped over the chair and gave her a dirty look as though she’d done something wrong by being in his way! No apology, no concern for her condition, just a snotty glare… That’s precisely why we won’t go back, ever.)

Most of the properties we visited had good maneuvering room for a wheeled guest. The older and/or smaller the property, the more problematic this became, of course. The bigger Strip properties scored consistently better than smaller downtown joints simply because many of them were build after ADA came into existence and didn’t have to improvise add-ons and alterations. When visiting, keep this in mind and don’t be surprised if you have to make extra effort in some places. The main problem we had in almost every property was at the slot machines. Since chairs are provided for every machine, every machine had a chair in the way when my wife pulled up in her cart to play. Again, my wife is capable of short distance walking, so more often than not we parked the cart at the end of a row and she walked to her chosen machine, using their chair. On occasion, though, she was obligated to stay in the cart, and I had to move the regular chair out of the way so she could drive up to the machine. Given the size and weight of most of these chairs, I’d say I had a lot of good exercise during our stay.

Sahara, Aladdin’s and Monte Carlo were all wonderful. Each was roomy and easily maneuverable. Slots were spaced well for chair or cart access. All three properties had low height table games readily available and getting around was a breeze.

Luxor, Paris, and Rio were good, if just a bit more crowded. All three of these properties have a problem with signage vs. layout. Unless you’re familiar with the layout, getting around inside can be confusing and frustrating. Getting lost is very easy and getting directions from staff difficult due to a noted lack of readily available bodies to speak to.

The Golden Nugget and Fitzgerald’s, being small, are very crowded. The table pits are ok, but the slots are jam-packed and tough for a cart to maneuver. Like the Luxor, above, Treasure Island’s layout needs better signage, only more so. Slots crowding is acceptable, but their chairs were perhaps the heaviest I experienced on this trip. Venetian’s sheer size is intimidating for someone on wheels. If you’re powered, like my wife’s cart, you’re in reasonably good shape, while the batteries are charged. If you’re manually powered, beware. Though there’s plenty of maneuvering room, signage is poor and crowding can be a real problem. People just don’t watch were they’re going. I don’t think even my wife is aware of how many times she was almost trampled by inattentive guests trying to walk through the space she occupied.

RESTROOMS

Public restrooms can be very challenging, especially in the older properties where they were built before ADA and haven’t had much modification since. Restrooms whose entrances/exits have raised or lowered lips that make crossing in a wheelchair difficult are a problem. Lack of handicapped stalls, or such stalls located far in the back, away from the entrance and requiring extra travel to reach, is a problem. Doors that are difficult to open or keep open without assistance are a problem. Dispensers for everything from toilet paper to hand soap that are too high, too low or awkwardly placed are a problem. Stalls that are not kept as clean as others are a problem. Sinks and faucets difficult or impossible to reach are a problem.

In most properties, restrooms are a bit rare, out of the way, and difficult to locate. If you don’t see one near to hand, ask early because getting directions, then navigating to them and within them can take some time.

Aladdin’s, Excalibur, Fitzgerald’s, and Sahara had the best we visited. Though they vary in detail the overall report on each of these properties is very good. They had the least problems with the multiple little things that can be wrong with a restroom. Navigation around visual barriers, location and condition of stalls, access to paper products, soaps, and sinks were all very good, leaving them wanting for very little.

LV Hilton, NYNY, and TI suffered an exaggerated degree of the “hard to find” problem and in the Hilton, particularly, stalls were too small to accommodate an electric cart, while NYNY and TI had more of a problem with maneuvering around visual barriers.

Paris’s restrooms are breathtaking regarding décor, however they’re difficult to get around in. Though not as hard to find as some of the above properties, nor suffering the small stall problem, my wife was dissatisfied in a way she couldn’t completely explain. Apparently the problem is one of a cumulative number of little things she found it difficult to enumerate, that left her feeling Paris’ restrooms were inferior to those listed above. (small stall)

FOOD

The very important process of eating can be problematic and intimidating in Las Vegas. Just deciding on where to eat can turn into an exercise in perseverance. Like elsewhere, the layout of the dining area can be a real influence on whether a handicapped patron feels good about their experience. Tables and chairs too close together for easy maneuvering is a problem. Staff members who feel that physical infirmity somehow equates to mental incapacity is a problem. An unwillingness to accommodate a handicapped patron with small, temporary rearrangements is a problem. Menus that do not fully explain ingredients or that do not offer meal modifications for dietary restrictions/limitations is a problem.

For this trip we had several meals in a variety of places, just to sample some of the differences we’d been reading about on the various ratings sites. Here, in order, are where and when we ate and our impression of the accessibility of the establishments visited.

Sunday, August 29th

Late lunch at Margaritaville – Flamingo Hotel/Casino. Though technically accessible, this place is really a party spot and there were several areas of the restaurant that would be totally inaccessible to a wheeled visitor. Thankfully the entrance/exit and the bathrooms were easy to get to. Additionally, the place is packed tightly with tall tables and barstool seating (you know the type) that would prohibit anyone with mobility problems (crutches, walkers, etc.) from seating easily or comfortably. The dance floor is stairs only and the majority of the Jimmy Buffet oriented regalia and décor was only reachable that way too. Margaritaville pays technical homage to ADA but doesn’t do much more than that.

Supper at Quark’s – LV Hilton Hotel/Casino. Neat place, especially if you’re interest in Star Trek related stuff. Accessibility was good. Only one tight turn on the ramp gave my wife’s cart any problems, but a moment’s concentration solved the problem and the rest was easy. Very accessible in and out. Very accessible at the table and elsewhere. We were very pleased.

Monday August 30th

Breakfast at Paradise Buffet – Flamingo Hotel/Casino.Good accessibility. For a split-level restaurant the ramps were subtle enough my wife doesn’t even remember using them. It’s as though the place is all on one floor. There was plenty of “elbow room” for the scooter and none of us had a complaint.

Lunch at Kahunaville – Treasure Island Hotel/Casino. We weren’t all that impressed. Getting there is a huge hike from the entrance. Only powered wheels can make this trip without some level of fatigue setting in. Getting back out took just as long, if not more so after adding a full stomach to the equation. The place itself was a bit tight. My wife left her cart near the entrance and we walked to our table, otherwise there would have been a job or furniture rearrangement in order just to get us seated.

Dinner at Sherwood Forest Café – Excalibur Hotel/Casino. We liked it. Roomy and very accessible. It’s only problem is where it’s located on the property. Rather than being up on the second floor with the majority of other non-gambling establishments, it’s on the main casino floor and that means it’s difficult to find/see through all the neon hoopla. Otherwise we enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday August 31st

Breakfast at Le Village Buffet – Paris Hotel/Casino. Very accessible. Don’t be fooled by the cattle ropes that lead to the entrance. Once floor personnel see someone in your party in a chair or cart, they bring you directly to the head of the line through an alternate entrance and you’re in like Flynn. Everything that isn’t immediately accessible can be gotten in a moment because there are always plenty of floor personnel to assist if needed. Don’t hesitate to ask, they’re great.

Dinner at Ellis Island (Hotel/Casino?). A bit crowded. We had a long wait (about 40 minutes) so you might call in advance to see if they’ll take reservations for a handicapped party. We didn’t and I kind of wished we did. Seating is cramped but doable. The restaurant entrance is just inside the main building entrance and you can smell the food as you’re walking up to the front doors. It could use some small modifications, but overall did ok.

Wednesday September 1st

Breakfast at Original Pancake House – Way off Strip. This place was featured on an episode of Emeril Live (Food Network). My wife, while touring the net for this trip, managed to find the address and we decided to give it a shot. It took some effort getting there but the trip was worth it. The question of food aside, we had no trouble even in this old-style diner type facility. Booths and tables were spaced out just a little more than usual and that made all the difference. Everything was close by and staff people were helpful without seeming obsequious.

Dinner at Shamrock Café – Fitzgerald’s Hotel/Casino. Even located on the second floor, this place was easy to get to and absolutely no problem getting around in with the electric scooter. Our waitress was very helpful and earned an extra tip for extra effort. We were very pleased.

SHOPPING

Sales floors that are too crowded to allow easy travel in a wheelchair area problem. Merchandise on shelves or in racks out of reach is a problem. Employees who act like assisting you is a bother to them are a problem. Purchases that are not wrapped/packed for transport in a wheelchair/scooter are a problem. Sales counters too high to reach, or which don’t have overhangs for access to writing surfaces are a problem.

In most of the newer properties the indoor malls that cram the extant businesses into small spaces requiring those businesses to crowd sales floors. That’s not the businesses fault; it’s the main property’s fault for so severely limiting them. We understand how the bottom line of money makes it such an easy decision for the casinos. Profit, after all, is their sole reason for being. And, the percentage of handicapped visitors being fairly low makes it all easy for them to justify. It’s just inconvenient. Whether shopping at Desert Passage in Aladdin’s, Forum Shops at Caesars or any of the other growing number of indoor shopping extravaganzas in Las Vegas, be aware that ADA is adhered to to the letter, if not the spirit. Everything is accessible, if only barely so. It takes determination and effort to get around in all these places, as well as patience and a forgiving nature. We ended up with several souvenir items from various places and enjoy all of them. It just took some work to get them.

SHOWS

Seating for handicapped at shows is always a problem. Too close? Too far away? What’s the angle of view on the show? Did you have to go a long way out of the way to get to the elevators that would take you to that seating?

Though most places tried hard, there’s just so much they can do to accommodate a wheelchair/cart among all those packed bodies. At the LV Hilton we went to see Trent Carlini, the big Elvis impersonator. Personnel at the auditorium were wonderful, but just couldn’t get away form the need to keep the cart outside the area. We had to stow it in a bar next to the stage area, a good 60 feet from where we were sitting. If my wife had not been capable of walking on her own, this would have posed a major problem. Those tickets aren’t cheap and we would have been very displeased had we missed the show because they couldn’t accommodate her transport. At the Riviera, where my wife and daughter went to see An Evening at La Cage, access to the 2nd floor venue was limited to a single cramped elevator that itself was difficult to get to, into and out of. At Greek Isles, where I went to see the Rat Pack tribute, it was tightly packed, very much like an old 40’s and 50’s style restaurant/lounge (a reasonable recreation of the old Copa Room Sinatra used to play in at the Sands). My wife would not have liked it. She can’t do booths and the few tables available were long, narrow and crammed to the gills with people who often had to turn their bodies or crane their necks sharply to see the show. Not good for anyone who can’t do that kind of thing. They would have either missed most of the show, or caused themselves really unnecessary pain.

Treasure Island’s Sirens show was the most accessible, from the viewpoint of handicapped visitors. Hotel staff keeps things flowing easily and cleanly from point to point through wide double doors from the building to the outside show. We got preferred placement (from row) because of the cart, which may have been just a touch too close. The heat blasting from the pyrotechnics display made us all wonder if our hair would singe or our cameras melt. The view is great, but it might not be appropriate for someone who has anxieties about fire, etc.

Venetian’s indoor Gondola has absolutely no ramp to it at all. Personnel are more than willing to help where they can, to a point, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that the whole ride precludes handicapped participants except those who can leave their wheels behind and walk down to the boat. Anyone needing to be carried is just plain out of luck.

Rio’s party in the sky is very visible and we had no complaints. The length of the show, combined with the large area over which it takes place ensures that a wheeled guest can see it, in its entirety, with just a little patience. The sky floats pass on tracks overhead and can be viewed at several angles over several distances to suite the viewer.

Imperial Palace’s Classic Car exhibit is great. Mobility aids all have plenty of room, whether just crutches, or full sized electrical runabout. Roped off cars are still very close for good viewing with easy to read informational placards close to hand. Everything is in a portion of Imperial’s parking garage that has been taken in and environmentally controlled for the occasion. That means everything is ramped or sloped gently and the whole experience can be taken in at ones leisure. We enjoyed it immensely.

OUTDOORS

Same old stuff. Las Vegas is great, but you can only do so much. With the addition of the overhead walkways in several places, crossing from hotel to hotel across the busy strip has gotten somewhat easier. At least now we don’t have to put up with all that auto traffic just waiting to mash us flat. Instead, we’ve inherited a new crop of different problems with which we’ll have to deal one at a time. I won’t go into too much detail here, because that could take an entire book all in its won right. I will say, though, that the overheads are a good idea. Elevator access, maneuvering room, et cetera, are generally good, though one can get in a little trouble with the steepness of the grade, on occasion (such as form Excalibur to NYNY). Otherwise, such methods of crossing busy traffic continue to become more popular as the convenience makes itself felt. Try them and see for yourself.

MONORAIL

We always rent a car and this has freed us of the need for such public conveyances, though we did want to try them out, just for the novelty if nothing else. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to try the new system. Other reviews seem mixed about both the advisability and the results of this venture. I personally love the idea. If we can get where we want to go and eliminate the whole rent-a-car/valet/taxi problem, I’d be happy as a pig in slop. My wife’s scooter makes her very independent, all things considered, so how she gets from place to place quickly becomes academic. The idea that, eventually, one could arrive at McCarran Airport and go by monorail directly to one’s hotel, without paying all those other expensive transport fees, and then to any other property on the route without hassling with traffic, etc., seems like sheer paradise. We have two opposite results available to view for our lessons in this project. First is the original monorail built at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. This thing has been chugging away for decades now, with nary a real problem. This provides hope. The other is in Seattle Wash., where, I’ve heard, the system sits fallow for lack of support and good maintenance. I never worked properly, suffering a lot of down time for repairs, and everyone lost interest. It’s now a very large white elephant and nobody seems to know what to do about it. If Vegas can make theirs work, despite the odds, perhaps they can give hope to all the other large cities in such desperate need of good public transportation. If not, Sin City will hardly suffer, you can rest assured.

SUMMARY

In the broad perspective, Las Vegas’ hotel/casino industry does well to accommodate disabled tourists. Though problems exist, they are really more the exception than the rule, especially in the newer properties built with ADA standards in place from the beginning. None of the problems we encountered above were completely insurmountable, but some of them were extreme enough to get out undivided attention and, in one instance, forced us to decide that return to that property in the future was unlikely to ever occur. Barring such a notably extreme encounter, your own visit to Las Vegas, either as a handicapped visitor, or as the companion to one, should be reasonably pleasant, from the perspective of accessibility and use. A little communication with your hotel before hand, to inform them of your particular limitations and needs, can do worlds of good for your stay, and some patience with other places you visit can yield positive results as well. Enjoy.

October 2004



You can email Paul with any feedback at: lawgiver@austin.rr.com


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