Special Needs Travel in Florida
As the nation’s top travel destination, Florida has extensive resources for travelers with special needs.
Bright Feats is a resource directory specifically designed for families with children that have special needs, offering information about local community services and support to families as well as helping businesses convey their unique services to the special-needs community. Their website has directory information, articles, links to related blogs, a calendar with upcoming local events and more. 407-620-9355, brightfeats.com
Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality, or SATH, provides recommendations for travel agents and other resources to help travelers with disabilities plan their vacations. 561-451-0052, sath.org
Able Trust offers helpful links to disability resources throughout the state from Florida’s Governor’s Alliance for the Employment of Citizens with Disabilities. 850-224-4493, abletrust.org
Florida Disabled Outdoors Association provides resources on disabled outdoor travel in Florida. .fdoa.org
American Diabetes Association offers information on traveling with diabetes, as well as a list of hospitals that offer services to diabetic travelers. 800-342-2383, diabetes.org
Dialysis Finder’s web site lists center locations and maps by zip code. 866-889-6019, dialysisfinder.com
Events and Things to Do
We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Brandon (by Tampa) boasts an all-inclusive environment, with fun, nurturing social skills groups and activities for children. The indoor gym even includes a trampoline and zip line. Craft classes, special events and parties round out the offerings. werockthespectrumtampa.com
HUGS stands for ‘help us gather,’ and it lives up to its name. It’s a free and easy way to find fun things to do in Tampa Bay for all age groups, including individuals with special needs, connecting people with disabilities to activities and social events in the community. hugtampabay.org/
Singing songs, chanting rhymes, dancing, and playing instruments (or props) are all part of the adventure at Music Together, offering classes for children through five-years-old at multiple locations in Winter Park, Oviedo, Lake Mary, Orlando and Apopka, with discount options for special needs children. seminolemusictogether.com/
Located in Orlando, Daniel’s Gift believes no need is too small and no voice is too quiet to be heard. This volunteer-driven group hosts a day camp for teens and young adults with special needs, brimming with activities like arts, music and even field trips. danielsgift.org/summer-camp.html
Kids with any physical, cognitive, medical or hidden disability, chronic or life-threatening illness or those who are medically fragile are the VIPs at Nathaniel’s Hope in Orlando. Register your little one to enjoy events, buddy-breaks and more. nathanielshope.org/upcoming-events/
The Bright Feats event calendar lists special-needs events around Florida, featuring an arts program at the Brevard Zoo, science winter camps, autism seminars, free conferences and much more. brightfeats.com/events/
Little Linksters GOALS Program says ‘no’ to labels. Designed to make golf more inclusive for children with special needs, ages three and up, all are welcomed at various locations around Florida. littlelinksters.com/goals-golf-program/
Packed with activities like zip lining, swimming, archery, dancing, sports and music and drama, the Easterseals Camp Challenge in Sorrento offers peace of mind for you and a fun-filled summertime adventure for your loved one. It provides two summer camp programs, a fully-accessible Overnight Camp for children over six years of age and adults of any age with disabilities or special needs, and a Day Camp for school age children, typically developing or those with mild to moderate special needs. Scholarship funds are available for the overnight camp. easterseals.com/florida
You’ll find 232-acre Camp Boggy Creek just outside of Orlando, a year-round retreat that serves children ages 7-16 who’ve been diagnosed with chronic or life-threatening conditions. It makes it possible for these special kids to enjoy a camp experience in a safe, medically-sound environment—and there’s no charge for attending. The weekly and weekend camp programs include joys like horseback riding, fishing, and climbing a ropes-tower, as well as the promise of making new buddies. boggycreek.org
The Mindful Music Center in Sanford gives everyone a voice, offering piano, voice, percussion and music lessons for students with disabilities. mindfulmusicsanford.com/
Brevard Field of Dreams is specially designed for folks with special needs. This five-acre sporting complex promises fully-rubberized playing surfaces for baseball, soccer, and basketball – and all of them accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility equipment. spacecoastfieldofdreams.org
The Central Florida Dreamplex urges people to ‘Live the Dream every day!’ – and that goes for everybody. Located in Clermont, this center for fitness and recreation is designed specifically for families with special needs, blending alternative therapy, adaptive sports, recreation activities and group fitness classes as a path to wellness. The Dreamplex also hosts inspiring events. cfldreamplex.com
Sharing their passion for adventure and the underwater World, The Scuba Gym Adaptive SCUBA offers a program for open water certification and weekly SCUBA therapy programs in Winter Garden. Its SASP (Special Adventures for Special People) Summer Camp caters to children and adults with special needs ages 10 and up. thescubagym.com
Kid’s Nite Out equals parents’ night out! This in-room hotel childcare service, based out of Buena Vista, comes with a toy-bag full of age-appropriate activities, games and books. kidsniteout.com
SPARE stands for a glorious truth: Special People Are Really Extraordinary. It celebrates that fact with weekly Saturday afternoon bowling at Oviedo Bowling Center, bringing opportunities for fellowship and accomplishment to kids. owsoptimistclub.com/s-p-a-r-e
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has partnered with KultureCity to become certified as a sensory inclusive organization. Certification included training of the Zoo’s staff by leading medical professionals on how to recognize guests that may have sensory needs and how to help with a sensory overload situation. Sensory bags for guests feeling overwhelmed during a Zoo visit are now available at the Train Booth. Each bag is equipped with noise canceling headphones, fidget tools, and verbal cue cards. Families planning a trip to the Zoo can now download the free KultureCity App that shares how to access sensory features at the Zoo. Additionally, on the App is the Social Story which will provide a preview of what to expect while enjoying an event at Zoo. jacksonvillezoo.org
The Annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities, held in Boca Raton each March, holds bragging rights as the largest, free, wholly disability-friendly event in the country, with a full schedule of national and local entertainment, recreation, boat rides, special access to the beach and ocean with Mobi Mats, vendors, exhibitions, workshops and food. The fun includes a Kids Fun Zone, therapy workshops led by trained specialists, wheelchair yoga, music, costumed dance parties, therapy ponies and dogs, two miniature accessible trains that guests can ride, an antique trolley and much more. boatingbeachbash.com
Insurance With provides travel insurance as well as a free online guide with information about traveling with a medical condition or disability. .insurancewith.com/travelling-with-a-medical-condition
Medical Equipment Rentals
Health Aid Company offers medical equipment rentals for Tampa Bay vacationers and short term visitors, including those departing from the Port of Tampa on round-trip cruises.
Care Medical Equipment, Orlando: Wheelchair and scooter rental, oxygen, other medical equipment. 800-741-2282, 407-856-2273, caremedicalequipment.com
Scootaround Inc.: Available in 120 Florida cities. 888-441-7575, scootaround.com
Family Rentals: Wheelchair and scooter rental, wheelchair ramps, shower chairs, and other medical equipment. Available in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. familyrentals.com
Beach Wheels: Browse the visitor information listings for destinations that offer beach wheelchairs and other services or information for the physically challenged. Unlike regular wheelchairs, these “beach wheels” have special tires that don’t get stuck in sand. Beach chairs are often provided at no charge and are available to anyone unable to walk or those who possess a handicapped automobile tag.
Accessible Vehicle Rental
Most major car rental companies, including Hertz and Dollar Rent A Car, can, with advance notice, provide hand-control cars.
Accessible Vans of America:
· Miami location (Sunset Mobility), 800-240-9246, accessiblevans.com
· Southwest Florida locations: Fort Myers 239-936-6333, oceanconversions.com
· Available in Orlando, Bradenton, Sarasota, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Daytona Beach and Melbourne, 800-242-4990
· Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Fort Myers and Naples, 800-637-7577; wheelchairgetaways.com
Disabled Parking Permits
Section 316.1958 Florida Statutes provides that motor vehicles displaying a license plate or parking permit issued to a disabled person by any other state or district subject to laws of the United States shall be recognized as a valid plate or permit or by a foreign country that issues disabled parking permits that display the international symbol of accessibility. Information is at hsmv.state.fl.us/dmv/disabled
International travelers who have parking permits in their own country can purchase a temporary permit from any local tax office for $15.
Cruises for Special Needs
Autism on the Seas, a national organization, has been in collaboration with Royal Caribbean International since 2007 in developing cruise vacation services to accommodate adults and families living with children with Special Needs, including, but not limited to, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and all Cognitive, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Their staffed cruises assist adults and families in accommodating the typical cruise services, as well as providing specialized respite and private activities/sessions that allow our guests the use of the ships’ entertainment venues in an accommodated and assisted manner.
They offer cruises from every cruise port in Florida, as well as resort stays at Disney World with a professional volunteer staff. autismontheseas.com