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Jeff Berger's Original St. Maarten / St. Martin Information Center - The Largest, Most Complete Guide to "Everything St. Maarten / St. Martin"




 

 

Tips for Enjoying St. Maarten / St. Martin for People With Disabilities / Handicaps

This page contains information from Marty and Laura, and Sally and Frank. In each relationship, one person is handicapped, as noted below. This page gives you their stories about handicapped / disabled access in St. Maarten and St. Martin.

 

First, from Laura: Three years ago, Marty and Laura Van Veen gave us a story on handicapped access in St. Maarten. Marty suffers from multiple sclerosis. Their story is below, followed by an update on the same subject from Sally and Frank, who revisited SXM in late Summer, 2012. 

 

---contributed by Laura Van Veen

My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Sint Maarten/Sint Martin. It was a wonderful week and he loves the island so much he hopes that we move there someday. Unfortunately, without some changes throughout the island, this will not be possible.

My husband, Marty, has Chronic Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. What this means is that his Multiple Sclerosis symptoms will continue to progress. Currently Marty uses a wheelchair all the time. This can make some things difficult for travel.

As anyone who has ever been to Sint Maarten/St. Martin already knows, the local people are big hearted, extremely friendly, and generous. Everyone that we ran into offered to help, whether it was to help Marty get in or out of his wheelchair, enter a non-handicapped bathroom, get into or out of a pool, or enter a business that was not 'handicap friendly'. We were very fortunate that we were in Sint Maarten/St. Martin; don't know if we would have been as fortunate (or should I say blessed) had we been any where else.

Hotels. Sadly, Sint Maarten/St. Martin is not an ideal island for the disabled. We stayed at the Pelican Resort (now Simpson Bay Resort); Marty could not use the bathroom, since it was too small for him to enter in his wheelchair. Luckily, I found a special shower wipe made for people who are bedridden and I washed and conditioned his hair in the kitchen sink. We had a mirror for him to use so he could shave there as well. The good news is that he was clean but he was very happy to come home and take a real shower. Our stay at Pelican was due to the generosity of friends; it was their wedding gift to us, a honeymoon. We have since learned that Cap Caraibes and L'Hoste are wheelchair accessible; they have wheelchair accommodations (rooms with large bathrooms and showers) and have accessible areas throughout the premises (pathways with no stairs) and to the beach edge.

Restaurants are another example. Turtle Pier has a walkway that declines as you enter. That wasn't too bad; Marty just helped me by holding on to the wheels. There is a step to get to the bar area and the seating beyond; that was fine since the general manager volunteered the use of the staff to get Marty up and down as needed. The only problem with Turtle Pier is the bathroom; it is necessary to go up five steep stairs, meaning there is no way for anyone in a wheelchair to use the facilities. I took Marty to the parking lot; a woman would not have that option.

Beaches are another obstacle. Regular wheelchairs can not go on a beach. The only beach wheelchair on the island was at Club Orient, a naturist resort. Luckily for us they were gracious and permitted us to use the wheelchair and go on the club's beach. Had they not let us use the beach wheelchair, Marty would not have had any beach time on the island.

These are the suggestions I have prior to travel anywhere for people with disabilities:

  • As soon as you know you are going, start surfing the net. Use a search engine, type in the name of the place where you are going and then start 'digging' through the pages. This can be time-consuming but this is how I found Jeff Berger's SXM site and it proved to be extremely valuable to Marty and me.
  • Contact your resort by e-mail or phone to make sure there are handicapped-accessible rooms and elevators. If not, make sure they have ground level entrances. Plan how to deal with not having handicapped features in the room. For example, I ordered portable urinals that we could take with us for Marty's use in the room (since he could not get into the bathroom) as well as to take with us around the island in case we ran into the same problem elsewhere. I ordered from AvShop Pilot Shop. Their price was reasonable and we received the order in a timely fashion. Also, don't be shy about asking that someone measure the doorway into your room, into the bathroom, and into the dining area, and then measure the wheelchair you plan to use.
     
  • See if you can find any chat rooms or forums for your destination. I found two (thanks to Jeff and his friends) and the people involved were a big help, too. For example, this is how I found out that Club Orient had beach wheelchairs. For Sint Maarten/St. Martin travel I recommend either http://www.traveltalkonline.com [or see Jeff's page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Everything-St-Maarten-St-Martin/162144156895 -Ed.] 
     
  • Contact the airline and make them aware that you have a disability and the equipment you will need to have with you. If you use a wheelchair, notify them that you will need an aisle chair. The aisle chair is very narrow, to fit into the aisle of an airplane.
     
  • Read up on the restaurants, casinos, museums, etc. that you think you will want to visit during your trip. Contact, either by phone or computer, to make sure they can accommodate you. Finding out beforehand that something will not work is a lot less frustrating then finding it out at the entrance when you're there.
  • There are definite improvements that need to be made for Sint Maarten to be handicap 'friendly'. For example, where in Philipsburg have you noticed a ramp into any of the businesses? There is an Italian Restaurant, Tutta Pasta, that is supposed to be fabulous but there are too many steps -- it's on a second floor and there is no elevator. [Note: The entrance to IZI Italian Pasta Lounge in Simpson Bay, with its own off-street parking, is much easier, at street level.-Ed.]
  • The bathroom facilities in different resorts and some other businesses need to have wider doorways and at least one handicapped stall added. Although Pelican was able to put us in a 'ground level' room, there was still a huge step that Marty had to be wheeled up to get to the room. I am barely 5 feet tall so I could not do this...thank GOD for friends!


Speaking of friends, they are the best thing to have with you in case an unforeseen situation arises. Our best friends celebrated their third anniversary in SXM while we celebrated our marriage. Still, Pelican might see more of my husband and I if they added some basic cement ramps leading to these rooms and also made the bathrooms handicap accessible.

Another major change: beach access is needed for the disabled! I can't say it enough...for an island that has that many beaches to only have two beach wheelchairs is a travesty. Not to mention, even if Pelican had been able to provide beach wheelchairs, there was no access to the beach for someone with a disability. Again, thank God for Orient Beach and Club Orient!

Remember to research as much as you can prior to going and once you get there, enjoy!

SINT MAARTEN TOURIST OFFICES (Info of value to you):

St. Maarten

St. Maarten Tourist Bureau
Vineyard Office Park
WG Buncamper Rd. #33
St. Maarten N.A.
Tel: 5995-22337
Fax: 5995-22734


Canada

St. Maarten Tourist Office
703 Evans Avenue
Suite 106
Toronto, Ontario
M9C 5E9 Canada
Phone: 416-622-4300


Brazil

St. Maarten Tourist Office
Av. Ipiranga 318 bl A - 5 Andar
Sao Paulo - SP- CEP 01046-010
Brazil
Phone: 55-11-214-5588
Fax: 55-11-258-3575

USA

St. Maarten Tourist Office
675 Third Avenue, Suite 1806
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 953-2084
Fax: (212) 953-2145
Toll Free: (800) 786-2278 (1 800 STMAARTEN)


Argentina

St. Maarten Tourist Office
Rodriguez Pena, 2025-9th Floor, A
1021 Buenos Aires, CF
Argentina
Phone: 54 11 4816 1881
Fax: 54 11 4816 2100


Italy

St. Maarten Tourist Office
Via Durini 2
20122 Milano
Italy
Phone: 30 02 76 02 12 03
Fax: 39 02 76 00 32 17

--Laura Van Veen
 

Now, from Sally and Frank:

 

Hi. I thought that you would like to see the growing progress of this tree since the first one that I sent to you in 2009. It's amazing how it just keeps on growing through this rock. There are many that are growing this way that are all around the golf course BUT this one sits all by itself just after Maho on the left going towards the Atlantis Casino.

The island has become so saturated with traffic since we bought our timeshare at the Ocean Club in '92. You just can't get out of your own way. The quaintness and "homey" feeling is gone. Unfortunately my husband has been handicapped, in a wheelchair with oxygen for the past few years but was determined to go down this year after his absence of 5 years. However, I've been down myself a couple times. Unfortunately, there are not many handicapped "friendly" places. The Atlantis Casino is now in the process of building a handicap ramp of some sorts but wasn't finished before we left. The Casino in Maho, however, took out the wheelchair from the trunk, parked our car and wheeled him into the casino! They also did the reverse when we were leaving and took a tip reluctantly. Restaurants along Airport Rd. are also not handicapped accessible. So, whenever we could park right in the front, we went in...such a place was Pineapple Pete's. Forget about traveling to Marigot. The farthest we got was the Marigot Market. There were handicapped parking spots there..but Frank waited outside the car in his wheelchair because we could not navigate to get to the inner part of the market...so he waited back and had a cold beer at one of the stands. Then a very nice person came over and helped me get his wheelchair back in the trunk.

Friends of mine said that it took one hour to get back from the French Side because of the "road construction (destruction?)" The said they thought they were back in the states. We stay at the Ocean Club on the Dutch Side which is right across the Blue Mall.

Anyway, my husband won't be returning because of the hassle of traveling in his condition. Although I must commend the Captain of our Jet Blue flight who made it a point to get us a gate on the return because there were 3 wheeled chair passengers aboard. Otherwise, we would have to get on a bus, off a bus and then proceed to the terminal at JFK. That was so admirable of him that I saw it necessary to commend him to Jet Blue.

N. B.: The French Side is requiring handicapped access be set up as a matter of law. We know of no such efforts on the Dutch Side.-Ed.

Tags: Tips for Enjoying St. Maarten / St. Martin for People With Disabilities / Handicaps

   
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