Ask Exclusive Resorts Member John Hauschildt about his unique life journey, and you’ll walk away inspired to elevate your own legacy. We all have a story to tell—and John’s is one of injury, recovery, grit, and perseverance. As a teenager John was fast-tracking to Olympic swimming status. But at 18 years old, he suffered a severe neck accident in the pool that left him unable to walk. Yes, the loss was tragic and the challenges ahead daunting, yet a fierce determination as an elite athlete carried over to his remarkable recovery and an eventual career as a renowned radiologist and professor.
Today, as a San Diego resident and Club Member since 2004, John remains an avid traveler, taking full advantage of his vacation travel club membership. He’s journeyed around the globe with Exclusive Resorts, visiting areas that have been both easy and more challenging to navigate via wheelchair. So whether we face a recovery of our own—or find ourselves traveling with someone rehabbing from a surgery and looking for wheelchair-friendly locales—here are John’s tips and insights to both international and domestic destinations that are easily accessible and inspiring to explore.
Barcelona, Spain. Due in large part to the 1992 Olympics, accessibility modifications were implemented throughout the city and now make it one of the most accessible cities in the world. Two must-sees via wheelchair are Sagrada Família cathedral—designed by Gaudi—and the Gothic Quarter, where old narrow streets and alleys are closed to automobile traffic and allow you to easily explore shops, restaurants, and bars.
Florence, Italy. Florence has a flat, compact, and very walkable city center, with most streets closed to automobile traffic. Many art and history museums are easily accessible by wheelchair, often with the ability to skip any lines. Visit The Uffizi and Accademia Gallery to view some of the most famous Renaissance works of art (and the statue of David). Both museums have special wheelchair access for you and a companion, plus admission is free.
London, England. The city is quite old; therefore this may seem counterintuitive, however what stands out about London is the accessibility and accommodations at all of the big museums and galleries. Additionally, all of the city taxi cabs are wheelchair accessible due to the classic design—the small ramps allow you to get into the center of the little black cabs without any assistance. Buckingham Palace is only a few steps from the Exclusive Resorts residence. If lucky, you may glimpse the Queen and the royal family while watching the changing of the guard. Lastly, don’t miss the London Eye, which features a spectacular city view.
Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. Melbourne is the easier of the two cities to navigate in a wheelchair because it is flat and compact, with lots of wheelchair accessible transportation and modifications around town. Sydney is a bit hilly and more difficult to explore, yet it’s still relatively easy, and some of the top sites include the famous Sydney Opera House. Check out the Eureka Skydeck for a view of the city from the top of the Eureka Tower, while a coastal day trip to the Twelve Apostles reveals giant limestone stacks eroded by the sea.
Baha Mar, Bahamas. My recent trip to Baha Mar was probably the most fun and easily accessible trip I have taken throughout all my years of travel to the Caribbean. As a former swimmer, I have always loved to travel to beach destinations, despite the frequent challenges that come with traveling to small island countries. The resort is relatively new, and an enormous amount of money was spent to ensure everything is easily accessible throughout the resort, including the pool and restaurant areas. The staff is also quite friendly and willing to help with access to the beach and ocean. Everything you need is right at the resort, which makes for a uniquely relaxing Caribbean vacation without having to stress about local transportation or beach accessibility.
San Diego, CA. This isn’t one of my favorites just because I live here, but one of the reasons I chose to live in San Diego is that the city is quite flat (particularly the downtown area), with excellent wheelchair accessibility for public transportation, restaurants, and various venues. La Jolla Shores—the locale of Club residences— is also very flat, with wheelchair access to the beach and an accessible boardwalk along the expansive coast. The world famous San Diego Zoo is a main attraction, though it can be quite hilly and steep for wheelchairs. I prefer the San Diego Safari Park (owned by the zoo). Expect a large open area with giraffes, zebras, lions, and more—which you can see using a wheelchair accessible tram. The downtown Gaslamp District and Embarcadero are extremely wheelchair friendly, with lots to see and do. Take the ferry across to Coronado Island for city views from the bay and savor lunch or dinner on the island.
Chicago, IL. This is another city that is relatively flat, with numerous and accessible restaurants, theaters, and museums. Like some of the larger cities including New York, there’s an accessible taxi cab app that you can download to your phone for wheelchair accessible taxis (follow their progress to your pick-up point) to the Magnificent Mile and all the fabulous restaurants and theaters. Take the elevator to the top of the John Hancock Building for views via the top-floor bar.
Denver, CO. Denver is also easy to get around, with impressive accessible public transportation to restaurants and downtown venues. This is a good jumping off point to head to the mountains in the summertime and visit the more walkable mountain towns. Vail is my favorite for easy things to do in a wheelchair. Take in a Denver Bronco game at the Mile High Stadium.
Maui, HI. Maui at Kapalua is one of my favorite resorts in the Club’s U.S. portfolio. The resort is thoughtfully laid out and very accessible for wheelchairs. It’s also one of the more accessible islands in Hawaii to visit, with many activities to explore. Drive up to the top of Haleakala Crater for incredible views of the entire island and surrounding ocean. Take a Maui Helicopter Tour and glimpse neighboring islands—a wheelchair accessible lift helps you enter the helicopter.
+ John’s Insider Tip: One of the best Exclusive Resorts Member travel services for people with disabilities is the Ambassador. Let them know of your physical needs, and they can check ahead with the on-site Concierge and procure measurements, photos, descriptions, floorplans, and more to remove the anxiety and guesswork of planning a wheelchair-friendly trip.