HomeOctober 2011Accent on Accessibility

Accent on Accessibility

Debra Kerper knows how it feels to be a physically challenged traveler.  Kerper, who has been living with lupus since the age of 20, spent six years full-time in a wheelchair as the result of a bone infection in her legs and became a below-knee amputee at the age of 29.  She has undergone more than 30 surgeries and has spent much time using a wheelchair.
On the bright side, Kerper has enjoyed long periods of good health and short-distance walking.  She has a very keen understanding of medical ailments and disabling conditions resulting from excessive time spent in hospitals and outpatient rehab facilities, and she has found a way to put that knowledge to good use.
Kerper decided to pursue a career in travel for the disabled because of her personal experience.  She received her travel training at Coastline Community College where she was the recipient of the Tate Award for outstanding academic performance and goals in the travel industry.
“I’ve learned how to minimize the frustrations while maximizing the enjoyment of visiting new and exciting destinations,” said Kerper, who travels extensively with a wheelchair and/or a scooter.  A member of the Society for Accessible Travel (SATH), she has visited more than 30 countries and has been on more than 75 cruises.  Possessing very strong interpersonal skills and a love of helping people, Kerper is able to share her knowledge and expertise with other disabled persons as well as those who simply want to travel at a more leisurely pace.
Kerper has been a specialist in travel for the disabled and mature since 1992.  Her company, Easy Access Travel, a division of Edie’s Cruise & Travel Center, researches clients’ vacation choices and provides them with the necessary information to make the trip enjoyable and rewarding.  According to Kerper, “We achieve this by trying to eliminate surprises and informing our clients of the situations they may encounter.  We pride ourselves on providing honest and accurate information.”
Specializing in cruise vacations for disabled and mature travelers, Easy Access Travel has the extensive knowledge to match people to the right cruises.  “We cruise in wheelchair-accessible staterooms and explore the ports in a wheelchair or scooter,” said Kerper, who pointed out that her company can help to meet the needs of everyone in the touring party, whether it is a person with a disability, a senior with some physical limitations, a child or anyone else.
Now Kerper is giving people with accessibility issues a reason to kvell.  Her company is offering an Israel Heritage Tour for Wheelchair/Scooter Users and Slow Walkers from February 27 to March 7, 2012.  According to Kerper, “You can visit Israel and have a totally accessible trip with experienced guides who understand your special needs.  You will travel in air-conditioned lift equipped vehicles and stay in accessible four star hotels.  You can also rent scooters or other medical equipment when you arrive in Israel.”
The itinerary includes a visit to the Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Jewish People, which tells the unique and ongoing story of the Jewish people and describes the special bond between the Jewish people and Israel.  The museum presents thousands of years of a flourishing, multifaceted culture, bringing to life the unity that underlies the diversity of the Jewish civilization.  Then participants will tour Jaffa, one of Israel’s oldest port cities.  They will go to Tel Aviv and visit Independence Hall, and relive the exciting moment of David Ben Gurion’s moving Declaration of the State of Israel, visit Kikar Rabin and end the day at the Tel Aviv Port entertainment center.
The tour will move on to Caesarea, the Roman port city on the Mediterranean.  In Zichron Ya’akov, participants will visit the Ramat Hanadiv, a natural gem dedicated to the memory of Baron Edmond de Rothschild.  The trip will continue north to Tiberias, a thriving recreation spa, built around 17 natural mineral hot springs more than 600 feet below sea level, and go around the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, which lies roughly 650 feet below sea level and is 14 miles long and 7 1/2 miles wide at its widest point.  The tourists will visit Kibbutz Kinneret, which was established in 1911, and Kibbutz Ginosar, the former home of one of Israel’s great statesmen, Yigal Allon, and the home of a 2,000-year-old boat excavated from the Kinneret in 1985.
Next on the agenda are a tree planting ceremony and Shabbat in Jerusalem, followed by a stroll through the Jewish Quarter, a visit to the excavations of the Herodian Mansions, a tour of the Southern Wall Excavations and the Davidson Center’s virtual 3D tour of the ancient Temple and a visit to the Western Wall, last remainder of the Holy Temple from the Roman Times.  Then participants will visit the new museum at Yad Vashem, which opened to the public for the first time in 2005, and experience Israel’s newest attraction, “Herzl’s Vision,” where they can learn the story of Theodore Herzl, whose vision of a Jewish Homeland was only a dream.  Next, there is an excursion to the new city of Jerusalem, including the Knesset, the site of the Israeli parliament with its surrounding Rose Gardens, and Ammunition Hill, where one of the fiercest battles for Jerusalem took place during the Six Day War.
Participants will journey to Masada, King Herod’s desert mountain get-away palace and scene of the zealots’ last stand against the Roman Legion, and then swim at the Dead Sea Hotel with time to float in the unsinkable waters of the Dead Sea.  They will finish the day at Eretz Breishit, where they can enjoy camel rides and a special dinner.  On the last day, the group will visit Mini Israel miniature city, featuring more than 350 beautifully crafted exact-replica models of historical, religious, archeological and modern sites.
The cost in a double-occupancy room is $3550 per person, with an additional $860 for a single room, if paid by check.  The price includes: transfers from and to the airport, deluxe air conditioned accessible van transportation, nine days of tours following the itinerary, all entrance fees, a local government-certificated tour guide and breakfasts and dinners.  The price does not include: international flights; airport or border taxes; personal expenses; gratuities to guides, driver and hotel personnel; wheelchairs, scooters or other equipment.
For more information, contact Debra Kerper, Easy Access Travel, at (800)920-8989, www.easyaccesstravel.com or debra@easyaccesstravel.com.


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