​Access Pass: My Favorite Travel Hack

Posted by Stephanie Woodward in Life After Paralysis on August 23, 2021 # Travel, Lifestyle

Stephanie, a white woman in a red shirt and jeans, sits in her pink wheelchair smiling. A turtle is in the grass next to her. For people with disabilities who love to travel, the U.S. National Parks Access Pass is a must! The Access Pass is available to all U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States that have a permanent disability. If you meet this criteria, you can get a free, lifetime pass that provides admittance to more than 2,000 recreation sites in the U.S.

I first got my Access Pass in San Juan, Puerto Rico when I visited Castillo San Felipe del Morro. I had previously heard about the Access Pass but did not want to go through the hassle of filling out the application and mailing it in (I know, I know. It’s not hard, but I am impatient). The bright side is that there are multiple ways to get an Access Pass. You can mail in your application with proper documentation of your disability (this method requires a $10 processing fee), you can apply online (this also requires a $10 processing fee), or you can get one in person at hundreds of different recreation sites.

The Access Pass is especially awesome because, not only does it allow the holder to enter over 2,000 recreation sites for free, but it also allows up to three additional adults who are in the same vehicle to enter for free as well! This comes in handy whenever my husband and I travel together and explore a new federal park. Even though my husband also uses a wheelchair, he never applied for his own Access Pass, so when we go to parks, we simply use my Access Pass and we both are admitted for free!Stephanie smiling over the edge of the lookout tower.

Most recently my husband and I took a much-needed vacation to Miami, Florida. I used to live in Miami and I was really craving some delicious Cuban food, so we went down there for a few days so that I could eat at Café Versailles and show my husband the city where I first practiced law. Because my husband has a fear of alligators, I decided it would be fun to take a day to explore the Everglades together and show my husband the gators! At first, he was hesitant, but he finally agreed to go to Shark Valley with me. Shark Valley is a national park in a freshwater marsh that is full of wildlife – including turtles, birds, and alligators – and has a 15-mile paved trail! Paved trails are my favorite because it makes for a smooth, easy push as we enjoy nature. The halfway point of the Shark Valley Trail has a huge 65-foot high observation tower providing a panoramic view of the sawgrass marsh. The observation tower has a massive ramp around it, allowing us to get a workout in as we pushed up it to see the view!

Stephanie smiles at the camera while she is holding the back of Ryan’s wheelchair. Ryan is towing her on the paved path.

Shark Valley usually costs $30 per vehicle to enter, but thanks to my Access Pass, we were admitted for free. We spent at least four hours at Shark Valley, pushing the 15-mile trail, seeing lots of gators, and enjoying the gorgeous views from the observation tower. If you’re not interested in walking or pushing15 miles in the Florida heat, there’s also a tram you can take! I highly recommend the tram and wish we had taken the tram too, but my athletic husband wanted to push the trail instead. I only lasted about 9 miles, and I had him tow me back the rest of the way by holding onto the back of his wheelchair while he pushed! The tram would have been easier and faster, but we really loved spending the whole morning and part of our afternoon exploring Shark Valley. Plus, it’s not often that I can go on vacation and say that I spent half a day on an adventure that did not cost anything!

I have many places on my travel bucket list, and with the Access Pass, it will be even easier to keep checking them off!

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network. Stephanie is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to bringing more women and girls with disabilities to the forefront through mentoring and activism.

This post is purely educational for our community readers. The Reeve Foundation does not endorse this product and these opinions are the bloggers.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.