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Bermuda's disabled and handicapped conditions for locals and visitors

Accessibility and services in our 21 square miles island of 64,268 residents

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us).

Travel for the Disabled disability concerns

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Advance facts about Bermuda for disabled residents and visitors

Main Bermuda Map

This file seeks to provide reliable information about Bermuda for the disabled, so visitors or newcomers know what to expect - or not. 

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Overview

Bermuda is certainly a lovely place for all able-bodied residents and visitors, but for the physically challenged/disabled, access for the disabled/physically handicapped and/or mobility-impaired is limited. Bermuda, a tiny (only 21 square miles) British Overseas Territory island 900 miles due east of the nearest mainland, North Carolina, USA, is similar to all the still British or once-British Caribbean islands 900 miles to the south in having very few facilities and services specifically for the learning or physically disabled or blind or deaf. 

There is no equivalent in Bermuda of the USA's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission at http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/). 

Bermuda has no  legislation protecting the rights of the disabled, beyond is contained in the local Human Rights Acts, unlike the USA, UK, Canada, etc, all of which do, as shown for some in the web-links above.

The Bermuda Government does not require accommodation providers - hotels, guest houses, cottage colonies, apartments, villas etc - or shops or restaurants or sightseeing attractions or boats to make any of their facilities accessible. (Some try in certain ways, voluntarily). Some hotels have tried to create disabled-friendly (but not always ADA-compliant) guest rooms. In contrast, the USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. have laws that require this. 

Bermuda exerts no requirement on business owners, landlords, owner occupiers and tenants to make adjustments to the physical features of properties to accommodate disabled persons - in or out of a wheelchair. Shops, stores, private sector offices, government offices and historic buildings are not required to - and mostly do not - offer access to all floors to the disabled in a wheelchair. Nor do they have front doors which open in a disabled-friendly way. Many places are not accessible at all. 

Bermuda is not wheelchair-friendly. But in the City of Hamilton, some roads have disabled-friendly sidewalks.

Bermuda's Sidewalks are often very busy with pedestrians, can be steep, are not always on both sides of the road and traffic on the main road between sidewalks is often dense. It is a very hilly, with few flat places, not good for disabled people confined to a wheelchair who are not accompanied by a spouse or caregiver with the strength to lift them. Main roads are very narrow and almost always busy during the weekday especially. There are now sidewalks with sloping ramps uniformly throughout the most frequently traveled tourism and international business areas of the City of Hamilton. The Town of St. George is improving in this area. But outside the city and town you will not see many sidewalks elsewhere evenly on one side of the road or another - and they don't have ramps. With so few roads in Bermuda with little traffic, persons in wheelchairs and the ambulatory disabled - persons who can walk but have a balance or mobility problem and may have to use  a cane or crutches or walker - should be exceedingly careful when crossing a street and in the city or town should do so only when there is a traffic light and a push-button pedestrian crossing with a  "walk" and "don't walk" signal; and when using stairs, stair cases, steps. 

The Bermuda Government's Department of Planning has no equivalent of the Access Statement of Planning Departments in London and elsewhere in the UK, or the USA's ADA. There is no requirement in Bermuda to show how the principles of inclusive design, including the specific needs of the disabled, are integrated into the proposed development and how inclusion will be maintained and managed. 

New permanently disabled non-Bermudian resident newcomers to Bermuda do not get any of the financial assistance from the Bermuda Government routinely offered by Canada, USA, UK, etc.  to their citizens and legal residents including newcomers. The severely disabled of Bermuda of any age do not get - as they do in the UK, etc. all their medical prescriptions free of charge. 

Although Bermuda is (nominally) British, it offers none of the benefits British-UK disabled citizens get, such as a non-means-tested government-paid Disability Allowance (DLA) in the Higher Rate  for mobility, or Middle Rate or Lower Rate, or if over 65, an Attendance Allowance, for those who need help with personal care, by day and night. Plus, in the UK, a spouse or relative or friend under the age of 65 who provides at least 35 hours a week of care to a severely disabled person is entitled to a government-paid Carer's (Caregiver in USA and Canada) Allowance.

Rentals of cars or trucks are not permitted.  No disabled visitor can rent a private car or truck. 

Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Cruise visitors who are blind, have their own guide dogs and want to go ashore with the dogs are advised to get their caregivers or family members who are not blind to apply as long as possible in advance, as all animals including guide dogs for newcomers and tourists must be approved. A formal application must be made in advance to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. See ApplicationForPermitToImportSmallAnimals.pdf.

Personal mobility vehicles.  Not allowed on any public roads in Bermuda by persons who are not residents and not licensed and insured in Bermuda to use them, unlike in St. Thomas, St, Croix, San Juan, etc (American territories where US laws including ADA apply).  

Public Transport, buses and ferries. See separate headings below. 

Taxis and costs.  See under Taxis in Getting Around in Bermuda. Same fares apply to disabled and able. Some taxis can take the physically handicapped and other disabled. Before they arrive in Bermuda by air any severely disabled or walking but mobility-restricted visitors who have made and paid or reserved hotel or guest house or apartment reservations should ask that provider to contact one of the taxi services and make a taxi reservation stating their disability-related taxi needs. Similarly, those who arrive on a cruise ship should ask their cruise ship provider for the same service. Taxis are great for picking up people from and taking them back to airports and taking their passengers from place to place on fairly short trips. For the disabled who cannot use a moped or scooter or board the buses, they offer a good but expensive - way of sightseeing further afield. But for most visitors they are not the most economical way to see the island when compared to the much lower costs of public transportation. 

Presently, no Bermuda laws require any type of public or private transport to take the disabled, unlike in UK, USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. If you are sensitive to or may have any disability-related or other emergency, a major factor may be to have a non-disabled driver available, one who is fit, mobile and agile enough to render physical assistance such as pushing a manual wheelchair if necessary in the event (no matter how remote) of an accident or medical or any other emergency, especially when time may be of the essence in say arriving in time for an airline or cruise ship departure or fulfilling a time-specific rendezvous or getting prompt medical attention. This could be a life-saver. 

There is no equivalent in Bermuda of the 

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Accessible-to-disabled visitors Bermuda hotel rooms

USA ADA disability standards do not apply in Bermuda. There are no legally required disability protections or minimum standards required by Bermuda's Ministry of Tourism or the public/private sector Bermuda Tourism Authority what constitutes a disabled-friendly room may not apply elsewhere. Disabled visitors using wheelchairs and the mobility-impaired should ask before they book for  details of disabled-friendly rooms such as overall room size (many disabled or mobility-impaired guests need somewhat bigger rooms); room door and bathroom door width, does the bathroom have a wet-room shower or only a shower in a bathtub over which guests have to step, is the room on the ground (first) floor or higher in which case is there an elevator nearby and what is the elevator emergency policy for disabled guests.

Disabled visitors need to know in advance that of all the hotels and other accommodation facilities mentioned below 

A few places in Bermuda offer disabled-friendly rooms, by advance notice only with details of what is required. They are: 

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Airlines serving Bermuda Disabled

Accessible travel in Bermuda

If you bring a wheelchair for use here -  recommended - arrange in advance to have it checked as priority baggage.

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Airport

The new airport completed in late 2020 has jetways. Airlines should ask to make the airport hoist available when required. A disabled passenger transporter is here. The airport can take departing USA-bound passengers in wheelchairs from the departure lounge to ground level.  There is an elevator.

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Areas of Bermuda (Parishes, districts)

Bermuda Parishes

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Bathrooms (toilets) for Disabled

Purpose-built toilets in Bermuda for the disabled are at 

Unlike in The United Kingdom and Canada, they are not NKS or equivalent key-accessible toilets.

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Beaches

Bermuda has some absolutely gorgeous private and public beaches, ideal for enjoyment by the fit and able. But none of them presently offer the disabled any of the wheelchair-friendly vehicles shown below. The level of demand and economies of scale have not yet been sufficient to justify the expense.. Disabled visitors should not attempt on their own to use their wheelchairs to get down to a beach. They should ensure a caregiver accompanies them. Also, because public transport buses cannot carry wheelchairs at this time, disabled visitors and their caregivers who want to visit most beaches not near where their cruise ship has docked must do so by taxi.

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Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo 

This Bermuda Government-owned facility has no Disabled Parking sign outside. There is a ramp to the entrance.

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Bermuda Festival  

Every January to February, for 2 hours a night, mostly at City Hall in City of Hamilton accessible via a curving outdoor ramp that now leads to the City Hall Theatre. There are special places for the wheelchair-bound and a seat nearby for a caregiver. Regular prices apply.

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Bermuda Government facilities and services

Ageing and Disability Services Office. Until September 2015 the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC). Continental Building, on the corner of Church Street and Cedar Avenue, Hamilton. Or by Airmail at P. O. Box HM 1195, Hamilton HM EX, Bermuda. Open 8:45 am to 5 pm Monday-Friday. Phone (441) 292-7802. Fax (441) 292-7681. Under the remit of the Ministry of Health.  As in the UK, there is no national register of senior citizens/ disabled/physically handicapped persons. 

Bermuda National Library. Accessible by elevator. There is one Handicapped Parking place between it and the Bermuda Historical Society. Free access.

Bermuda Police Service. Its mission statement is "To ensure a safe, secure and peaceful Bermuda for all, because we care..." But it does not extend to helping disabled persons with Disabled Parking Badges ensure the latter are not abused. On a number of occasions when this has happened, disabled members have called the police in vain.

Human Rights Commission. Suite 304, Mechanics Building, 12 Church Street, Hamilton HM 11. Telephone 295-5889. Or e-mail hrcbda@ibl.bm. Human Rights Act 1981 and Human Rights Amendment Act 2000 gives the disabled in Bermuda some rights in theory but in practice, based on complaints from some disabled, have been shown to have no teeth. Under the Bermuda Human Rights Act 1981 and Human Rights Amendment Act 2000, a disabled person is one who is registered with any degree of present (but not permanent as other countries require) - of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness, including diabetes, epilepsy, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, human immunodeficiency virus, paralysis, amputation, lack of physical coordination, blindness or visual impairment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device. There are some very serious deficiencies compared to other countries. For example, in the USA, Canada, UK, European Community, etc. a disabled person is one with a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term or permanent adverse affect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The latter Acts distinguish disability from short term illness and injury and accentuate that it is the extent of the impairment, not the extent of the handicap, that is important. But not in Bermuda.

Statistics Department. Publishes detailed periodic statistics about the disabled population of Bermuda. The last time a census result was published, see below, 2,932 persons, or 5 percent of the civilian non-institutional population, were estimated to be affected by a chronic health condition which impacted on their daily life. The census questionnaire did not ask whether persons are registered in Bermuda as disabled. Nor did it receive any confirmations of disability condition from the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital or Health Department or follow any of the criteria used by overseas census authorities such as the US Census Bureau, all based on Health Department or equivalent confirmations

Transport Control Department. 11 North Street, Hamilton HM 17, telephone (441) 292-1271, the equivalent to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). There is a "PC" license number for a minivan that can carry a wheelchair-bound passenger.

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Bermuda Historical Society Museum & Par-la-Ville Park Disabled

At Par-la-Ville. Telephone (441) 295-2487. Weekdays only - not lunch times. On Queen Street a few blocks from the various cruise ship docks. There is a single Handicapped Parking area outside. Also visit Par-la-Ville Park immediately behind, recently made much more accessible for the disabled.

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Bermuda National Trust

E-mail palmetto@ibl.bm. The largest private property owner. Ask which museums, houses and services are accessible. None have a Handicapped Parking by Permit Only sign. There is a fee for each place unless visitors are current members of a reciprocal National Trust abroad and bring their current membership cards.

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Bermuda Police

Unlike in USA, Canada, Europe, etc. Bermuda's British-modeled police force will not come to aid disabled locals who have valid disabled parking permits but have been deprived of their use by miscreants not entitled to them but who deliberately park there in contempt of such badges. In the UK and British overseas territories British police similarly disrespect the disabled, even after claiming in their profiles that they give priority to the vulnerable and disabled. 

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Bermuda Public Transport - buses

Bermuda Government's Public Transportation Board at 26 Palmetto Road, Devonshire DV 05. P.O. Box HM 443, Hamilton HM BX, Bermuda. Telephone (441) 292-3851, or fax (441) 292-9996 or email info@ptb.bm. See under Buses in Getting Around in Bermuda. Disabled passengers normally expect, wherever they go in the world, to use public transport. This is not the case in Bermuda. Buses are fine for able passengers but are not equipped for the severely disabled who needs to use a wheelchair on the buses, or the walking mobility-restricted disabled who use sticks or crutches who are unable to stand when the buses are crowded as they often are, especially at rush hour times or on busy tourism routes. Nor can the buses carry any portable (fold-up) wheelchairs as they don't have any spaces designated for luggage or bulky items. 

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Bermuda's Public Transport - Ferries

Bermuda has a fast, frequent (daytime) handicapped-accessible Bermuda Government operated public transport ferry service that, on some ferries on the major routes, can carry those confined to push-wheelchair and electric wheelchairs and their caregivers. It is the best and least expensive getting-about option during a Bermuda visit,  to see and enjoy Bermuda's best features, glorious seascapes. They offer lower deck covered seating for the disabled and their caregivers (carers).  But note this service is available only when the weather, wind and sea conditions permit and they don't go to any of the island's beaches or other attractions. See http://www.marineandports.bm then check current (applicable 2017 Ferry Schedule. For these schedules, be prepared to wait for a few minutes of apparent no activity, after which the details will appear suddenly. The Paget to Warwick ferry will take the walking disabled. Ferry stops in Paget, Warwick and Watford Bridge have flights of steps or other impediments that prevent the unaccompanied or accompanied in a wheelchair from accessing the service at all; and should also be approached with caution by others who are ambulatory but have mobility or balance problems.

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Bermuda Red Cross Equipment rentals  

Bermuda Red Cross, Charleswood, 9 Berry Hill Road, Paget Parish. Direct telephone number is (441) 236-8277. Or via airmail at postal address P. O. Box 772, Hamilton HM CX, Bermuda. Rent a wheelchair (but not a motorized one, they are not available locally except to local residents who have appropriate local licensing and insurance to travel on Bermuda's roads) or walker/zimmer frame if you don't bring one. 

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Bermuda Riding for the Disabled  

For the disabled who can ride horses with assistance. The facility's equestrian services are closed for July and August as it is too hot for horses and humans. An appropriate contribution will be expected if you give notice you wish to use the facilities. From here, a team represents Bermuda at the Paralympics. The Bermuda team became part of the Olympic movement at the invitation of the British Riding for Disabled Association in the United Kingdom.

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Bermuda Tourism Authority

Disabled visitors should request the "Accessible Bermuda" booklet.

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City of Hamilton  

City Hall, City Hall Theatre, Art Galleries and Bermuda National Gallery have nice facilities accessible via the curved disabled access outside, then via an elevator. City Hall also offers at least 9 Handicapped Parking by Permit Only places and has done more for the disabled in Bermuda than all other organizations combined. Other facilities in the city that are wheelchair accessible include pedestrian crossings flush with pavements or sidewalks; the  two biggest banks, with ATM cash machines low enough; and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on Church and Court Streets. Access to all floors of the City Hall is possible by those in wheelchairs via an elevator.

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Cruise ships

Cruise ships, although with many incorporated in Bermuda, have not requested the Bermuda Government to legislate for USA or other international disabled-friendly conditions. When disabled cruise ship visitors are allowed by their cruise ship to bring mobility scooters for use on the cruise ship, note they cannot be used on Bermuda's public roads. 

Physically challenged or blind or hearing impaired or mobility-restricted passengers should check in advance or ask their caregivers do so, what facilities are available for them on the cruise ships of the cruise lines they favor or, when not available, on competing cruise ships. These can vary considerably and should include:

Those sailing from US ports to Bermuda are required by US laws have between 15 and 25 disabled cabins and staterooms, more roomy than for the non-disabled. But be aware of the fact that some cruise lines don't check to see that people really are disabled - wheelchair confined, blind, deaf or ambulatory with a stick - and are registered as such with their state or provincial government agencies.  They may allow persons who are not disabled to occupy staterooms intended solely for the disabled and their caregivers or carers. Disabled persons, if denied a cabin specifically for the disabled, under American laws have specific legal remedies if such cabins are instead given by cruise ship operators to persons not officially registered as disabled and don't have appropriate ID documentation to prove it.

For disabled travelers on cruise ships arriving in Bermuda, the relevant cruise line should be approached for the disability policy. They may require to see confirmation of disability and evidence the disabled person can travel. Or these should be offered. 

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Local Disability Benefits, exclusions, organizations

These are limited to:

Bermudians only, who pass a very strict means test and have no income, have no home of their own, no or purely nominal savings or investments, can get Financial Assistance. Contact the Bermuda Government's Ageing and Disability Services Office. Open 8:45 am to 5 pm Monday-Friday. Phone (441) 292-7802. Fax (441) 292-7681.

There is a "Special Persons" photo-ID for locals, available to both the under 65s who are registered as disabled confirmed by a registered medical doctor, and senior citizens over 65s. They do not include the word "disabled" (recommended by this author, to enable them if they go overseas, to apply for disabled "Concessionary Travel" discounts).  

For Senior Citizens/Disabled/Physically Handicapped who can use a bus, free passes are available to Local Residents only with a Special Persons Card. (Seniors or disabled/handicapped from abroad without such a card pay full price). Unlike in the UK, there are no similar concessionary fares for a companion, who may be younger, of someone elderly or disabled/physically handicapped.

Registered disabled owners of cars, on application to the Transport Control Department (see below), may qualify for free or discounted annual licensing of one specific small private car if they can satisfy in writing all the following conditions: are the principal owner or co-owner of a qualifying vehicle; can drive themselves and have a valid license to do so and/or are actually in the vehicle themselves when it is being driven; are unable to ride on any buses because of medically acknowledged balance problems on them and are thus totally dependent on a private vehicle for transport. This is a Minister of Transport discretionary benefit, not a mandated one.

Disabled Persons Parking Badge. Like the part of one shown here below. 

disabled person's parking badge

Valid in Bermuda only - not in the UK or USA or Canada, etc. where different criteria apply to obtain such a badge. 

There is no equivalent in Bermuda of the USA's heavy fines, rigidly enforced by police as law enforcement officers when requested by disabled applicants, as penalties to scofflaws for parking illegally in a designated disabled parking space without an appropriate parking badge. There are some designated physically-handicapped parking areas for 4-wheeled vehicles (but not mobility scooters). When violations occur the police here won't act.

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Local Disability organizations

Positive about Disabled People

BPHA officeBermuda Physically Handicapped Association mini busSummerhaven residential center for the severely disabled

BPHA building and right, Summerhaven

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Local Disabled Persons Parking Badge (DPPB) and Disabled Parking Spaces

Part of a Disabled Persons Parking BadgeContact the Bermuda Government's Ageing and Disability Services Office. Open 8:45 am to 5 pm Monday-Friday. Phone (441) 292-7802. Fax (441) 292-7681. Then refer to one  issued by the Corporation of Hamilton. It has many such parking spaces. Another version is issued by the Corporation of St. George. It has one Disabled Persons Parking Badge Permit parking space. To be eligible, persons must have signed written verification from a doctor that the person has a severe physical disability that severely impairs mobility. If under 65 years old, they must also get - at a nominal cost of $1 - a Special Persons ID cards. Persons/caregivers should never park in a Handicapped Parking by Permit Only or Handicapped Parking area until they have actually received and affixed their Permits to their vehicles.  To be valid, Disabled Persons Badges must be renewed by 31 January each year, with the previous year's Badge surrendered to the Corporation of Hamilton.  

Overseas, it is a very serious offence to park illegally - without a Permit - in a Handicapped Parking by Permit Only and Handicapped Parking area. Doing so illegally carries penalties galore.

A DPPB of this type is unique to Bermuda. It must be emphasized that it is NOT valid in the UK or USA or Canada, (where different criteria apply to qualify to obtain one, including that a disability must be of a permanent type recognized by a relevant disability authority , the application must be supported by the applicant getting a Disability Living Allowance or USA or Canadian or European equivalent -  and the application must be approved by a competent local authority). Local qualifiers going overseas should check with the Corporation of Hamilton.

There is no requirement for Bermuda to honor any disabled parking permits from any country, unlike in Canada, USA, UK and Europe where there are reciprocal agreements to honor those from certain named countries (which exclude Bermuda).  

Specially-marked parking for the disabled is available at the areas shown below, for those with a valid Disabled Person's Parking Badge/Permit (or overseas legally accepted equivalent which they should bring with them if portable). While many places have "Handicapped Parking" signs, so far only the City of Hamilton, Bermuda International Airport and Southampton Princess Hotel have "Handicapped Parking by Permit only" signs.

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) and other Bermuda Government owned facilities such as the Bermuda International Airport and Bermuda Aquarium are not private parking areas but public ones coming under the Parking of Vehicles (Designated Areas) Act 1973.

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Local Disability access in general

How Bermuda compares with USA, Canada, UK, Europe, etc.

Assistance dogs for deaf and blind Always welcome in any Bermuda Stores or museums? No
Cafes and restaurants Do they have cutlery and crockery designed for customers who have difficulty gripping? And easily accessible tables? Menus in Braille and large print? No
Car Parking in private car parks Are 5% of car parking spaces in store and museum car parks dedicated to blue badge or handicapped parking permit holders? No
Car Parking in public car parks Are 5% of car parking spaces in public car parks dedicated to blue badge or handicapped parking permit holders? No
Car or personal mobility vehicle  Parking inside store or museum? No
Churches Some have handicapped parking signs but these are often abused Yes
Disability training of staff Available in most stores and museums? No
Entrances to stores and museums Do most have entrances that are accessible, with wide automatic doors or wide revolving doors? No
Induction loops Introduced in any stores or museums? No
Motorized carts Do most supermarkets, grocery stores and museums have them? No
Personal motorized mobility vehicles for handicapped/disabled Can they be used on public property such as the roads?  Not without a licence, given to locals only. For further details ask the National Office for Seniors and Physically Challenged (NOSPIC). No
Public Transport (buses and ferries) Are there signs, as there are in USA, Canada, Europe, UK,  etc for reserved seating for disabled and/or elderly passengers? No
Rest rooms (toilets) Are there toilets for the disabled in most supermarkets, grocery and retail stores and museums? No
Research and Information for older People and those with disabilities  Similar to the UK's Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (RICA) for disabled and elderly people? No
Seating for walking disabled Routinely available in stores and museums? No
Sidewalk parking Outside store for personal mobility vehicles? No
Trolleys Do supermarkets and grocery stores have shallow/high and low/deep trolleys for wheelchair users and a trolley with padding and straps for disabled children up to 7 years? No
Wide aisle checkouts for wheelchairs None No
Wheelchairs Do supermarkets and grocery stores have standard  or extra-wide wheelchairs? No

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Restaurants  

No restaurant in Bermuda offers all the following - disabled entrance parking, disabled exterior, disabled interior and disabled toilet. Only one (Pink Cafe) has a toilet for the disabled. None of the restaurants have the disability standards of the USA, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

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St. Peter's Church

A major historic and cultural attraction in the Town of St. George. Disabled and mobility-impaired visitors in a wheelchair should enter the church from the back for much easier access as they will not be able to mount the steep wide staircase from the street

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Windreach Recreational Village Disabled

57 Spice Hill Rd., Warwick West WK 03 or P.O. Box WK 654, Warwick West WK BX. A horse-riding resource for the disabled. Telephone (441) 238-2469.

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Authored, researched, compiled and website-managed by Keith A. Forbes. Last Updated: August 2, 2020
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