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Sincerity Rules the Roost @ Kalahari
by Paul McKenna

When one enters the complex of Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, they are overwhelmed at the wonderful madness that greets them. You scan the lobby smitten with a huge pond, trees, magnificent fireplace, sweet shop, gift shop and two entryways; one to the water park, a gargantuan winter play area and in the other direction lays the indoor theme park & full-blown cinema. With all the excitement that greets the 99% of the typical fun seeker, I will point out that sincerity, one of the qualities we all strive for, guides the ownership to work hard to attend the needs of the final 1%.

At Kalahari Resort, Special Needs families are well attended to. This is not always easy. It is very hard for us to walk in another’s shoes, ride in their wheelchair, or even understand when they cannot speak.

I was fortunate enough to sit down and speak with Daylene Strobe, the General Manager of Kalahari to speak about the resorts ability to cater to people with disabilities and their families. 

“It is always challenging catering to each and every guest’s needs.” Ms. Strobe comments, “Meeting the needs of people with disabilities is even more challenging. While we are designed to be wheel chair friendly, with no-step showers, widened doorways, handicap rail rooms, and other special needs amenities, the individual requirements change depending on the person. When we think of meeting the needs of a person with disabilities, most thoughts rely on physical limitations. But as the new federal guidelines come into play we are faced with many new challenges that we must meet both physical and mental challenges that some guests face.” Mental?

“Yes, diagnoses such as separation anxiety, autism, and various others make it incredibly difficult to foresee all of the different special needs that must be considered to ensure all guests have a spectacular stay. As much as the Kalahari was designed within ADA (American Disabilities Act) regulations, you just cannot completely comprehend all the different challenges that people face.”

I spoke with Larry Biondi, the Advocacy Coordinator at The Progress Center for Independent Living. The Progress Center is a community-based, non-profit, service and advocacy organization, operated for people with disabilities by people with disabilities. Larry spoke about the challenges people with disabilities face in a world that frankly is designed in a cost effective manner not normally including lifts & ramps. Larry spoke to me from his wheel chair. He had a band around his head that is connected to a foot long prong that protrudes out over his face. The prong makes it possible for Larry to use a keyboard when working on the computer.  Larry has cerebral palsy. His speech is limited as is the use of his arms and legs. Larry agreed that there is much to do regarding businesses and public areas becoming more accessible to people with disabilities and their families. “While, things have come a long way in the last 30 years” Larry stated, “We still have a long way to go.”

Larry agreed with Ms. Strobe’s comment regarding not being able to completely foresee all the different needs that come with dealing with people with disabilities. He admitted that it is impossible to be 100% special needs friendly. The key though is not to just shrug shoulders apathetically. The key is an open, sincere mind. For example, rather than ask a well-established business to spend thousands of dollars making an entryway completely accessible, he asks that the owners install a large doorbell button that alerts the employees inside that a person outside needs help getting in. The employee can then use a portable ramp or maybe just hold the door as the person enters. It is the willingness (or sincerity) of the business to recognize that things need to be done a bit differently in many circumstances. I think Kalahari and Ms. Strobe get that.

Ms. Stobe and the ownership at Kalahari Resorts recognize they will never be able to completely satisfy all special needs. However, it is not for lack of trying. She and other executives at both Kalahari Resorts, (the other is in Sandusky, Ohio) have formed a special committee to review procedures of how peoples with disabilities needs are met. Some of the changes made at the resorts were a special lift to get people with disabilities up to the second floor of the theme park. Another was a rack specifically designed to help someone who cannot roll a bowling ball actually participate in a game of bowling by steering the rack and then releasing the bowling ball. These amenities were added voluntarily by the resort. The committee also reviews ADA guidelines, which are revised every five years.

Ms Strobe is sincere about trying to make the resort friendly to all people and that is all Larry Biondi and the people at The Progress Center For Independent Living can ask.

Kalahari Resorts

If you would like to learn more about Kalahari Resorts go to www.kalahariresorts.com.

If you would like to learn more about the Progress Center for Independent Living go to www.progresscil.org.

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