There has been and will be again complaints about things that just don’t work as “accessible.” I think the people who design accessible hotel rooms, doorways in restaurants, public bathroom stalls, should be required to spend a day in a wheelchair and a day with a walker with a knee or both in a splint to freeze it so they understand for whom they are designing facilities. Really, try to maneuver a wheelchair between two doors that have a hallway with a right angle turn in between them, or step over a door frame that rises up an inch with a knee that won’t pick your foot up much higher than that. Stand in a shower with bad balance when there is not a shower chair. My husband and I like to travel on weekends and I’ve been there with all those and more!
I think the most laughable recently has been a rest area in Indiana on the way to my nieces’ graduation. My aunt and I were going into the ladies room. She pushed my chair in to the doorway. It was one of those walk in turn and immediate left and then another right to be in the actual rest room. My chair went in and the footrests hit the wall. The majority of the chair was still in the hallway. I couldn’t tell you what the handicap stall was like because there was no way I was getting into the actual bathroom. We ended up getting off the freeway at the next exit to use the facilities at a gas station.
I greatly prefer the more modern rest areas that have separate family/handicap stalls. Those stalls are wonderful for both purposes; family and handicap use. If there is a family rest room available I use it. I figured that out at a St. Louis Cardinals game last year. When I asked where the ladies room was, the red-jacketed gentleman offered me use of the family/handicap bathroom. It may sound silly, but I’d never had a better bathroom experience at a baseball game before that! Note to anyone that hasn’t used them yet; the family and handicap rooms are actually designed to protect small kids and allow users of chairs or walkers a comfortable and safe bathroom stop. As a rule at an event or attraction, the first thing I do is locate the family/handicap bathroom so I know if and where it is.
But in the title I promised a perk. The family/handicap bathrooms are a plus and better than a supposed-to-be accessible stall. The perk is courtesy of the US National Parks!
On our recent vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, we’d planned to visit the Wright Brothers museum and a few lighthouses. I wanted to proactively look into the accessibility of the different attractions. There are ramps to the monument at the Wright Brothers museum, but there are no ramps or elevators to get a wheelchair to the top of any of the lighthouses. Okay, if there had been a way to get to the top of a lighthouse in a wheelchair I’d have been shocked. What I did discover is the Access Pass!
The Access Pass can be obtained if you have a permanent disability. The card can be obtained at any National Park or monument that is staffed. I got mine on the way in to The Wright Brothers Museum. The Access Pass allows me to visit National Parks and Federal Recreation Ares for free. That’s one personal vehicle in the park or the pass holder and up to 3 companions for single admissions. The wheelchair is not keeping me out of the National Parks, it’ making it easier to fill up my National Parks Passport with more stamps! We got our stamp for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and I wheeled all over while David, my husband, climbed to the top. I got lots of pictures, including of him sat the top. It wasn’t “easy-peasy.” At the end of the stop my arms were falling off! But it sure beats sitting at home looking at someone else’s photos!
Photo credit: Nani!
National Parks Access Pass FAQ