Don't come here expecting to feel sorry for me - I don't.

I hope that sharing my progress and thoughts can offer some nugget of information or a point of view that can help anyone else struggling to come to terms with having MS, living with any form of MS or who lives with, supports or knows someone with it.

I’ve said before that I want to be really open about the stuff I’m dealing with, without it being the topic of discussion all the time. But, like I said when I posted on The Chronicles of Nani after my diagnosis, it’s not “why me?” it’s “why not me?” If there’s something I can do to make it easier for someone living with MS, or living with someone they love having MS, well, that’s why me!

If you or someone you know is affected by MS in any way or if you just seek to understand it, you are welcome here!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Accessibility Tales

We had a fun vacation in June spending much of our time in and around Pennsylvania photographing freight trains and seeing baseball games with a couple days in Connecticut for our nephew’s high school graduation and party. As is usually the case, this was a trip of extremes in accessibility.

Winners and Losers

Pit Stops and Side Trips

Most of the McDonalds we went to had the larger wheelchair and family stalls with enough room for a chair without having to climb over it to use the toilet or get knocked in the head by the baby changing table. That’s also enough room to safely change a baby with a toddler in the room. We stopped at several McDonalds that had the door near the back labeled as a handicap door with easy entrance for a chair and no chicane to maneuver. I’ll also mention that McDonalds openly offers their restrooms as a “no obligation” stop for travelers and in general McDonald’s restrooms are the cleanest I see in travelling. They are maintained constantly.

Every Sheetz we went to had the large wheelchair stalls at the back of the ladies restroom too with plenty of room to maneuver and transfer. However a few of them had displays crowding the entrances to the aisles making it impossible for a chair to get through.

The Turkey Hill convenience store right next to the Turkey Hill Experience failed miserably with a sign for public restrooms that was actually the employees only bathroom and too crowded to get a chair to. However, The Turkey Hill Experience was a fun attraction and wonderfully accessible and accommodating. (Can I get big thumbs up for all the scoops of ice cream you care to sample?)

Baseball Parks

Oriole Park at Camden Yard does not have a family/wheelchair restroom on any level and the largest stalls still require backing in and parking the chair next to the commode making a walking required transfer. The Fan Store was really not set up for wheelchairs, but they were accommodating. (So were the fans, even to someone wearing the “wrong” hat.)

In the minors, Atlantic League Lancaster Barnstormers’ newer stadium has family/wheelchair restrooms and the stadium in general is very wheelchair-friendly. The Reading Fightin Phils play in the oldest stadium in the Eastern League. They have tried to retro-fit for wheelchair access, but handicap parking on a curb with the passenger door opening into a grass bank and the wheelchair access seats being in outfield obstructed view made the experience less than ideal.


The hotels this trip were feast or famine. The second night we booked 2 days at Super 8 in Harrisburg PA. A shower chair was not required in the original ADA in 1991 but has since been added to the hand shower required in hotel bathrooms in the 2010 ADA. The Harrisburg PA accessible room had a shower chair, but the bar for the hand shower was empty. The shower had been changed and the hand shower never replaced. (I improvised with a cup for hair washing and rinsing, but that takes more water!)

Shower chair at Super 8 in Lewistown, PA

We stayed at Super 8 in Lewistown, PA where there was no shower chair and we had to request one. They found a chair but it was too big for the tub and wouldn’t sit safely flat. The tub was also higher than my knees; there was no way I could step over it to get in. That night was another improvised part shower and part sponge bath from outside of the tub.

Stamford, CT Super 8. too short toilet and 
those 3 bars are it for the entire bathroom

Our 2 nights in Connecticut at Super 8 in Stamford were unquestionably the worst accessible accommodations of the trip. The spacious enough bathroom had a total of three grab bars clustered around a toilet that was less than 18” high. The shower chair didn’t fit in the tub. The door had less than 8 inches of space from the wall when opened and entrance/exit to and from the room wasn’t possible unless the bathroom door was closed. That's a fire hazard, especially if anyone, regardless of disability or not, is in the bathroom. The room was cluttered and while there was a microwave and refrigerator, they couldn’t be reached by someone in a chair let alone used.

Super 8 in Stamford CT
I'd never seen an "accessible" shower with no grab bars before.

* This isn’t meant to warn anyone away from all Super 8 properties. It’s just the ones we stayed at this time. In 2011 we stayed at a new Super 8 in New Jersey in a room that was Accessible Heaven.

There were two hotels on our trip that I give an absolute stellar rating.

America's Best Value Inn, Harriburg, PA
Accessible done right!

We stayed at America’s Best Value Inn on Front Street in Harrisburg, PA. There was room enough to move around in my chair and the bathroom was fantastic. The shower chair was similar to mine at home with a bench that comes outside the tub to transfer into the shower while sitting rather than stepping over the tub side. There were ample grab bars in the shower, toilet and sink areas.

The Red Roof Inn in Harrisburg was top notch too. It was recently remodeled and is a pet-friendly property. Talking to the front desk clerk in the morning I learned pet-friendly means all hardwood floors. That’s something to note because those pet-friendly floors are also wheelchair-friendly! This room had a roll-in shower and the room was well-ventilated and the drain set so well that little water escaped the shower area and the floors remained relatively slip-free.


There are still some real losers out there for travelers with disabilities, but don’t let that keep you home! There are some real winners too. I get a business card at the hotels where we stay to make sure I don’t stay at the losers again and make a point of staying at the winners when we travel to the same area. I’m also sending my praise or criticism with the hotel to corporate headquarters and franchise owners.

If you’ve had great or not-so-great experiences in your travels with whatever level of disability, I welcome you to share them in comments! Also if you have an MS or disability blog and would like to share links, I’d love to do that too!

No comments: