I Hate the Beach: Adventures and Accessibility

I hate the beach.

Okay, that’s a lie. The beach is a vision of beauty and relaxation. It’s the dream destination we all have when there are six feet of snow and the temperature is 100 degrees below zero. But, I really don’t like the beach. I don’t feel independent on the beach. I don’t feel that same free feeling many people feel and crave. As a kid, I adored the beach. The accessibility is a little different when you are an adult and can’t be carried around. I don’t remember this, but I wrote a poem about going back to the beach someday. (Thanks dad for reminding me that I actually do love the beach although I say I hate it)

Now, they have beach wheelchairs for the public can use, and I appreciate the accommodation. I’ve used them, however, I still hate not being able to move in one of them independently. Beach wheelchairs have gigantic wheels to roll over the soft sand. I don’t know how many of you have tried to push a manual wheelchair through a bunch of sand, but it doesn’t work very well. And you absolutely CANNOT bring a power chair to the beach. They are worth more than a luxury vehicle. Don’t ruin them with the mixture of salt water and wet sand.

Low tide is actually my best friend. I can go out on a boardwalk and get onto the hard sand during low tide. My favorite thing to do when we would go to the beach with my grandparents would be to collect shells with my grandfather at low tide early in the morning. So, I guess I don’t hate the beach all that much. I mainly just hate sand, which WHO DOESN’T HATE SAND?

While there are plenty of accommodations that are made to assist people with disabilities at the beach, the TRAVELLING there is the hard part.

 

Airport Vibes

I went on vacation at the beginning of July 2017… on an airplane… with no problems. Total shock when it came to I finally knew how to handle the airport. Normally, a person (who had made an access request on their reservation) will have an assistant waiting for them at the front of the airport. I – for one – have had to track down a person every time I’ve flown. Or had airport workers do it for me. Because if you have never tried to carry or roll a 50 lb bag while pushing a manual chair, consider yourself lucky. It’s quite the trick. There’s no better feeling than to have your bags checked and not have to worry about them (you know, unless the airline loses them)

I have a 30-pound manual chair. It’s – for the most part – compact. Depending on the customer service agent at the desk, the check-in of the chair can be really long, or really simple. At 4:30 AM, you kinda just want to fall asleep while they create all the tags and routing for it. (And if you have a layover… you get ALL the tags) Now, if you think THAT’S a long process, try going through the security checkpoint. Able-bodied people complain about the random searches. People in wheelchairs are full body searched EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I mean, I’m definitely okay with it, because better safe than sorry, it’s just… adding an extra 20 minutes to my rush to the terminal for pre-boarding.

Only Way to Fly

Oh yeah, that’s the best perk, always pre-boarding (provided I make it there in time) and almost always the first-row seat (and sometimes I even spring for the window seat). The process getting on the plane is the worst. It includes a lot of personal space invasion and a lot of I HAVE DONE THIS BEFORE LET ME TRANSFER MYSELF to an aisle chair that is skinny enough to get into the aisles of an airplane. Yeah, I’m pretty independent and I know they have to ask questions, but I’m verbal about “let me do it.”

As good as it is being the first one on the plane, it’s terrible having to be the last one off the plane. Especially with layovers of less than an hour in an airport, you’re not very sure of… Case in point – Baltimore: I had 45 minutes to get from one end of the airport to the other. Literally the furthest gates away from each other. Thankfully, I made it. I didn’t get a snack and I was starving… but I made it.

Oh, and baggage claim is hard. I tried to get help in O’Hare one time grabbing my bag, and they told me the accessibility help was in terminal 2… when I had just left the “no re-entry beyond this point” area. So either I had to go through security again, or I had to figure it out for myself. Thankfully some kind strangers (who barely spoke English) were going the way to the bus terminal to catch a shuttle, so I was forever thankful for them toting my 50 lb bag an incredibly long way.

 

Love Letter to Amtrak

I LOVE train transportation. I would take a train everywhere if America was set up that way – but unfortunately, we’re not. Amtrak – how I love Amtrak. First, persons with disabilities get a discount if they stay in their chair (but 99% of the time, I get to transfer into a seat anyway because the train isn’t full)

Second, they have OUTLETS and most of the time FREE WI-FI. I hate being called a millennial, but I am 100% dependent on my phone and I admit it.

Plus, they have nothing but royal treatment for those with disabilities. Not that we should have BETTER treatment than anyone else, but it’s nice to be actually thought of sometimes, than “what do we do with the girl in the wheelchair” (how I feel when I ride a bus)

Hotel Adventures in Accessibility

Okay, so you got to your destination, what about the place you’re staying?

Most of the time, I love hotel rooms. Many hotels are updating their ADA rooms to actually EXCEED expectations. One time, I cried because the bathroom had a bathtub AND roll in shower with a hand-held shower head… and I didn’t even need to call to get a shower chair. Most of the time, when I call to get a shower chair, it takes about five maids to find one, and I don’t understand.

I take note of every detail in a hotel room that is or isn’t accessible. The last hotel room I was in, was actually pretty good – except they had a small round table that was blocking the bathroom door but was easy to move out of the way. The ice bucket was also at the top of the closet which made no sense to me. BUT IT HAD AUTOMATIC CURTAINS. So, that was cool. I might’ve played with that for 10 or 20 minutes. Maybe.

Part of adulthood is the traveling, and the independence you feel when you’re on vacation. That freeing feeling we all crave and miss when it’s over. Having access to that means a lot to my independence.

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