Monday, May 25, 2009

View from the chair...

Physically I've reached the point that I can no longer traipse along on long hikes. This weekend my daughter and her family came to visit. While here they took a notion to visit the Maryland Zoo. When I regretfully pointed out that I wouldn't be able to walk that far and suggested that I would stay home, they proposed renting a wheelchair at the zoo.

After some discussion, that's what we all agreed would work. We left pretty early for the zoo, but it was already hot and muggy when we arrived. On the drive, I had second thoughts about the wheelchair solution, mostly because I felt like a fraud. But the quarter-mile walk from the parking lot to the main entrance quickly disabused me of the false notion that I would be able to spend the day at the zoo on foot.

So, without further reservations we rented the wheelchair and began the day. Immediately, it became apparent that there was more to spending the day in a wheelchair than just renting one. First of all, the zoo is one hill after another. Someone had to push the bloody thing!

Fortunately the zoo is laid out with the idea of being stroller and wheelchair friendly. There were very few steps and all of those had an "alternate route" planned. Fellow travelers were gracious and friendly. I had a lovely time, though I'm not so sure that my son could say the same since he was the main pusher.
Here's a picture of my two granddaughters and my step great grandson in the heron's nest in the Children's Wilderness Park. There was a bog complete with giant lily pads for the children to use as stepping stones across a brook, giant tortoise shell for them to crawl inside and a couple other "nests" for them to try on for size.

What I discovered spending a day in a wheelchair was that most people were unfailingly polite. But there were a few that pretended that I didn't exist. It was difficult to give up my autonomy, my right to go where I wanted to, when I wanted to. And as much as the zoo really worked hard to make the paths "accessible", they obviously forgot to test them out with someone who was actually seated in a wheel chair. Every single one of the heavy railings that lined the path had a broad cap that was exactly at my eye level! It made it tough to see the animals and impossible to take pictures.

It definitely wasn't a chair with a view!



  1. You should write up your assessment and submit it to the zoo. Perhaps enough letters from wheelchair bound individuals will create a change.

    Wonderful family pictures.

  2. That's a great idea. Love the pics of the kids!How cute!

  3. I agree. That would be helpful for the zoo and other guests.

    And yeah, the kids are adorable!

  4. I think you were smart to use teh chair and conserve energy. Too often we push ourselves to the point of pain when it's just not necessary. Kudos to you for showing that looking after yourself is not a weakness

  5. We did the same thing for my mother last summer. She just can't walk for long distances. I was the designated pusher. The zoo was a manageable size, but there were a few hills and some steep slopes - I feared I would lose control a couple of times!

    And yes, writing to the zoo with your observations is a great idea!

  6. Hi Anny,

    I've done the same thing many times. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and there have been times when it was a case of a wheel chair or simply not going outside the house.

    You're right that places that think they are being "wheelchair" often make it clear they haven't actually tested out that claim while sitting in a chair!

    Glad you had a good day :)

    Kim Dare.

  7. A number of zoos, parks, etc. have gone to renting out electric carts - which seem like a very good idea but I think you have to learn how to drive them safely. I'm just really glad you went. Must have been extremely frustrating though, sweetie.

  8. Way to go, Anny. What's really important is that you had a wonderful day with your grandchildren and family, doing something that you otherwise might not be able to participate in.

    I've spent forever trying to convince my mother to get a little driveable grocery cart at our Super Center(warehouse grocery store). Once I broke my back, and was in one too, she finally relented. We were both able to shop and she agreed that it was much easier on her, but I can see where it would be difficult to accept the reality that comes along with giving up walking for 'alternative' means.

    Writing a letter is a fabulous idea!

    Great pics!

  9. Except for the eye height rail sounds like it was fun. Nice looking fam.

  10. Love the pictures of your grandchildren. It's great that you got to spend time and make memories with your family. That's what's important. Too bad about the railing being at eye height though. Someone obviously didn't think that one through.