14 August 2013

Disability Pass

Did you know that some theme parks, events, zoos, and museums offer discounted passes for being a person with a disability?  You might be wondering why this would be necessary, after all, their body is taking up space at the park just as much as a person with out a disability would. In fact, they might be taking up more space due to a wheelchair, walker, and/or medical equipment. Yet, they get a discount. Seems a bit unfair from the outset, yes? I honestly had never considered what a benefit that could be until we had Liam. Now I get it.

We recently went to the NC Zoo in Asheboro and I called ahead to see if they offered a discounted pass for bringing my child who just so happens to be in a wheelchair. The first person I talked to said they did and she directed me to get more information from another woman who then told me that they didn't. "But," she says, "we have braille placards at the exhibits." 

Well, la-ti-da. 

Braille cards.

How helpful.

Knowing the zoo was handicap accessible we went anyway, even at full price admission, because it was Liam's first time going to the zoo and I figured it would be worth it.


I figured wrong.

Liam thoroughly enjoyed the otter exhibit. Since we could wheel his chair right up to the glass and he could watch the otter dance and play in the water directly in front of him, it turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

However everything else was a joke. Seriously, a laughable joke. The animal exhibits would be too far away to even see the animals, they were at awkward angles from the viewing area so you had to stretch to get a glimpse, or the animals were all asleep, hiding in the grass or in their homes. I walked away knowing why a discount on his admission pass would have been such a big bonus.

  •  Admission prices are high. When you are bringing a child that can't stand to look around obstacles and can't manuever his chair into positions to see anything, the point of the zoo becomes pointless.
  •  Liam is legally blind. Braille cards are of no benefit on an exhibit that doesn't even have an animal present or has an animal so far away that people with no vision issues can barely see. 
  • There was constantly something in the way preventing a child in a wheelchair from being able to see properly. Even the glass enclosed reptile exhibits had fogged, opaque glass that made it hard for me to see in.
  • Liam's wheelchair weighs almost 50lbs. With Liam in it we are close to 100 lbs. Even though the park is handicap accessible, pushing a 100+lb stroller and child loaded with supplies up hills is exhausting. I'm not in great shape but I'm not totally out of shape either and I had to pass the stroller off to my son several times due to the incline of the hills and the weight we were shoving up it.
  • There were few places to relax in the shade. We went on a sunny spring day but Liam got overheated sitting in his black frame chair and there was no where to go to get him out of the sun to cool off.
I'm not trying to be a complainer here. I'm pointing out what wouldn't have been obvious before Liam came along. Even though this is a handicap accessible place, it's not handicap friendly. And there's a big difference between the two. We paid the same admission across the board when my handicapped son couldn't participate, engage in, or see most of the exhibits. And I think that's a shame. They should offer a disability pass.

Caring for a child with multiple disabilities is hard. Getting out of the house and engaging in family-friendly activities is even harder. Not only due to the logistics of his handicaps but due to costs. That's why a discounted pass for Liam would have been helpful. Costs run high when you care for a child with disabilities. Getting to take a family on an outing that is expensive can be very financially limiting and paying for a ticket for a non-participating participant is painful to the pocket. We would be more inclined to make an effort to do outings of that nature with an incentive.

I appreciate all of the companies that offer discounts and services to those with disabilities. Truly grateful. Because they see what most people don't. If you want to get a family of 6, one with major disabilities, into your facility, make it worthwhile for them. Offer them a discount. Offer them special incentives to get them in the door. After all, having a family pay full price for only 5 family members is better than the family not coming at all.  

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