Tips for making plans when you’re in a wheelchair
My family will never be the spontaneous bunch. With two disabled adults sharing one caregiver (luv u mom), it takes a bit of time for us to be able to get around and out of the house. And that’s just to go grocery shopping or something relatively simple and routine! Most people can just wing it and be ‘carefree’ when they want to go out. I’m sure it’s exciting and definitely easier to just go rather than taking the time to make a plan.
For us, that plan isn’t just a precaution or a preference, it’s completely necessary! It takes a bit of getting used to for a lot of people. Sometimes you’re not even sure what all you need to plan in the first place. If you’re newly disabled or wanting to do something fun with a loved one with a disability, here are some things that will help you plan the best day!
Leave extra time to get ready
Nobody wants to feel stressed or rushed on a day that’s supposed to be fun. So, make sure you set a realistic schedule with plenty of time to get ready before you leave. Take into account everything that actually needs to be done before you walk out of the house. And I mean everything, even if it seems small and insignificant.
Sometimes people forget that even if all my family needs to do to be ready is brush our teeth, that’s going to be closer to 10 minutes than 2. My mom helps my brother and I one at a time and then she brushes her own. A lot of disabled people need help getting around, which means whoever is helping them can’t be getting ready at the same time. So, if you have to get up earlier or leave later, make sure you’ve got enough time for everyone to have a stress free start to their day!
Do your research
I envy people who can freely explore and try new places without a second thought because it’s exhausting having to research every time I want to try a new restaurant or go see a show. That’s the reality of it, though. I know it’s a hassle and you might not want to deal with it, but it can really make or break your day.
Sure, you could wing it and maybe it’ll all be fine! But more likely, you might show up and discover a step you can’t get over, a doorway too narrow, or bathrooms you can’t get to. I’d much rather be disappointed with a google search than showing up and having my plans ruined.
Think about things you don’t normally consider, like parking – is it paved or gravel? A lot or a garage? This might not be a huge deal for everyone, but for those with a wheelchair lift or a large van, parking can be difficult. A lot of places have an accessibility tab on their website, but not all. Those that do usually aren’t very descriptive, reliable, or totally truthful. Call ahead if you’re nervous and explain exactly what you’ll need and see if it’s actually going to work.
I like to look up reviews and scope out all of the photos. You can usually find out a lot just from google images.
Bringing everything you may need throughout the day, even if you think it will probably be readily available where you’re going, is probably a good idea. Things like straws or even silverware! Sometimes you can’t get a plastic knife, and if you’re not strong enough to chew large bites it can make a meal a struggle.
The annoying bag check lines *cough* Disney *cough* are worth the wait if it means your day is easier and happier! When I’m out for the day, I like to have any supplies I’ll need for bathrooming, wipes, a plastic bag for my joystick in case it rains, medicine, batteries, comfy shoes in case my feet swell/start to hurt, plenty of water, a small snack like pretzels in case I get too hungry or my stomach feels queasy, and a jacket if I get cold. It all depends on what I’m planning to do and how long I’ll be out. My family and I tend to overpack to be safe.
Make reservations if possible
Even if you know that an event won’t sell out or a place won’t be too crowded, making reservations are still a good idea. There could be 50 available tables at a restaurant. If the two that can accommodate a wheelchair are already taken? Suddenly it doesn’t matter how busy or not busy the place is. There will always be fewer accessible amenities than the standard options no matter where you go.
Call ahead and be very specific about what you and your group will need. Then you won’t have to worry about it! Plus, sometimes just calling ahead will mean you’ll get more helpful service. A lot of people just don’t know how to help. By talking to them ahead of time they’ll have more information that will allow them to give you a better experience.
Have an idea of what you want to do and how you’re going to do it
You don’t always need a minute by minute itinerary, but it helps to loosely map out your day. Let’s say you want to go to lunch and then explore the city. Try to have at least a loose idea of where you want to go or see. You might wander down a street with historic buildings that you have no way to get into. By the time you figure out a new route to take, you might be out of time or in too much pain to continue. Some streets might technically be accessible but that doesn’t make them a good option. They could be super bumpy if they’re brick instead of smooth pavement. After a while, that’s no fun when you’re in a wheelchair.