We are meant to be social beings. Having a disability doesn’t make that go away, but it can make going out a little harder. I’m going to talk about the fears, facts, truths, and myths about going out in a wheelchair.
Going to a New Place
If I am going to a new place with friends, like a restaurant or bar, I scope it out ahead of time.
- Use google maps street view to figure out the best route to get into the building, zoom in on the front door to determine if I’ll be able to open it myself, and where the closest parking is - if it’s in the city and doesn’t have a parking lot. Sometimes, there will be pictures of the inside too. Those will give you an idea of how much room there will be to maneuver or if they have a bunch
of high top tables you’ll have to deal with.
- Call the place and ask any questions regarding their access or their bathroom situation if you can’t figure out on your own. I use a power chair sometimes and so when I ask if a place is accessible, I ask them if they had to push a 500lb box on wheels into their building, could they do it by themselves. That normally clears things up really quick. No more getting to the location and seeing the infamous 4-6” threshold into the “accessible” building.
Going to a Friend’s House
Going out is fun, but sometimes everyone will hang out at someone’s house. This is usually harder than going out in public because of the wheelchair’s arch nemesis, stairs. There’s not much you can do about this situation. Either have your friends lift you up the steps or buy/build a portable ramp. Luckily for me my friends can lift me and walk me into the house. I like to call this action “newly wedding” because they’re carrying me over the threshold like a newlywed couple. Hopefully, one day soon they’ll get around to the whole hover board thing. Getting into the homeowner’s bathroom is usually out of the question due to the narrow doorway, unless you’re lucky. I use an enclosed catheter system so I will find a quiet room and do my business there. If you don’t have an enclosed system, think about bringing a Gatorade bottle or two that you can cath into and then throw away in the trash.
The Dreaded Crowded Bar
Now for the dreaded crowded bar. I still like going out at night, and I’m not going to let the chair hold me back. First, if you plan on drinking make sure you have a ride home, whether it is a Designated Driver, accessible cab, or even Uber. I’ve taken an Uber multiple times. My friend lifts me into the car, breaks down my chair, and we’re off. It’s pretty quick and painless. I’d recommend ordering an Uber XL to get a bigger car to fit your chair, but sometimes you can fit everything into a normal car. Once I get to the bar, I figure out where the bathroom is and try to post up close to it. That’ll minimize the distance you’ll have to negotiate through a rowdy, drunk crowd. If there’s a really long line in the bathroom and you really have to go - try skipping ahead to the front. No one wants wet pants and usually the guys don’t have a problem. I’ve done this on multiple occasions.
I always have my friends get my drinks from the bar for me. It’s hard enough walking through the bar with drinks; let alone throwing a wheelchair into the mix. If you’ve been in a crowded bar you know there’s usually two lines of people, one going one way and the other in the opposite direction. When you do need to make moves, always go into the line of people coming towards you. This allows people to see you and they’ll get out of your way like Moses parting the Red Sea. I promise. Another option is to have a friend walk ahead of you to usher people out of the way.
Getting out can be tough and intimidating after an accident, but don’t let that keep you at home.
Get out, have fun, meet new people, and most importantly - live your life.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0117/0358