Tips for a Successful Night Out as a Wheelchair User
Going out can be nerve-wracking for anyone, but when you're a wheelchair user with spinal muscular atrophy, the stress can multiply. From accessibility concerns to dealing with a crowd of unfamiliar faces, the obstacles can seem overwhelming. Last night, I faced these challenges head-on while attending a Mom's Night Out event. While it was nerve-wracking, the experience taught me a few valuable tips for enjoying a night out as a wheelchair user.
Not knowing what to expect
I usually attend events with my husband, who helps me navigate spaces and activities. This event was different—aimed at providing moms a chance to relax and socialize; there were no spouses invited. Like many in the disability community, my anxiety wasn’t about socializing; it was about being in a new space without knowing what to expect
Communication is key
My first step was to reach out to the event coordinator, who happened to be a friend. I asked for information about the accessibility of the home. She communicated with the host, who, in turn, sent me a virtual tour of her home. This was invaluable, as it allowed me to see all the entry points and figure out which would be the most accessible for me. By taking this step, I was able to determine which of the three different-sized metal ramps I own would be best for this specific situation.
Bring a friend
If you're concerned about needing assistance during the event, consider inviting a friend who understands your needs. For this event, I asked my sister. Not only was she great company, but she also knew my limitations and abilities well. She was there to help me eat, drink, and truly enjoy the evening without worrying about the logistics.
Be creative and take the plunge
If you find that a venue isn’t accessible, don’t be discouraged. Most people are willing to make accommodations if you communicate your needs. Plus, the more we speak up about our requirements, the more people will think about these factors when planning future events. Don't let fear hold you back; take the plunge and enjoy yourself. Your presence also serves as a reminder for others to consider accessibility in their future planning.
Attending social events as a wheelchair user undoubtedly brings its own set of challenges, but these obstacles shouldn't prevent you from enjoying a well-deserved night out. A little preparation, some open communication, and a dash of courage can go a long way in ensuring you have a fantastic time. After all, the objective is to relax, have fun, and maybe even forget about your worries for a little while. So the next time you're invited to an event, don't shy away. Use these tips and make the most of it. You deserve to eat, drink, and be merry too!
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