My Experience Using a Wheelchair to Enjoy a Day at the Theme Park

Jessie Ace avatar

by Jessie Ace |

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“Sorry, the brakes are terrible!” my husband complained, grabbing the wheelchair’s handles as I slowly started rolling down the hill. He jammed his foot in front of the wheel in a desperate attempt to get the chair to stay in place.

We recently got away for the weekend to Blackpool in the U.K. I love the seaside town and all its casinos, arcades, and tacky, white, horse-drawn carriages covered in lights and plastic flowers. Growing up, my family often went to the Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park for the day. I was so excited to return. The town is home to the tallest roller coaster in the U.K., aptly named “The Big One.”

I realized this visit would be different because now, I had multiple sclerosis. I hadn’t been to a theme park in the eight years since my diagnosis. I questioned if I should wing it, hope I could walk OK, and see what happened. Or, should I admit that I needed help and that hiring a wheelchair for the day would be the best option?

My leg is still weak and partially numb from a recent flare, which has made walking difficult. I decided to put my stubbornness aside and borrow the darn wheelchair.

It would only be the second time I had used a chair, and there’s no shame in using one when needed, right?

I admit that I was worried about what others would think and the toxic positivity I might encounter. I imagined passersby saying, “Aw, well done, you, for getting out to the theme park.”

I reminded myself that I was doing what I needed to do so I could give myself and my husband the best day possible. It took a lot of strength and courage to get to this point of acceptance.

It could have all been in my head, but I felt people looking at me strangely at times. However, wearing my invisible disability lanyard made things easier. (It’s a green lanyard with sunflowers that’s becoming well known in the U.K., particularly at places like supermarkets, and increases visibility of invisible illnesses.)

In the park, I went to the back of a queue for a ride but practically got right on. It was great to have a visual representation of my disability for others to see.

I felt like a VIP! My husband loved this perk. Maybe this MS thing has some benefits after all.

I couldn’t help but notice people giving me occasional glances that seemed to say, “She looks healthy. She must be faking it to get on the rides.” I may have imagined it.

We rode plenty of rides. The chair only limited our access to a few that had a lot of stairs. It opened my eyes to what it would be like to permanently be in a wheelchair. These types of places need far more accessibility.

The respect we received from park staff blew my mind. It was so weird. Park assistants went above and beyond to make sure I didn’t walk more than I needed to. They even stopped one of the rides as close to the exit as possible for me!

I did feel a little guilty that my husband had to push me up and down some pretty steep hills. I kept offering to get out and walk, but he refused, so I offered words of encouragement instead. Having these physical challenges demonstrated the strength of our relationship.

Overall, we had such a good day at the park. I even had enough energy afterward to play mini-golf (to thank my husband for his hard work).

It was clear that many people back home didn’t know what to say when I told them about the chair. Comments ranged from “Well, if it helps, why not?” to “Did you actually need that? I thought you could walk just fine.”

It’s a mixed bag, and I’m OK with that. What’s important is that I did what was right for me and my body.

If you’re considering going to a theme park soon, make sure to ask about disabled passes, and never be afraid to request a wheelchair or any other aid that may help you.

Who cares what others think, right?

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Max Gutbrod avatar

Max Gutbrod

It is interesting to compare experiences. I recently asked for a wheelchair because I was afraid I would not reach check-in in time at an airport. The experience was great, the people driving me extremely forthcoming and nobody would bother to check whether I could have reached the terminal in time (I could, I was in a panic). The biggest relief was not to be shouted at security control for moving so very slowly.

At the same time, I continue to be very reluctant to ask for a wheelchair. Firstly, I know it would be better for my health if I walked. Secondly, (and I am not sure what is more important) it bothers me that others have to follow my rhythm, and having to explain what is possible and what not. As a result, I end up staying at home (and working more)....

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Theresa Anderson avatar

Theresa Anderson

Yes asking for help is a good thing. People are wonderful and want to help however they can.

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Marie Hanlon avatar

Marie Hanlon

This was a very encouraging article. I haven't heard of the sunflower invisibility lanyard.

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Jessie Ace avatar

Jessie Ace

It's brilliant, Marie. It's a big thing in the UK and I think it's starting to go to different countries now too.

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MADELINE l NEWTON avatar

MADELINE l NEWTON

so glad you had such a great time ,,,no shame for using the wheel chair so you are able to do things like playing in a park or theme park or what ever you choose to have some fun ...yes you will send a nice note to the park for the great employees that helped you have a great time and where maybe they could make it easier for someone in a wheel chair and thanking them for thinking of you and others that are disabled to be able to have so much fun...thank you very much for writting this for i have done the same in a scooter and had so much fun with my children and grand children ...we went to Disney Land and their employees are really great also for helping us to have the same fun as everyone else...so proud of you and so glad you did do it to find that even though we can't walk alot we still can go and have fun ..will not let MS stop me from having fun...we can and will find the ways to have fun and to live our lives with happiness...thank you so much ...

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Penny-Marie Wright avatar

Penny-Marie Wright

I think that doctor was a complete idiot & I hope you got a new one right away. My family doctor worked with me for a year to see what my problem was. Then he sent me to the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic where I talked to a specialist who sent me for a MRI. After they explained it all to me while showing me the MRI scans & they also gave me two envelopes full of information about it. They included information on the shots available at that time(4),18 years ago. Just spoke to my neurologist yesterday & he said I have more lesions now from a new MRI but still no medications for me even with all the new ones available. I hope you're able to get a good doctor & nurse to help you with all of this.

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Dennis avatar

Dennis

My wife has had MS for over 40 years. She uses a cane and walker from time to time and we have a wheelchair
in our closet just in case. She never gives up. She does exercise every day on her treadmill and other exercises during the day to keep the strength she has left. She is an inspiration to me who tends to be on the lazy side.
NEVER GIVE IN TO THIS MENACE.

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Laurie Warner avatar

Laurie Warner

Many years ago when my children were small and I was still (barely) mobile, we went to Disneyland. The first day I would go from bench to bench, walk a little and then I had to sit down. I would not give up! My family was having a great time, but all I could do was sit on benches ALL DAY! I couldn’t go on the rides because I couldn’t stand in line long enough. Of course, my husband suggested to me, hesitantly, to rent a scooter or wheelchair. What? I would never! That’s giving up! Well, day two came. I said, “Oh, all right, let’s rent a scooter or wheelchair just this once. It is very hot today.” I had the best time! My family had the best time! The handicap perks were great for everyone, no waiting in line! All I can say is sometimes it is not giving up, but living your best life. We were then able to stay in the park late, have dinner, see the parade and fireworks because I had the energy, not like the day before. You will know when it is time to live your best life, no matter what family, friends, strangers think or say. Enjoy life no matter what it takes and don’t look back!

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Susan Heckly avatar

Susan Heckly

I second Max’s comments about using a wheelchair in airports. It has literally saved a connection that I wouldn’t have made. The staff was all wonderful helping us get through customs. My husband also likes it because he can put the carry on bags in my lap instead of carrying them.

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Robin Paquet avatar

Robin Paquet

Mobility=Freedom! For both you and friends/family as a group! So glad to hear you had a wonderful time.

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Karl Billings avatar

Karl Billings

God Bless you all. God will be watching over all who believe.

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Susan Kost avatar

Susan Kost

Hello Good on you for doing the right thing for you! I also struggle with what will people think first with my cane…now I’m working my way up to accepting that I need a walker. I just don’t want anyone’s pity…I’m strong and just need a bit of assistance is all 😀. I hope this sunflower invisible disability makes it way to Canada soon!

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Cassie avatar

Cassie

I’m from Melb Australia , I’ve had ms since I was
18, now 45 in November .
Turned to SPMS when I was 36.
Unfortunately my MS Gave

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Howard Lucus avatar

Howard Lucus

Congrats on deciding to use the wheelchair to improve your experience. My first experience with a wheelchair was just this year when I had to go see a specialist in a large hospital. I had been experiencing a lot of difficulty walking with a cane, including some back pain caused by need to twist my body to get my right leg to move forward. I had resisted using a cane as long as possible, and I resisted going beyond a cane even though my inability to walk was really starting to limit me.

When I got to the hospital, they offered the use of a wheelchair and a pusher because the office where I was going was a very long way away from the entry. Aside from the pain, I walk so slowly with the cane that it would have taken me a half hour or more to get there assuming I didn't get lost along the way. With the wheelchair and the pusher, I got there in about 10 minutes and I realized that it was time to accept reality.

I don't need a wheelchair, but I did get a couple of walkers through the VA. One is a "rollator" for indoors and one is a product called a "Trionic Veloped" that I use outdoors. It is a sort of an all terrain walker with large wheels that easily handle gravel paths and uneven ground. These two walkers have really improved my life. I can go to parks again or shop malls without pain because I don't have to twist when I walk. I am still slow, but I can get there now including trips into hospitals. I don't need someone to push me, and I the fact that I can walk again for longer periods of time will help my fitness level.

I'd kick myself for failing to do this earlier, but that would probably make me fall down. Anyway, I suggest that you check out walkers. I suspect that something like the Veloped would have worked really well for you at the theme park.

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Cindy avatar

Cindy

I was so glad to read this article because I struggle with the same thoughts and peoples reactions to the things I can or cannot do myself. I’m just now getting myself used to the idea of using a cane to help with balance issues. I feel like I’m hard enough on myself & people’s comments just because I may not “look” like I have a disease, make it even harder and have no idea what I struggle with when I’m at home.

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Clive Whiteside avatar

Clive Whiteside

Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone

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Jim Granger avatar

Jim Granger

Great story - we have similar experiences. We flew to New Orleans, and while changing planes, it was obvious that we wouldn't make it to the next gate, as Kim walks pretty slow. I convinced her to hop into a wheelchair, and we made our connection. On the return trip, she asked to use the wheelchair, and things went very smooth. I convinced her to purchase a travel wheelchair, and we had a great experience touring the Biltmore. We rarely waited in lines, and even had some experiences that the regular visitors don't get. Using the wheelchair is actually easier on me, as we can get to more places faster.

Thanks for the Invisible Disability lanyard idea. Even though we live in the US where it isn't as common, I bought her one, and hopefully the idea will spread!

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Jessie Ace avatar

Jessie Ace

That's amazing Jim! Wheelchairs to the rescue. It is quite a VIP feeling when you're in one I'll admit (which I kinda liked). Ah, no worries hope you can spread the word over there, it would be amazing if it went global, it's a pretty genius invention. Stay #ENabled - Jessie

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