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