Wheelchair Access at Events with NMO
I recently went to the P&G Music Festival in Cincinnati. That same weekend was the Cincy Soul taste of Cincinnati. These 2 events bring out crowds of over 100,000 people from the city and out-of-towners.
I've always loved going to events and didn't mind the crowd, but I did mind the crowd that turns into chaos by fighting and other things that induce panic!
Since I've been in a wheelchair since I was 29 due to a flare-up of my NMO, which I wasn't diagnosed at the time, for the first couple of years did not go to events such as concerts or places where I would be out for long periods and places that had huge crowds.
As I began to get a little stronger where I could stand and stretch, I started not to mind and tried to go to events with my mom and her friends where the crowd was a lot older, and I felt safer that everything would be mellow.
Going to the festival with a wheelchair
So this weekend was the first weekend I did not attend the festival with my mom as I had in previous years. Instead, I dropped my mom off at the stadium where the festival was and decided to hang outside the stadium with 2 of my cousins and a few friends. Many vendors set up selling food and different goods/clothes that I wanted to shop at. We could also hear the music from outside the stadium.
Parking started being an issue as I drove around for an hour to find somewhere to park, a space where I would be able to get out of the car and have enough room for my wheelchair to be transferred to. That was horrible. We happened to find a parking space in a lot that we had been in previously, and I was able to get out first and then have my friend back my van in the space.
Dealing with so-called wheelchair ramps
Once we got to the stadium, the workers directed us to a ramp to go up. The concert was at the Paul Brown stadium. This is where the Bengals play football. I am not the only wheelchair user or disabled person to use the ramp. This so-called ramp was like climbing up a mountain. It is so steep there is no way that someone in a wheelchair could make it up by themselves. I mean, who was consulted when the stadium was built could not have been someone with experience using wheelchairs.
As I attempted to come up the ramp with my younger cousin trying to push, a Good Samaritan couple met us, and the guy pushed me up the ramp, which was nice. The ramp is so steep and long that even the people walking up are out of breath.
After I reached the top of the ramp, my cousin proceeded to push me so that we could get to the front of the stadium. Suddenly, my wheelchair's front tires got caught in one of the grooves that connect the cement to the stadium, causing me to get thrown out of my chair to the ground and right in front of where everyone was getting their tickets.
Talk about something I've always been scared of while wheeling in my wheelchair out in public. There are so many dips and grooves that the small wheels in the front of the wheelchair get caught, and if you aren't prepared to pop a wheelie so that it won't get seen, you will get thrown from the chair as I did.
Everyone saw me fall
I even notice when I am about to cross the street at a crosswalk, there is a little slip that I guess they consider a small ramp that wheelchair users can be accessible to get across the street. Wrong! The steep slope meets the road, and it's not a smooth transition; the small wheels get caught the same way, and if you are not careful, you can get thrown from the chair.
So I got thrown from the chair. I thank God that I did quick thinking and put my hands down to break myself from falling on my face. However, my skin rubbed off my elbow to the white meat as well as I scraped my knee. Here I am, all dressed up and cute now, on the hard cement.
Everyone saw me fall. The sheriffs came to my aid, and they called the first aid that was working the event. They helped me off the ground to my wheelchair and took me into the stadium, where they had a mini triage room for people who got sick or injured. They cleaned my wound, put gauze around my arm, and wheeled me back to my friends.
I'm thinking, dang, I could have at least been offered some seat ticket, I mean, I did get injured at the stadium, and 3 days later I am still sore.
I'm not sure why the connector of the stadium has those grooves, but that is something that should be changed along with that ramp issue to make it accessible and safer for us wheelchair users.
How long has it been since your initial NMO diagnosis?