From a Wheel Perspective

Our oldest son, Super Rory, started Kindergarten last week. On the supply list was a yoga mat for rest time.

School started last Wednesday. We are pretty much behind on everything in our life, so we did school shopping on Monday…which meant both Target & Walmart were sold out of yoga mats. (Seriously?!) 

Monday night was meet the teacher night where the teacher kindly informed me that yes, he would need his yoga mat on the first day.

Tuesday comes around and I’m juggling 3 kids that afternoon, so before picking up Milo from daycare Rory and I hit up 3 random stores hoping for a miracle.  No yoga mats.  

There was no way I was going to take all 3 of them to the big sports store (Dick’s) at the mall, but my amazing mom stepped up and said she could run by there for a yoga mat that night.

So around 9pm the night before kindergarten, my mom shows up with a pink and purple yoga mat…….

It was a great yoga mat – beautiful actually – but Rory was MORTIFIED in the morning and was not going to take a pink and purple yoga mat to kindergarten…and you know, I kind of understood where he was coming from so I prepared to bend over backwards to save my son from utter humiliation (I am totally cool with boys using pink yoga mats…but Rory wasn’t into it).

So on the first day of kindergarten Rory, Milo and I get up, take Milo to daycare and then Rory to his new school…as did every other parent…so we parked a few blocks away and walked there. It was approximately 100 degrees so by the time we arrive (without a yoga mat). I am definitely sweating.

Ok – so Rory is off and Sheldon and I begin our expedition to the store we were avoiding the night before in hopes of trading the pink yoga mat in for a more manly color.

I grew up here – I know this mall – so I parked by the food court which is the shortcut to Dick’s.  I get Sheldon out, click the carseat into the stroller and have already strapped on the diaper bag when I see the yellow rope blocking off the food court doors. 

I considered getting back into the car and driving to another parking lot, but the whole carseat/stroller maneuver practically kills my back every time I get it in and out of the car, so I decided to walk. So Sheldon and I head down the parking lot, around a big corner where I know there is a JC Penney.

Walking with a stroller is not the same as being in a wheelchair…but on this fine morning I got a really interesting glimpse of what this journey would be like for someone in a wheelchair.

There was a sidewalk hugging the parking lot around JC Penney but I counted 4 times I had to “jump” the curb because there wasn’t a curb ramp. They were nice enough to mark the sidewalk edges with bright yellow paint, but no ramps. This works fairly ok for me pushing a stroller. I honestly am not sure how a wheelchair user would handle this situation. 

I get to the first JC Penney door … JC Penney doesn’t open for another 45 minutes.  JC Penney is a large store…so now I’m walking around it to find a door to the mall that is open. I am now about 1/3 the way around the mall from where I parked.

I find a parking garage where again, the sidewalk has no curb ramp.

I get to the Mall entrance (don’t underestimate my sweat at this point) and find an elevator to take us to the floor to get to Dick’s.  I get there to find two huge heavy wood doors into the Dick’s. The doors were beautiful but there was no accessibility button to open them. 

So again, doable with a stroller – not pretty and not fun, but doable. I’m not sure how a wheelchair user would handle this situation and there was no one else around to help.

I get inside Dick’s and find … stairs.  The only way to get into the store from here is to go down about 10 stairs.

I’m almost laughing at this point because I’ve never looked at the world through this lens before and holy cow – I cannot imagine if this is what I had to go through every day.

Now, to Dick’s credit, there was a wheelchair lift.  And the kind man at the counter at the bottom of those stairs asked if I needed to use it.

I’d like to think I’m not overly prideful, but it does creep in, and the first feeling I had was that I didn’t want help.  I wanted to operate it by myself but I had NO idea how to do it and frankly, I’m not sure if operating it by yourself is even an option.  So I waited for him to get his key out, turn the key, the lift came up in what felt like 20 minutes, I awkwardly opened the door and got in with the stroller and then it took another eternity for the lift to go down, all while the kind man stood waiting and watching.

Now, if I’m blunt…this situation felt humiliating. I’m not in a wheelchair and I definitely don’t want to assume I know what that would feel like. But I know amazingly able people who use wheelchairs and who are certainly far more independent than myself.  And it annoyed me that this is what they would have to do in order to get into Dick’s.

The yoga mats were upstairs. Thankfully there was an actual elevator to get me there. And THANKFULLY there was a black yoga mat. 

But guess where I had to make the exchange?  At the counter at the bottom of the first set of stairs. So back down the elevator we go, to the counter, make the exchange and then…you guessed it…back up the wheelchair lift.

If you haven’t ever ridden one, it is an experience. Somehow we can get loads of people up 30 stories in a skyscraper in seconds…but it literally takes minutes for a wheelchair lift to go up the equivalent of 10 stairs.

And the sounds that lift made…it just wouldn’t have been surprising if it had stopped halfway and never turned back on.

We make it up the wheelchair lift to the large heavy doors without an accessibility button.

A kind man is entering while we are about to exit. Perhaps he didn’t notice the large stroller…but he didn’t notice that possibly holding the door would have been a kind gesture. (How often have I not noticed???)

Then we walked around JC Penney on sidewalks without curb ramps (I counted 5 jumps) and eventually made it back to the car.

Next time you’re on an adventure for a yoga mat, I encourage you to take the journey as if you were in a wheelchair. It is really eye-opening.

Maybe if we all did this a little more often, we could help improve the environment around us so that truly it is accessible for everyone!

The first day of kindergarten went great and Rory loved the black yoga mat.

1 reply
  1. Lori T
    Lori T says:

    Great insightful story Robyn! We all need to stop and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes once in a while! You should send this to the mall and to Dicks!


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