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What to Expect When Using a Wheelchair at the Mall

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Going to the mall seems like an average activity that is common for teenagers. The hustle and bustle of busy shoppers, smells of the food court and all the cute outfits that seem to scream, “Buy me!!!” What is a fun and seemingly easy outing for average teens can turn into quite the adventure for those of us who have trouble walking long distances and have to rely on a wheelchair. This is a list of what I have come to expect and not expect from such an outing with my friends.

1. Don’t expect to hear much of the conversation your friends are having.

When you have people behind you, it is a commonly known fact that it is hard to hear them. Add the loud noises of the mall, and there’s a pretty good chance you will miss most of the latest gossip.

2. Don’t expect to be able to go into most of the stores or aisles you want.

Most aisles in mall stores are not designed to be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair passing through them. See that really cute magnet over there? Well… better hope your friend can go grab it for you. Then there are the stores who decide they want steps leading up to their store when there is absolutely no need. Any way to get the wheelchair up those steps? Nope!

3. Expect to navigate the stores you can access similarly to a maze.

It never fails. There isn’t no direct path to the spot in the store you want to be in. All around the mulberry bush you go, trying to find a way to that one spot you want to be in. Navigating through a store in the mall with a wheelchair is no joke. Expect a lot of backtracking trying to find a path you can fit through.

4. Expect rude comments.

When you are like myself and look healthy, expect rude comments when using your wheelchair. The sun will rise, and people will be ignorant. It’s just a fact of life.

5. Don’t expect accessible to mean easy to use.

See that bathroom that says disability accessible? Well, what that means is that if you somehow manage to pull the door to the bathroom open, hold it, and wheel yourself through at the same time, you might find a stall just big enough to accommodate your wheelchair.

6. Expect transportation complications.

When all is said and done, and you are ready to head home, expect transportation to be tricky. Unless you are driving yourself, you have the struggle of finding a friend or friend’s parent willing to drive you and pack up your wheelchair, bringing it back with them. If you do manage to find that kind person, then you have the question of if the car will fit your friend, their parent, you and your trusty wheelchair. Most of the time, it will fit you or your wheelchair. Not both.

All this being said, you can still manage to have fun at the mall. Laughing at the outfits, looking for the perfect dress and visiting with friends. Even with the list of things above, I have still have many fun days at the mall with my awesome friends.

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Thinkstock photo via estherpoon.

Originally published: November 15, 2017
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