OPINION: How Handicap Accessible is Wilton? Perhaps Not Enough

Once again Wilton’s fireworks display was incredible. The entire evening is one of the many things I love about our town.  Over the years it’s become easier to allow my son with intellectual disabilities to wander around as so many people know him and keep an eye on him. Being in a community that supports people with disabilities is clearly an important issue for me as it is for so many of our Wilton families.

As I learned early on, a great deal of planning needs to go into any sort of outing when you have a loved one with a disability.  While I was accustomed to this planning with my son, now that I’m married to someone with a physical disability (Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) who’s confined to a power chair, the challenges are even greater.

We, along with several friends, planned to make an evening of it at the fireworks as we do every year. I went down early to strategically plot out our spot, close to the walkway for easy access and close to the Port a Potty and returned around 6 for dinner and to enjoy the music. Unfortunately I didn’t go far enough in my planning.

I didn’t actually check that the Port a Potties were handicap accessible.

I had assumed this would be the case given that Wilton’s firework show is a public event. When we learned that the rented port a potties were not accessible, my husband began asking the CERT staff directing traffic if there were other handicap facilities available. No one could answer but finally someone came around with a golf cart and offered to take him up to Comstock to use the restroom.

Now, to the non-disabled person this might seem like a great solution. WRONG! What wasn’t considered is that even if he could maneuver himself into the golf cart, once up at Comstock he would have been stranded without his chair and no way into the building. It’s fortunate that he has a power chair and was able to drive it up there and back (which took 45 minutes) but for a person with a manual wheelchair this would have been an impossibility.

Since then we learned that a handicap accessible port a potty was ordered but was not delivered. Apparently that should have been an acceptable answer but for a family with a physically disabled person it’s not nor should it be for anyone. Why was a next step not taken to insure that everyone in town could enjoy the fireworks?

I would ask everyone to imagine for a moment what it would be like to go to all your favorite places in town in a wheelchair.  Most people assume every commercial space must be handicap accessible but next time you go out look around – are restaurant tables too close together to maneuver through and is the bathroom large enough to accommodate a power chair? The answers might surprise you.

Want to help make Wilton accessible for everyone? The next time you’re in a store or restaurant and it’s missing grab bars in the bathroom or you visit an office located in a converted house where there are only stairs at the entrance, mention something to the owner.  Not only will this make life easier for someone with limited mobility but will allow new patrons to frequent an otherwise inaccessible establishment.