How to Enjoy A Stitch Festival When You Can't Stay On Your Feet for
Long Periods of Time
or, Scooters to the Rescue!
by Mary Helen Inskeep
The following article is copyrighted to Mary Helen. Please contact her for reprint permission.
Greetings! My name is Mary Helen Inskeep. I am a woman in my
mid-20s who uses braces and crutches to walk. Despite being strong in
the arms and otherwise healthy, my physical disability limits the amount
of standing and walking I can do. I love going to various conventions,
fairs and trade shows, but since I can't walk or stand for long periods,
I had to find another way to get around.
I found a -great one-! It's a 3-wheeled
I don't have a driver's license or a car. When I started college in
1991, my parents bought me this scooter. I am still using the same one
now, in 1999. She (I gave my scooter the feminine name Andromeda) has
gotten me through 5 years of on-campus college life and 3 years in the
world of independent living. She is the most wonderful single item that
my parents ever bought for me. Andromeda has increased my independence
-enormously-. In fact, I couldn't have functioned in college or life since
without her! She gets me around almost everywhere I have to go. I park
her in my apartment or a corner of the office I work in and go on foot
within the building. But if I have to walk a great distance within a
building, I ride my scooter as I do for covering long distances
I load her down with groceries when I go shopping, then roll
her onto the city bus via an access ramp. Thus I can get all my groceries
home in one trip, without ever having to carry them myself!
can also be disassembled by one person (with instructions from me) and
loaded into the trunk of a car or back of a station wagon. With small
cars, some pieces must travel in the back seat, but this isn't usually a
problem. Reassembled at our destination, Andromeda allows me to go on
field trips, museum tours, and to conventions. (You can go to the end of
this article to read some of my Tales of the Scooter Ride.)
There are many people who once could walk and stand for extended
lengths of time, but who find themselves unable to do so now. This can be
because of aging, illness, or other physical condition, whether permanent or
temporary. Just because you broke your leg (for example) or can't walk
more than 30 feet at a time, doesn't mean you can't enjoy life, both
indoors and out. I highly recommend a scooter.
I know that some people
feel that using a scooter (or a walker, cane, etc.) is a form of
surrender. I have to disagree. Staying home, avoiding activities because
getting around is so difficult, not getting out to do things and enjoy
life - - these, to me, are forms of surrender. But acknowledging one's
limitations and finding ways to comfortably adapt your prior activities to
them can keep you active, involved, and happy. Lots of places are
wheelchair-accessible these days. Some common ones: museums, history
centers, county and state fairs, convention centers, hotels, theaters
(even some movie theaters), shopping malls, grocery stores, and the list
goes on and on.
Now buying a scooter is an expensive prospect.
In 1991, my front-wheel-drive model cost $2500, new. But you don't have to
buy one. Many shopping centers (and even more grocery stores) will lend them to customers. Most of these types of places will ask for your
driver's license/ID card/keys as collateral. A few malls will charge
you a fee for x hours of rental, but it varies mall-to-mall. Believe me,
the comfort of tooling along and looking around, rather than struggling
to walk and being miserable for every minute of it is worth it!!! What's
the point of shopping or going to a convention if you can't enjoy it?
There is no point. Renting or borrowing a scooter for these trips makes
There is another type of scooter rental, one that is more useful for
going to conventions (especially if you are going to be a presenter, or
will be hauling equipment and/or purchases back and forth). That method is
to rent a scooter on a weekly or monthly basis from a medical supply
store. Call the convention location first, to see if they do rent them,
and then start calling medical supply stores in the Yellow Pages listings.
They can be listed under "Medical Supply", "Wheelchairs", etc.
one from a store like this has advantages. Mall and grocery store
scooters often cannot go out to the parking lot. They commonly are not
allowed to leave the building. (Grocery store clerks will, of course, help
you get the bags to the car.) But a scooter you rent at a medical supply
store goes home with you. You can put it in the car, along with your
equipment/baggage, take it to the convention center, then assemble and
load it. You ride it all day. You make purchases, present your talk
(complete with the props and visuals that you couldn't carry on your own
without the scooter), and ride it some more. Then you ride it out to the
car, unload and disassemble it, and go home.
There are several things to consider in such a rental:
Enough of the nitty-gritty.
- How long will you want it? For one day? For a week? A month? Some
places will rent them by the week, others by the month (which is more
standard). In choosing your rental period, allow 2-3 days of use before
your event to practice and familiarize yourself with the controls. Riding
around your block in the open air is one thing. Riding in a crowded,
narrow indoor space (like many conventions) is another matter entirely.
Practice is key here, just like when you first drive a car! Remember, you
can always schedule more than one activity while you have it. For
instance, rent one on Monday. Practice that day and Tuesday. Go to a
museum on Wednesday. Go to the convention on Friday/Saturday/Sunday. Then return it on
Monday--all in one week! Or rent it for a month and go on vacation.
- Where will you be using it, primarily? Indoors? Outdoors? On
a sidewalk? In snow? It makes a big difference in the model you choose.
Talk to the sales/rental consultant about where you will be riding the
scooter. Indoor use requires a smaller turning radius (the amount of room
you need to make 360-degree turn) so you can get through tight corners.
Front-wheel-drive models are often narrower and better suited for indoor
use. Outdoor use on rugged ground may require a rear-wheel-drive model
for power and traction. Snow requires caution. Many models, especially
front-wheel-drive ones, get bogged down and quite stuck in the white
stuff. I am told that rear-wheel-drive models don't have this problem as
frequently. One further caution with snow: when travelling on the
sidewalks, be aware that homeowners often fail to shovel their sidewalks,
despite local ordinances requiring them to do so. And snow plows commonly
leave tall mounds of snow covering the curb cuts, making it impossible to
get onto or off of the sidewalk, whether or not it has been shoveled.
(I live in Minnesota, where getting stuck in the snow is a winter ritual.)
- Shop around. Call several stores and find out how much it will cost to
rent a scooter, what their terms are, and how long you can rent them.
Visit one or two places and try out the models to see which ones work best
for you. Remember: each model will have a different control console. Try
them out! (If the store won't let you do a donut or figure-eight on the
showroom floor, leave and don't come back!) I recommend renting it in
your hometown if possible, rather than renting one at a vacation
destination. This allows you that practice time at home to master the
control console before taking it into unfamiliar territory. You can rent
one away from home: just follow these same steps. But you will usually
have more time and resources for choosing a model and rental place if you
rent it near home and bring it with you.
- Will you be taking the scooter by bus? Car? Train? Plane? All of these are very
feasible. Most scooters these days have gel batteries instead of
lead-acid ones. My scooter, with gel batteries, can be put into the
cargo hold of an airplane (and airlines generally don't charge extra for
this!) They consider scooters to be wheelchairs. If you plan to fly with
it, tell the airline that when they book your ticket. Ask about any
requirements (like taping the basket and battery charger on so it all
comes as one piece, or having the proper battery type). Discuss this
with the rental consultant as well. Batteries will often have their
specifications written right on them, including whether or not they are
FAA-approved. For train riders, Amtrak will take scooters! Again, call
the ticket agent and discuss this. City and distance buses vary widely
from company to company. Call the Convention and Visitors' Bureau or bus
company for info on accessibility of bus systems.
Time for some TALES OF THE SCOOTER RIDE.
(a.k.a. How Many Interesting Uses Can I Think of for This Scooter?)
Well, I hope this article has been informative, not to mention
entertaining! Remember that life is meant to be lived, not just gotten
through. Enjoy! The Little Engine That Could had the right idea. Where
there's a will, there's a way - - and probably somebody has already come up
against the same problem before. KEEP ON ROLLING!
- One-day conventions and art fairs: I frequently use Andromeda for
these. I once loaded all of my cross-stitched pieces (including a framed
sampler about 30" x 24") onto Andromeda, along with equipment for a
cross-stitch demo and myself. "Andy" and I got on a city bus and went to
an arts and crafts fair. I parked her in my booth (outdoors, on grass)
and unloaded everything right onto the table! Loading was also real easy.
I got home the same way I came. Carrying all that stuff was no problem!
On other occasions I have gone to huge convention spaces and trade shows
with Andromeda. The only way to see everything is to wander the show hall
for a long time, and attending all the sessions I'd like to requires
crossing large distances fairly quickly. Andromeda to the rescue!
- Several-day conventions: More of the same. I go to Sci-Fi/Fantasy
conventions every year. One in particular is a 3-day affair at a hotel,
and many people stay overnight (actual programmed events can run as late
as 1 or 2 a.m.) We book rooms in the hotel or just find parties going on
or places to talk all night. Without the scooter, I would be dropping in
my tracks after a few hours. With my scooter, I can take all my gear
(including multiple costumes for different dress-up sessions), and my
purchases from the Dealers' Room, and my books and programs, anywhere I
want to! I can carry that much stuff all day and all night, if necessary.
I can even take off my brace, switch to soft shoes, and keep on trucking!
(I have done the hall-wandering routine once, and the booking-a-room
routine once.) If I hadn't had Andromeda with me, I never would have
lasted for that all-night conventioneering. It was fun--just talking to
people in the halls, finding a coffee corner to read in, etc. Even if you
you to a convention and go home and return the next day, the scooter is
great for avoiding exhaustion and sore feet, as well as carrying gear!
- Walking events and shows: I once represented my Scottish Clan at the
Macalester Scottish Country Fair. This required setting up a booth and
later marching (on the grass) in the Parade of Tartans with a huge banner.
My solution: load the scooter, take a bus to the site, set up the banner
on its pole, then "march" by riding the scooter, steering it with one
hand, and holding the banner's pole with the other. I managed the rough
terrain despite the banner being pulled at constantly by high winds that
day. This was quite a lot of fun - - I even enjoyed the challenge of steering
over grassy "moguls" in front of a huge crowd, with the banner flying and
obviously being pulled hard by the wind. Just showing that I could do
that, for a huge crowd to see, was very special.
- One thing to watch out for - - people. Most especially in large malls and
crowded rooms. They often don't watch where they're going, and you need
to remain alert so you can back out of their path. Also, little children
-especially- don't look out. They frequently back into my scooter without
even noticing that I'm there (even when I'm staying still!) But if you
are alert and just a little bit careful, you can have a great time at
events. Just keep your eyes open and have fun!!!
copyright 1999, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.
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