Open Forum: ‘Bloom’ gauntlet

Posted: May 14, 2013

Another Apple Blossom has come and gone, and many say it was a successful “Bloom.” But I found this year’s Apple Blossom no less frustrating and inaccessible to the handicapped than years past.

For those confined to wheel- chairs, accessing the Apple Blossom parades can be compared to the challenges of a gauntlet.

Gauntlet Challenge One: After parking blocks away, one is left to navigate the streets along the parade route to the spot you’ve paid to watch the parade. But, while in the streets, the handicapped person and/or the person pushing the wheelchair is being repeatedly told to “get off the street and on the sidewalk.” Mind you, it is noon, a good hour-and-a-half before the Saturday parade time.

Sidewalk? Seriously? Do you know how hard it is to get a wheelchair on a sidewalk that is partially covered by rows of chairs, ropes, people, areas of overgrown bushes which slap the person in the face, and randomly placed trash receptacles?

Once at the reserved spot on Stewart Street, a spot on the end by the handicapped ramp for ease of access and where the chair can be removed, the wheelchair can be placed. Now comes Gauntlet Challenge Two — mindless people who come with their own chairs, coolers, bags, and children, and place them in front of the ramp and wheelchair so the handicapped person who needs to use a restroom must now ask those in front to allow them to exit to a restroom while listening to the rude comments and grunts of frustration for inconveniencing those asked to move.

Oh, the restrooms — the biggest Gauntlet Challenge of all! Now the wheelchair must roll alongside the parade participants (remember we can’t access the sidewalks) to Handley Boulevard only to find the handicapped access ramp to the sidewalk blocked and roped off by none other than the Apple Blossom Store’s tent.

Gauntlet Challenge Four — now the person must travel toward Handley to gain entrance to the sidewalk and navigate through uneven terrain to the row of Johnny Blues behind the judging stands where Gauntlet Challenge Five awaits: no handicapped restroom. After fighting in and out of the non-handicap Johnny Blue the handicapped person must now repeat this experience again in reverse.

Might the powers that be of Apple Blossom consider the handicapped and designate an area for those who’d chose to use it? May I suggest the Braddock Street parking garage? Those with handicapped placards or tags could be allowed access to the garage up to an hour before parade time and be able to park, view the parade from the garage or the sidewalk, and have ease of access to handicapped-accessible restrooms.

Come on, Apple Blossom officials, let’s make Apple Blossom accessible and enjoyable to all.

Victoria Hitchcock is a resident of Clear Brook.