Life, and the Art of Accessibility
My March 12, 2016, visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, was completely accidental.
I had tickets to see the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition “Van Gogh’s Bedroom.” The person I was originally going to go with pooped out on me, and so I asked Melody L. to come along with; both of us forgot that March 12 for this year was St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Consequently, when we tried to go to the Institute, streets were closed, information was nil, and we ended up at the Aquarium.
Yes, the Aquarium was jammed with post-parade families; yes, the admission price for the Aquarium and a couple of shows was enough to make me hyperventilate and wonder if I could skip a car payment; and yes, the Aquarium is pretty impressive overall.
Elevators were easy to find, halls were smooth and clean, with no bumps to surprise a wheelchair roll; I was free to look at the exhibits as closely as I could. I never felt I might lose control of my chair while exploring the venue.
Melody and I bought admission to two shows to view while we were there — one was about monster dinosaurs, the other, the porpoise/beluga whale aquatic show.
Each of these venues had wheelchair accessible seating on a higher floor, which gave a feeling of separation from the rest of the audience.
Even with a camera with a decent lens, it was difficult to really see the interaction between the handlers and the animals.
Oftentimes, it feels like accessibility in venues is an afterthought — someone said, “Doh! We need to include disabled seating!” — and so some regular seats are torn out and wheelchair access is miraculously born.
Complying with the letter of the law (the Americans with Disabilities Act) is not always understanding the spirit of the law, and the spirit of the law is to make it easier to allow differently-abled persons to enjoy the same experiences and sensations as those without challenges enjoy — such as splash zones and close-up views of porpoises and beluga whales.
Overall, while there are some minor accessibility issues at the Shedd Aquarium, I feel it is a fun and easy-to-maneuver venue, and well worth visiting.