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I am not a fire Hazard

picture of melting colorful candles on a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles
"fire hazard" by frankieleon is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Winter Ice Carnival

It was a chilly winter afternoon and my family and I decided to go to an ice carnival in Greenwood Lake, NY. We packed up the car and headed out, hoping the event was accessible. We were pleasantly surprised as they had special handicapped parking up front. Before us stood a huge white tent and barrels on fire to set the mood. People were drinking hot chocolate, beer, and roasting marshmallows. I couldn't wait to visit all the vendors inside that big white tent. This was not an ordinary day. A friend of mine also in a wheelchair was with us. As we approached the tent we noticed it was a single file line into the tent. On the outside edges were vendors selling their wares. They had everything from local bourbon, hot cider, donuts, crafts, and other food. Taking up a majority of the tent in the center were picnic tables. The place was packed. People and strollers were everywhere making it difficult to maneuver the wheelchairs through the crowd. Many people got impatient and cut around me which made it difficult for me to move without running over someone's toes. We would stop at a table and be blocked from leaving as people filled every nook and cranny.

picture of two firemen sitting on the ice ready to rescue people who took the polar plunge.  In the background is crowds of people and the white tent.
Photo from Greenwood Lake Winter Carnival Facebook page

You are a fire hazard and must leave

As we made our way to the exit, we saw friends and stopped to chat. After about 5 minutes a security guard came up to us and told us we were a fire hazard and had to go. Shocked we were escorted out of the tent immediately, mid-sentence, with no time for goodbye. We began to notice that no one else was told they were a fire hazard nor escorted out of the tent. People and strollers jammed every available space, but none of them were escorted out. We only saw more people going into the tent than were leaving the tent. So why was it that I had to leave? I think it had something to do with the two wheelchairs. But that couldn't possibly be true or was it?

Me in my wheelchair with cool leggings and a purple shirt next to a pink wheelchair accessible van
me next to a pink car, not a fire hazard

Two wheelchairs equal a hazard

We were singled out. Not one other person was asked to leave the crowded tent but we were. Not one other person was in a wheelchair but we were. Our leaving had little impact on the crowd that was still inside the tent. Our leaving did not remove the fire hazard. We tried talking to the security people but they just ignored us and at one point told us we must leave the event or they would call the police. No need for the police! I wouldn't want anyone arrested. It wasn't our fault that they allowed too many people into one small tent and didn't have enough seating for everyone to enjoy the hot cider and donuts but we were the ones that were singled out and told to leave because we were a fire hazard.

picture of Smokey the Bear wearing a hat and holding a shovel. He is pointing his finger saying Only You
1989; Smokey Bear poster showing a half body image of Smokey pointing at the audience with one hand while holding a shovel in the other hand. Poster reads "Only You". This work is maintained in the National Agricultural Library, in Beltsville, MD.

Wheelchairs don't start fires people do

According to OSHA, a Fire hazard is a condition or material that may start or contribute to the spread of fire. My wheelchair is neither a condition nor material that may start or contribute to the spread of a fire. You see the problem really was that they didn't want the wheelchairs in the tent because they took up space that able-bodied people could use to sit down and enjoy. Unfortunately, this was a classic case of discrimination and a lack of understanding. I may use a wheelchair for mobility and have multiple disabilities but I am not a fire hazard. I will admit that one time I had a lemon of a wheelchair that would periodically smoke but never was it a fire hazard.

Thank you for reading until the end!

This is the view from my wheelchair, where miracles can make a difference. Always Strive for the Impossible. Come back next week to see how tricky it is to get inside and The View From My Wheelchair.

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