By: Sara Lundquist
This past week my family took the all American Road Trip. My in-laws decided to take my children on a vacation. They decided on South Dakota because it is the Wild West. I was excited for them all to go and a little jealous to tell you the truth. I have never been out to the the Badlands and that area of the country. My husband got laid off for the summer and I work for the school so I am off so we were invited to tag along. Six days in a minivan with my husband, children and in-laws was fun but is was very tiring. It was also a trip of finding accessibility. I am hard of hearing and my mother in law uses a wheelchair so we were asking for a lot of accessibility during our entire trip.
I won’t go into our whole vacation here but I will highlight the highs and lows of some of the accessibility issues we found. There are different times I should have pushed more for some things but I let it go and there are some other issues I am still fighting for even at home.
Our first hotel was in Pierre South Dakota which is the capital city. I was shocked how small it was for a capital but our small hotel was very nice. I was also very impressed that every room was equipped with a visual strobe light for the fire alarm. I was so happy to see this since this is my biggest fear in a hotel is not hearing an alarm. My in-laws were in the handicap accessible room and I was shocked this room had a doorbell with a flasher. Now I don’t think this had to be put in the handicap room. That is a great thing to have for someone that is deaf/hard of hearing but that same person may not need a high toilet or a shower chair. It was like they put every ADA item in one room. We encountered this twice on our trip.
We stayed in Keystone South Dakota for the next couple days. My main concern was my mother in-law. I needed to make sure she had a room she could get around in and a proper bathroom for her. To tell you the truth I never even asked for a smoke alarm and such at this hotel. I should have and I know I need to get better with this but I kinda let it slip once we got there. We could see Mount Rushmore from our hotel and decided that would be our first stop. I loved seeing the mountain and it was a beautiful park. My problem was I went into the movie of how the mountain was carved with my family and there were no captions. I asked a worker that was outside of the theater if they had captions and she looked at me like I was nuts and just shrugged. I think she was very confused with my request. I watched the movie with my kids and understood very little of it. I kept thinking this is a government run national monument and there are no captions. Again I thought OH WELL on vacation lets just go with the flow.
We then traveled around a couple other mountains and visited Crazy Horse. Another mountain that is being carved but on a much larger scale. They ushered us into a theater to watch another movie. I kinda thought here we go again another movie where I just watch the screen. WOW was I amazed there on the screen were bold captions. It was wonderful, I learned so much and I absolutely loved the whole Crazy Horse experience. I was so excited when we sat in the theater I had to take a picture of the captions.
We ran into a lot of areas that were not wheelchair friendly. I felt bad when grandma and grandpa had to stay behind and we took the kids to experience something. They didn’t seem to mind and I took 100’s of pictures. It was a good thing that we were with it made it a well rounded trip.
One thing that was hard was 6 days in a car and trying to chit chat with each other. I have a very hard time comprehending what is said in a car. I think it is the road noise, the music or radio and the simple fact there were 6 people talking in that van. The car is normally a hard place for me. I do have a program on my hearing aids and it helps when it is just us but it was so much I could not process it all and make sense of it. I had a horrible headache by each evening just trying to get pieces of this conversation and that conversation. I finally told my husband by mid vacation I can’t do this anymore. I am checking out of the chit chat thing. I told my in-laws I am not being rude but just let me face the window and take pictures to my heart’s delight. I felt better and if there is something I needed to be included in my husband tapped me on the shoulder and I could get the info from him.
It was a great trip. The last night we stayed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This was another hotel where every ADA item seemed to be in one room. The front desk worker seemed so pleased that they had everything that ADA requires I am not sure it all had to be in one room but it was all there. My husband and I left the kids with their grandparents to play games and we went for a drive. When leaving the hotel I asked if they happen to have an alarm or anything for hard of hearing. He said he would get something in the room and ready by the time we got back. My husband and I drove around and we found the South Dakota School for the Deaf and where he used to work when he lived there. Got back to the hotel and there was a cool alarm that lit up and flashed and there was already a visual strobe light for the fire alarm in the room.
A fun trip with lots of memories. I am still going back and forth at home with the National Park service with the lack of captions at Mount Rushmore. According to the Ranger’s emails I have gotten there are captions on that movie automatically and I must have missed them. How does a whole party of 6 miss the captions. I am trying to explain the importance of having your workers make sure the captions are on each day when they start the movie but I just get a rude answer back from them. I will keep going with this and assure if any of you go to Mount Rushmore someday there will be captions on the movie.
We survived 6 days in a van going across a state. Lots of memories and lots of pictures to remember it all.