Camping isn’t on the top 10 list of activities for people with disabilities. Growing up, I went to a summer camp for children with disabilities, but I stayed in cabins with bathrooms. Five years ago, my husband asked me to go camping. I didn’t think it would work out, but I agreed to give it a chance. Camping with cerebral palsy makes me smile — and cringe.
I’m won’t be dishonest. The first camping experience we went on had bathroom inaccessibility problems, tent complications, baby issues, and rain. But my husband tried the best he could, and it wasn’t all horrible. My daughter loved the lake surrounded by the beach. She enjoyed the playground and the activities at the campsite. I fell in love with the taste of food cooked by a campfire. The time away together is always welcomed. But at the time, I swore that I wouldn’t go camping again!
Five years later, I had some kind of enlightenment. A few weeks ago, after my husband left for work, I lay in bed before starting my day and thought about summer vacation. An image appeared in my mind of the children sitting on the beach, happily playing. I heard the giggling in our tent. A feeling of joy overcame me at the thought of no technology and just one-on-one family time. I quickly texted my husband: “Let’s go camping!”
He sent me a slew of texts in excitement. My decision shocked both of us. We researched and emailed campsites, asking about accessibility and amenities. After contacting several places, we concluded that Beachcomber Camping Resort by Cape May, New Jersey, would be our best bet for everything we wanted to accomplish on vacation. My husband, Jeff, researched camping sites endlessly. Beachcomber has many enjoyable amenities. Sand surrounds a lake, a playground, and a pool, and there are activities to keep everyone busy.
As the time to leave grew closer, I had some second thoughts. I felt insane agreeing to this trip since we had a 5-month-old and a 6-year-old! But seeing how excited the children were, I stuck to the plan. One of my main complaints last time had to do with bathroom accessibility. I emailed and asked them if they had accessible bathrooms. We were told “yes,” but I had a sinking suspicion that they didn’t. For comfort, I purchased adult pull-on underwear, maximum-strength, and bought premoistened washcloths. We also decided to stay for only two days.
When we arrived at the campsite, the skies turned gray. My husband and children worked as diligently and as quickly as possible to get the tents in place. Luckily, Mother Nature cooperated, and it didn’t rain until the middle of the night. Once our things were set up, the heat and humidity got miserable. I decided not to go in the water because I knew we weren’t going to be swimming long because the beach closes at 6 p.m., and it was after 4 p.m.
My husband took the children to the lake beach area. I watched them and felt happy seeing their bright smiles! The heat felt terrible, though, so I decided to walk the site. As I had thought, the “accessible bathroom” wasn’t accessible. The camp owners had at least tried — a little step greeted me at the entrance. But the adaptation was only in the female bathroom and the other campsite bathrooms had three steps.
The next day, my husband helped me onto the sand, and I sat in the water. I enjoyed it very much. He showered me after carrying me up the steps — I was grateful. We also learned the hard way that when a motorized wheelchair suddenly stops working, we should check the fuse. Thankfully, we got the wheelchair working again. I’m not sure when we will camp again, but we did see wheelchair-accessible cabins that we can try next time.
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