Over the summer, I went on plenty of day trips throughout New England. Some were better than others, and one of the best experiences I had was at Mystic Aquarium. My visit started off with an especially long drive down Route 95, and upon our arrival to the aquarium I began to expect the worst — the parking lot was full and finding a spot was a hassle. But once I finally exited the van and made my way to the entrance, I immediately started to take notice of the special accommodations that were put in place to make the facility more accessible. After paying for my ticket (conveniently, at a discounted price), I entered the aquarium.
I was able to reach my first destination, the Titanic exhibit, with ease, passing through extra wide doorways and cruising up spacious ramps. The exhibit spanned across two separate rooms, both of which provided me with plenty of space to maneuver my chair, despite how crowded it was that day. I felt like I was able to get the same, full experience as everyone else, instead of some watered down handicap version. That's not always the case in a day in the life of Stephen Carroll, and it was a pleasant surprise.
On my way to the next section of the aquarium I stopped to ask a staff member if the beluga whale exhibit was wheel chair accessible, and he informed me that there was no ramp, meaning I wouldn't be able to see them up close. Despite the discouraging news I continued making my way over to the whales. As my staff and I lapped around the massive pool that contained two belugas, we spotted a ramp that led down into a cave-like structure where we could view the whales underwater. I don't think I've ever been so excited to receive false information before! I was able to look a whale directly in the eyes from about two feet away, an experience that I won't forget any time soon.
Throughout the course of the afternoon things only got easier in terms of accessibility. The bathrooms, food court, and walkways all had enough room for me to enjoy myself and not feel inconvenienced. I'm a "make the most of it" kind of guy with all of my endeavors, but my day at Mystic Aquarium didn't require extra work for me to make it a fun experience. The sense of normality that came with my trip to the aquarium was fantastic.
Even though the day started off with me fearing the worst, it was a huge relief that I was able to freely access the places I wanted to go. It's these types of experiences that inspire me to keep working towards my goals with Equal Access. Kudos to Mystic Aquarium for providing a great experience and being model of accessibility.