Imagine yourself going to a sporting event. You got the tickets. You are excited. Everything is set. Then you arrive and experience an accessibility issue.
While participating in a Twitter chat, AXSChat, I had to opportunity to connect with Zachary Fenell who accepted my invitation for an interview.
I am going to treat this interview like I treat someone in real life as an everyday conversation. If you don’t know, ask. After all, we are all humans here.
Zachary is not deaf or hard of hearing but has a human conditon that a few deaf or hard of hearing people have, cerebral palsy (or CP for short).
In order to move one step closer to improving accessible travel and tourism for everyone, it is important to understand the different human conditions.
Not all human conditions are the same. By discovering overlapping experiences, we are able to create a more inclusive environment.
Zachary, I know I can google the answer but for the sake of this interview, can you sum up what CP is in one sentence?
As you mentioned, you could go to Google and get a medicalized answer. So allow me to offer a more informal answer original to me. Cerebral palsy is life challenging you in various ways, all of which stem back to a neurological condition and remain unique to each separate case.
Can you clear up what a “neurological condition” means?
Neurological condition or neurological disability, whatever terminology you want to use, deals with the nervous system. For example ways CP manifests itself in me includes having tight muscles and less than stellar balance/coordination.
I visited your website to get a quick overview and I see you are a big baseball fan. Are you happy with the fact that my “mistaken identity” (Mark McGwire) belted a few home runs against your Cleveland Indians?
Ha, ha. The past is the past. Right now I am focused on and happy with the present Cleveland Indians.
That brings me to my next point. I am very passionate about accessible tourism and travel. It doesn’t matter whether you get out and about locally or globally. What matters is that you are able to get out and about to do what you want.
With that in mind, tell us about your most memorable experience while traveling.
It is difficult to point to one travel experience and label it the most memorable. I could however mention a travel goal I have and my experiences pursuing that goal.
I am a huge baseball fan, specifically Cleveland Indians baseball. Therefore on my unwritten bucket list right under “Create a bucket list” is “Go to a game at every active MLB ballpark.”
I live outside Cleveland, OH so I’ve been to plenty of games at Progressive Field. So far I’ve also seen games at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL and Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD. I cherish the memories I have from those experiences.
I can relate. Watching a baseball game at the stadium can be a fantastic experience. Did anything happen during that moment that was frustrating as a result of your condition?
My seat at the game I went to at Wrigley Field was in the upper deck. I never actually got to my assigned seat, though.
I was in the right section but had to go up a few rows.
Cerebral palsy impacts my balance and I need a handrail to go up and down steps.
Since Wrigley is so old there are no handrails in the upper deck, or at least there wasn’t in my section.
I managed to get up one step in the section and I decided just to take an empty seat in the row versus risk a nasty fall trying to ascend more steps.
Are there existing solutions to that particular frustration? If so, what are they?
Typically I would’ve simply asked a friend for a hand. Yet on this particular occasion I ended up going to the game alone. So, that wasn’t an option.
Most of the time though, I am and I bet your readers too are with someone else when traveling. So I would encourage to ask for help.
You might feel hesitant doing so, not wanting to be a “burden” or anything. Odds are those with you will not find you a burden. In fact they might want to slap you for thinking that.
There’s always room for improvements so whether there are existing solutions or not, what would be the ideal solution that eliminates your frustration?
For travel in the United States I feel like ADA regulations are very helpful.
When building new ballparks or new buildings in general, those involved have to think about accessibility. I like to think over enough time every tourist site will therefore grow to be more accessible.
What is the one thing people need to be aware of the most about CP while traveling or participating in tourism activities?
I mention it in my one sentence definition of cerebral palsy and that is CP manifests itself differently in each case. If you want to make a travel/tourism experience the best it can be, be patient and keep an open mind.
I recall visiting Boston, MA once. Unfortunately I did not think ahead about getting tickets to a Boston Red Sox game. However, my friends and I went on the Ghosts & Gravestones Boston Frightseeing Tour.
Our group’s tour guide was very patient, not rushing me during the walking portions of the tour. His patience made my experience a positive one.
Had the tour guide rushed me, the experience would’ve been tainted for me. So again, patience and also an open mind will go a long way.
Zachary, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. That is all I have for now. If other people have questions you can answer, what’s the best way for them to get a hold of you?
Checkout my website, ZacharyFenell.com.
You will find all the different ways to connect with me there.
Thank you, Mark, for having me. I hope to hear from some of your readers.
Share your thoughts.
What did you think about this interview and what Zachary had to say? Are there any overlapping experiences you have in common with Zachary?