This essay is an as-told-to account based on a chat with Samantha Lackey. This document has been altered for both length and clarity.
Stella, my 2-year-old daughter, was ecstatic about trick-or-treating a year ago. She wanted to look online for her Halloween costume, as do the majority of children today. I was pleased to see that businesses, such as Target and Disney, had costumes for Stella and other wheelchair-using children.
Stella has type 1 spinal-muscular atrophy, a rare hereditary condition. We did not know if she would ever be able to sit unassisted, much less go trick-or-treating, when she was diagnosed as a newborn. Stella, however, is an active, mobile toddler who is just as delighted to receive her sweets as any other child.
When the costume finally arrived, it did not fit Stella’s wheelchair. It prevented her from accessing her brakes and turning her wheels. I purchased a broom and incorporated it with Stella’s costume to transform her into a witch. This year, we encountered the same issue with a completely different outfit.
A number of mothers have gone viral by creating incredible homemade costumes for their children in wheelchairs. It is something mothers have done for decades because they have no other choice. However, mothers shouldn’t bear the responsibility of designing accessible products.
I spoke up about the need for improved alternatives.
When Stella’s costume did not fit her wheelchair last year, I contacted Target, where we had purchased it. They were responsive and fantastic, but lacked a solution to the issue.
When yet another costume failed us this year, I called Target once more. I contacted their accessibility staff and demonstrated how the outfit hindered the mobility or visibility of four distinct wheelchairs.
I recognize that producing accessible products is a difficult task for businesses. These goods are extremely specialized, and the handicap range is vast. However, people with mobility assistance should not be grateful to pay a premium for a product that will make movement harder.
Costumes are a component of a greater problem.
A child’s Halloween costume appears to be a little matter, until you ask one. However, this is a symptom of a far greater problem facing persons with disabilities and their families. I am fed up with purchasing pricey, subpar goods that pretend to be accessible.
I once purchased a pricey, accessible kitchen play set for Stella, only to have to disassemble it to make it genuinely practical for her. People tell me that I should be glad that Disney and Pottery Barn pay attention to accessibility if I discuss this online.
This is extremely frustrating to me, especially coming from folks who have access to every option in the world. Wouldn’t you feel disappointed if your only option was the bare minimum?
We are anxious to go trick-or-treating regardless of our costumes.
When I chatted with personnel from Target, I saw that no one on the team appeared to utilize mobility aids. However, if businesses are to serve people with disabilities, they must invest in the people who utilize their products. And they must recognize that individuals of all ages utilize mobility aids, not just adults.
Stella dressed up in her costume.
Thanks to Samantha Lackey
Stella, like other 3-year-olds, is counting down the hours before Halloween. She will wear anything she feels inspired to wear that day. I made her a chair-appropriate butterfly costume, but she’s already decided she wants to be Owlette from “PJ Masks” or Catboy.
A person with a disability reminded me that Stella should have the same freedom to choose her Halloween costume as children without mobility aids. Therefore, we will follow Stella’s lead for Halloween.