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  • Denise Vasquez

How Accessible Is Accessible: The Valley Of Fire State Park

Updated: Apr 14


Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Many people might not realize the #health #benefits of being #outdoors, but from personal experience, I can certainly say that #being outdoors in #nature is #healing.


Over the last three years, I’ve noticed whenever I spent time outdoors in nature, it #uplifted my #spirits, my #mood was better, and I #slept better. Going from getting #injured and feeling trapped with the #injury, #immobility, #CRPS, #stress, #anxiety, #sleep disorder, constant #chronic #pain…to being outdoors #connecting with nature, made me #feel #free, #calm and #happy!


Now that I’m #able to #walk a little for short periods of time, I also notice that #walking in nature has helped me be more physically #active, which has helped with #weight loss.


Being outdoors is where I go to #heal, but it’s also where I’ve always gone to enjoy #peaceful #moments, enjoy the #views or #photograph #colorful moments with my #cameras. One of the biggest #challenges I continue facing, is that I don’t have the #freedom to go wherever I’d like because of the lack of #accessibility.

On a recent #trip to the Valley Of Fire State Park, I #learned a few things that I didn’t know before. Ask questions! The first time I #traveled to this #park, I didn’t ask if the park ranger at the gate if the park was #accessible. This time I asked if the park was accessible at the gate, and the man at the gate was not #welcoming to me at all! He had an #attitude, was short with me, and he made me feel like my question was somehow insulting to him. He sounded like he was scolding me as he said “this park is not the kind of park that would ever be accessible”. I’m not sure what he meant by his response, but I was disappointed that he didn’t #inform me about the #places in the park that were accessible like #picnic areas, #visitor #center or #campground. I didn’t allow his bad #energy to ruin my day so my boyfriend & I #ventured around the park, to see what we could find. Unfortunately, the park does not have #ADA compliant #trails, no ADA compliant #viewpoints, and no ADA Compliant #restrooms. There are #sandy & #rocky #areas where you can pull over on the side of the #road, and there is a main road that is #paved, maybe a few paved #parking lots & picnic areas, and paved #paths leading to restrooms, but why have a paved #path to restrooms that aren’t even big enough to fit a #wheelchair, #walker or #crutches??? Why are there paved picnic areas and paved parking lots, but no paved trails, paved viewpoints and bigger restrooms? And why do #disabled people have to #pay the full $10 price for this State Park if it is not accessible and not ADA compliant?

My boyfriend & I pulled into at a paved parking lot, with a paved accessible picnic area next to Atlatl Rock to have lunch. While #exploring the area, we #discovered that you don't have to #climb 3 flights of #stairs to see #Petroglyphs, there are Petroglyphs around the left side of the #rock. As I stood there #preparing to make this video, I wondered two things:

1- Why didn’t the ranger inform me about this location?

2- There is a paved parking lot, and a paved picnic area here, why isn't there a paved trail starting from the picnic area, leading to these Petroglyphs?


The #ground around Atlatl Rock is sandy and a little rocky as you can see in the video, so if you can walk, or if you have help to push a wheelchair, it is possible to get around the rock to see the petroglyphs. Just take your time and be #mindful

We #drove around the park for a while, and pulled over from time to time, I took some #photos from the #car, from the side of the road, and in the road, of #wildlife, Randy and the #sunset, but I have to admit, not having the option to walk on one paved trail to see or #photograph popular sites in the park was not only beyond frustrating, it felt #discriminatory!


As I was trying to take my last photo, another ranger approached me and yelled at me from her vehicle to "Get Out Of The Park". It was barely minutes after closing time, I asked her if I could take one last photo and tried to explain I was disabled, and she yelled at me "No! The Park Is Closed". How about giving disabled people extra time?!? It felt like they either lack #customer #service #skills or they don't want disabled people in the park. She was very rude and after having two different rangers being rude to me at the park, I learned that their behaviors caused me anxiety which is not good for my health, and also defeats the #purpose of healing outdoors. I won't be giving them my money or returning there in the future!


I hope The Disabled Photographer Project blog & my How Accessible Is Accessible videos will continue bringing #awareness to how disabled people are mistreated, the lack of accessibility outdoors and #action will be taken to make all #parks fully accessible to everyone. ADA is the #law and accessibility is a #human #right!


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