By Daniel J. Vance


  On February 8 the Minnesota Golden Gopher and Purdue Boilermaker basketball men were struggling inside Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Outside, my wheelchair-using daughter and I were struggling just to get into Williams.

  Our tickets had been a gift from a wheelchair-using friend.

  We were arriving late because of traffic. The ten-degree weather and snow-filled sidewalks around Williams made any long wheelchair journeys nearly impossible, so realistically the only place we could park was across the street in this one lot with handicap parking.

  But as we drove by, and though handicap parking seemed quite available inside, we also saw a "lot full" sign leaning against a chain. Drat!

  After fruitlessly searching for parking, and realizing the game would soon start, I pulled into a private lot across from Williams and brazenly dared anyone to tow my minivan with its blue handicap tag dangling from the rearview mirror.

  However, this lot hadn't been plowed. It was a minefield of packed snow, a treacherous wheelchair ride. After crossing it, to get out totally I had to carry my 47-pound daughter in my right arm and her 17-pound wheelchair in my left over a ten-foot, slippery bunny trail carved through a knee-high snow bank.

  "We're almost inside," I huffed as we both watched a crowd across the street climb steps into Williams. A moment later I had to take back my words: a blue sign now was pointing us toward a separate handicap entrance a full, and wintry block, away.

  Once inside we followed signs directing us toward the section number printed on our tickets. The crowd was cheering; the game had begun.

  But the only way into our section seemed to be up a flight of stairs. There were no ushers around to help carry a wheelchair. So in frustration I ran up those steps searching for an usher and soon saw that all the arena's wheelchair-using fans were seated below at courtside. Great seats! However, to get there we had to backtrack to the other side of the arena and enter at floor level. There weren't any signs anywhere telling us of the special wheelchair entrance.

  What was left of the game was great. But afterwards, while crossing the unplowed minefield again, my daughter caught a "snow" bump and fell forward face down onto snow.

  And so goes another day of navigating America with a wheelchair.

  [Contact Mr. Vance through www.danieljvance.com.]