Updated: Sep 23
Accommodating to Wheelchairs in Photoshoots
As a former pediatric home health nurse and the daughter of a wheelchair using father, let me tell you that wheels are nothing to be afraid of! There are many things you will need to take into account when you know you will be photographing a client who is a wheelchair user. If you are looking for posing inspo, you can find that blog post here! Today we will be focusing on the first step in serving a client who is in a wheelchair--finding a LOCATION!
Photo locations can be a bit of sensitive subject for us photographers. Some of us are very protective over "our" spots and have different aspects we love about different locations. It can be a challenge to find a photo session location-- we need good light, a beautiful background, not too crowded with tourists or hikers, and more "photographer" components to consider! Let alone ensuring it is accessible to clients who are disabled. Overwhelmed at the thought of juggling all those balls?! Don't be! I am here to make the "accessibility" features of a location second-nature.
Before we dive deep into some wheel-friendly family photo locations, I want you to know that there is nothing "wrong" with disability. Disability is a natural part of life. There is no need to tip-toe around it. The BEST thing you can do is talk about disability, even if it means asking questions that feel uncomfortable to you in order to better serve your clients!
The Photoshoot Checklist:
Location, Location, LOCATION! It might seem obvious, but you NEED to have a wheelchair accessible location. Nobody wants to push a wheelchair up a steep trail wearing their photo-day best. What exactly is in an accessible location?! Glad you asked!
An accessible location needs to have:
No stairs, steps, or steep inclines. Imagine you would have to pull a wagon with your gear here. If you could not EASILY pull the wagon from your vehicle to your photo spot, then that is not an accessible location.
Paths! Wheelchairs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and functions so there are some variables here, but generally--you need paved, gravel, or packed dirt paths. If it is really muddy/rainy in your region--avoid dirt paths. Sand and thick grass can be nearly impossible to push a wheelchair through, even for short distances. Nobody wants a workout session before jumping in front of your camera!
Accessible Parking. Either plenty of parking spots available OR designated accessible (formerly handicapped) parking. Many wheelchair-using families have vehicles with modifications (like ramps or lifts) to accommodate the wheelchair. These vehicles need about double the parking room of a typical SUV.
A VIEW! Just because a family needs an accessible photo location does not mean they should compromise on the quality of their images. This may require you to get creative and look at your locations through a new lens, but I promise you that gorgeous accessible photo locations exist! I have about a dozen favorites in Colorado alone.
Be mindful of distractions. While it may sound like a good idea to have a playground nearby for little clients, playgrounds can be nearly impossible to distract an eager toddler from. I prefer to choose locations without playgrounds to avoid any potential hiccups!
Safety. Sounds obvious, but safety is always a top priority! Not to mention it can be hard to tap into your creative zone when you are half-worried about kids running into a busy street! I like to ensure my locations are not near busy roads (or too close to any road!) and if there are bodies of water nearby, they are relatively shallow/calm. Maybe it is the nurse in me or maybe just my "mom instincts," but if I think a sweet kiddo could be in danger--I cannot think about anything else!
How to Find Ideal Wheelchair Accessible Picture-Taking Locations
First, think about all your existing go-to spots. Do any of them happen to hit all the marks? If so, GREAT! If not, don't fret. Start by google searching for wheelchair accessible trails/parks in your state or city or "photoshoot locations near me + wheelchair accessible". This should point you in the right direction and give you some initial contenders.
Have some locations in mind? Wonderful! Download our FREE Customizable Location Guide below so you can easily educate your clients on all their photo session location options--including how accessible a location is!
Questions? Thoughts on the guide? Drop them in the comments below!
ALL my best,
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