Youngsters using wheelchairs, braces and seeing-eye dogs are not as limited by other people's perceptions and the environment as they once were. Today, encouraged by families, teachers, therapists and legislators, there are signs in Braille and wheelchair ramps at many museums, nature walks, sports arenas, theaters, schools and entertainment complexes.
Outings for special children mean extra time and preparation for the person taking care of them. For the children, it means the exhilaration of exposure to new environments, ideas, situations, people and possibilities; the opportunity to experience what is taken for granted by children without disabilities; the encouragement to push ahead, and the stimulation to find a way "to do the impossible."
The following are among many facilities that offer all of the above and are "wheelchair friendly."
William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom, 1936 Lake Drive, in the Franklin Canyon Ranch National Park, north of Beverly Hills. For information call (213) 858-3834 Monday through Friday; on weekends call (213) 271-5013. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Free. Use of specially designed trails for the blind and the handicapped, which can even accommodate gurneys, is by reservation only and is limited to organized groups. Scheduled walks with docents that encourage feeling and smelling flowers and plants are available for groups. New nature center, now being planned, will be strongly handicapped-oriented. Call ahead for reservations and information.
Aerospace Museum, 700 State Drive, Los Angeles, (213) 744-7400. Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. Elevator holds two wheelchairs at a time. Hands-on exhibits and a space shuttle cargo bay let you touch tomorrow; the satellites hanging from the ceiling show a look of tomorrow, and space ice cream, $1.50 at the gift shop, offers a taste of tomorrow.
California Pools for the Handicapped, 6801 Long Beach Blvd. at 68th Street, Long Beach, (213) 537-2224. Open Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., closed on holidays. Free. Use of pools for disabled or for senior citizens requires filling out a general information form--including name, age and medication--and children also need a doctor's note of approval. Staff and instructors available to all. Two pools with ramps, plus there's a hydraulic lift for the deep pool. Splash, swim, float, play or exercise in water maintained at 92 degrees. Those wishing free lessons must sign up for a minimum of four, also available are group activities.
Open House in the Plaza Circle, Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, (213) 850-2000; TTY: (213) 972-7615. A six-week program sponsored by Los Angeles Philharmonic from July 6 through Aug. 14, Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Performances and workshops are $2.50 per person, group rates available. Emphasizing Los Angeles' cultural diversity, performances include: music, dance, theater, art, storytelling and puppetry for 6- to 16-year-olds. Related workshops will provide young people opportunities to be directly involved with art forms on stage and the cultures they represent. Call for reservations and arrange for special circumstances, such as front row seats and signers for the hearing impaired, wheelchair placement and special parking (ramps are steep).
Sea World, 1720 S. Shores Drive, San Diego, (619) 226-3901. Open daily. Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Labor Day. Admission: 12 and older $16.95; 3 to 11 pay $11.95, and 2 and under are free. A Shamu kiss or a sea lion flipper-shake welcomes many of the visitors to the park. Guests can pet dolphins, watch archer fish shoot "water bullets," pick up bat stars and feed walruses and harbor seals. Many rides, shows and exhibits.
George C. Page Museum, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 936-2230. Open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Extended hours during daylight-saving time are Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission: adults 13 and older $3; seniors 62 and older and students 12 and over with ID cards pay $1.50; children 5 through 12 pay 75 cents, and 4 and under free. There is no admission charge on the second Tuesday of each month. Limited free parking includes two handicapped spaces. See volunteers and professional paleontologists clean Ice Age fossils in a glassed-in laboratory. Inspect reconstructed skeletons of a mastodon, saber-tooth cat and giant ground sloth.