How to Throw an Epic Wheelchair-Friendly Picnic

wheelchair accessible picnic

Picnics are the perfect way to enjoy those glorious summertime vibes. While a traditional picnic involves spreading a blanket, unpacking a basket of homemade treats, and taking 100 pictures for your social media, you have to strategize a bit more if you or someone special in your life uses a wheelchair or other mobility aids. In this guide, we’ll share all the insider secrets for accessible picnic planning so you can have the most giggle-filled day ever!

Tips to Plan a Wheelchair-Accessible Picnic

Below are some tips to throw a wheelchair-friendly picnic:

Choose an Accessible Picnic Location

It’s not just the birds and the bees that love an excellent meadow—picnickers do too! But let’s keep the adventure in our stories, not in navigating the terrain, shall we?

From serene lakes to shaded woods, there are so many scenic and accessible picnic spots in the U.S. Ideally, you should choose national parks or botanical gardens with ADA-compliant layouts, such as paved paths, flat grassy areas, and handrails. 

Also, consider the proximity to handicapped parking spaces. Try to select spots with minimal distance between the parking lot and the picnic grounds for easy accessibility from the get-go! You should also check whether the location has accessible restrooms. This way, you don’t have to worry about anyone in your party facing unnecessary challenges or having their day cut short due to a lack of facilities. 

Check the Weather

When planning your wheelchair-friendly picnic, it’s important to keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Is it going to be a sun-kissed afternoon worthy of beach shorts or are you looking at a cool day where a stylish cardigan might be your best accessory?

Pay special attention to any chance of rain or thunderstorms. Getting stuck in the rain can be unpleasant for anyone but especially difficult for those in wheelchairs, as even a light drizzle can make wheels slippery and hard to maneuver. Be sure to pack a picnic blanket that’s waterproof —a simple touch that’ll help outsmart morning dew or unpredictable sprinkles.

Also, check the predicted temperature range and UV index. If an unusually hot day is forecasted, make sure to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and shade options like wide-brimmed hats, umbrellas, or sun shelters to avoid sunburns and heat-related health issues.

wheelchair accessible picnic

Arrange Comfortable Seating

The seating arrangement can make or break the outdoor experience, particularly for friends with disabilities. Starting with the base, place beach mats, outdoor rugs, or heavy-duty tarps on the ground. These materials add a layer of decor and create a flat surface, minimizing the risk of wheels sinking into soft ground. Remember to anchor the corners with weights to avoid any slips or trips.

Once done, arrange foldable chairs in cozy circles or intimate rows for guests without mobility devices, ensuring that no one is left on the fringes. Make sure to bring pillows and cushions, as they will provide support and reduce discomfort while sitting for extended periods. 

Since most picnic grounds have fixed, high wooden tables that aren’t easily accessible to everyone, it’s wise to add a folding table to your picnic setup. This allows you to adjust the height as needed and will serve as an anchor point for those needing to lean on something sturdy when standing up or changing their position.

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Prepare Drinks and Snacks Wisely

When it comes to munching for a wheelchair-accessible picnic, you should choose items that are easy to handle and serve. Think hearty wraps, lavish cheese platters, finger foods, mini cupcakes, sandwiches, and sweets that are simple to eat in your lap and make you go, ‘Yummm.’ A convenient tip? Pre-cut fruits and veggies and serve them with hummus, guacamole, and nut butter for a quick and healthy snack

It’s crucial to pack a mix of hydrating beverages like water and freshly squeezed lemonade, along with a nice bottle of wine or craft beers that can be easily opened and consumed without assistance. You can also bring a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate if desired. 

Just avoid large containers that require pouring as these can be tricky to manage from a seated position. You should also be aware of your location’s specific rules, as many parks will prohibit items like alcoholic beverages, glass containers, etc.

Also, be mindful of dietary restrictions within your group. Make sure to have options for vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, or other special diets and read labels carefully to check for allergens.

Organize Wheelchair-Friendly Activities

One of the best parts of a wheelchair-accessible picnic is playing fun outdoor games with friends and family. When planning, make sure to arrange activities that don’t leave a single friend on the sidelines. Lawn games like cornhole or bocce ball can easily be modified to allow for sitting or wheelchair access. 

You can also play charades or jenga along with trivia or word games. Or, set up a space where everyone can feel the beat from a lively drum circle and have a wheelchair-friendly dance party.

And if traditional games seem a tad mundane, how about a hilarious round of ‘Sit-Down Comedy’ where everyone gets to share a joke or a story? Similarly, you can organize a digital scavenger hunt where all friends snap photos of listed items or locations around the picnic space. It’s a modern twist on an old favorite that focuses on fun instead of mobility concerns. 

wheelchair accessible picnic

Stay Safe and Informed

Planning a wheelchair-accessible picnic is quite exciting, but as with any adventure, certain safety precautions are essential. Before heading out, let someone—be it a neighbor, friend, or family member—know your itinerary, including where you’re headed and when you expect to be back home. 

Make sure your cell phone is fully charged so you can call for help if needed. Bring a small first aid kit that includes bandages, hydrocortisone cream, insect repellent, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, and any medications you or your picnic partners may need. 

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the picnic location beforehand. Look at maps online to find the accessible paths and facilities. Call the park office if you have questions about park accessibility, local regulations, and wildlife etiquette. This way, you won’t have to worry about unwelcome surprises on the day of your picnic. 

Your Ultimate Picnic Partner — Wheelchair Getaways

A wheelchair-friendly picnic is like a mini-adventure to soak in the sunshine, indulge in hilarious conversations, or simply make memories with your friends and family. If you’re worried about transportation, reach out to Wheelchair Getaways. 

We have an impressive fleet of rental wheelchair-accessible vehicles, each equipped with features like lowered floors, secure tie-downs to ensure safety, and spacious interiors so you can pack all your picnic essentials and then some. For your next impromptu picnic or a meticulously planned day out, call us at (866) 224-1750 or fill out this form to request a rental quote.


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