Accessibility Concerns at the Iowa State Fair Campgrounds

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Sharis Claver has been camping at the Iowa State Fair her entire life. It`s a tradition she`d like to pass down to her children. But that might not be possible.

Nothing comes easy for Carter Claver.  He was born with a rare metabolic disorder, which lead to a stroke when he was 15-months-old.  Carter has no control of his muscles.  He can’t walk or talk, but cognitively he’s like any other 8-year-old.

“He’s smart as a tack,” says his mother, Sharis Claver.  “But physically, he is not capable of anything.”

He relies on his parents and caregivers to feed him, bathe him, even hold up his head.  Yet, Carter takes part in almost every family activity.

“If one of us does it, we all do it,” says Sharis.

When Carter’s little brother and sister started raising animals, so did Carter.  With the help of his parents, Carter bottle fed his lamb, Buttercup, by propping the bottle up in his wheelchair.  When it came time for the Marion County Fair, the Clavers figured out a way for him to show Buttercup.

“He holds on to the lead himself.  We just wrap a couple loops around the arms of the chair and he holds on to the lead,” says Sharis.

But the County Fair may be the last fair for Carter and his animals.

“As much as he loves camping and loves the State Fair, we’re not going to be able to take him anymore, because his safety is more important than anything.”

The Clavers are concerned as Carter gets older, they won’t be able to maneuver his chair down the rocky, hilly terrain at the Iowa State Fair campgrounds.

“If he tips over he can’t catch himself,” explains Sharis.  “More than likely he’s going to break an arm, a nose, or something on his face.”

And a handicap accessible campsite is out of the question because there aren’t any.

“There aren’t any state mandates for those to be accessible,” says Lori Chappell, spokesperson for the Iowa State Fair.  “So, at this point, they’re not.”

Chappell says the Fair Board and managers at the campground try to work with campers who have special needs, but as of right now, creating handicap accessible campsites is not in the cards.  The Board and advocates for people with disabilities do plan to meet after the 2014 Iowa State Fair to discuss various options.

The Clavers don’t understand why it’s not a priority now.

“We’ve been to Army Corps campgrounds, State campgrounds, even private campgrounds and all of them have if not one, possibly two that are handicap designated.”

Chappell says it’s something the Iowa State Fair Board will consider, but it’s “not in the plans at this point.”

The Clavers say it’s just one more thing that won’t come easy for Carter.

“It actually breaks my heart and makes me very angry at the same time. Every day is a fight for Carter.  Nothing is easy. He struggles at everything. The things we take for granted he can’t do on his own. There are very few things he loves to do and very few things he can do that he enjoys, camping being one of them.”


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