The Story of Caroline’s Carts :: Celebration in the Aisles
Imagine going to the store – without kids. You can walk through the aisles leisurely rather than chasing after your toddler who is headed straight to the towering display of 100 bottles of wine. Is it your dream?
Now imagine going to the store – again without kids. Only this time you aren’t walking leisurely. You are running – running not to protect the wine display, but running because you have to get home to relieve whoever agreed (or you paid) to watch your child. Your child, you see, cannot go to the store because he is not able to sit up in a grocery cart. Or she has grown too big to sit in the cart’s front facing seat, but can’t propel her own wheelchair or stroller to keep up with you. This is the reality for thousands of families in the United States with children with special needs. Special needs can make the most mundane tasks difficult or even impossible.
Inclusion as more than a word
Inclusion is one of the most overused buzzwords when it comes to children with special needs, and often the least defined. Including a child with special needs may mean adding adaptive equipment to a playground. Or it could be providing comprehensive teacher training to maximize the learning environment for all children in a classroom. In this case, it is a shopping cart. Not just any cart, though … a Caroline’s Cart.
Who is Caroline?
Caroline’s Carts were designed by a mother in Alabama whose special needs daughter was unable use the traditional shopping cart. They can accommodate a child with mobility challenges even after they get too big to fit in the front seat of the a cart and when their stroller or other wheeled device makes simultaneously pushing it and a grocery cart impossible for shopping. We would like to see these (or similar) carts at clothing and retail stores so that our sons can be included and make their own choices when buying socks or toothpaste or whatever new toy is all the rage at that time. Caroline’s Carts make all of this possible. Here in south Louisiana, there are few things more culturally important than cooking food and eating with friends and family – whether that’s a tailgate, a Sunday supper or a holiday gathering. It has been nearly impossible for us to bring our sons grocery shopping for about two years, and it’s been sad for us to have to exclude them from helping us pick out the green peppers from the produce section or shrimp from the seafood department or chips for a Saints party. Modeling shopping choices and watching your parents cook are how food traditions are learned and passed along, and we are thrilled that we can now develop and share this bond with them.
Change we can see
Across the country, families are pushing for changes to include rather than exclude members with special needs. Locally, Rouses has begun to include the carts in a few of its stores. Recently Target announced that as of March 19, 2016, its stores have at least one Caroline’s Cart. To have such well-known local and national retailers supporting families with special needs is a huge and most appreciated step forward. It not only raises visibility of people with different-abilities, but it helps to normalize special needs.
Voting with our dollars
So we thank Rouses, Target, and all other stores who carry Caroline’s Carts for including our entire families, and are hopeful that more retailers will add these carts over time. We relish the opportunity to enjoy even the most mundane family activities, and to support those businesses who are willing to include our special children. And if the rumors of Target selling wine and beer to enjoy while shopping are true, we may never leave.
We look forward to seeing you in the grocery aisle!
About Kira and Sarah
Kira Friedrich moved to New Orleans in 1994 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Kira and her husband Jason reside in Gentilly and are the exhausted but happy parents of Aidan (9) and Nolan (5). They all enjoy the growing number of truly inclusive opportunities for families to explore and participate in the activities that this great city has to offer.
Sarah Kohler Chrestman has been a New Orleanian since she moved here from southwest Louisiana in 2001 and never looked back. She works in public health evaluation and research for a statewide non-profit. When she is not saving the world, Sarah and her husband, native New Orleanian Andy, immerse their two children Kohl (4) and Amelia (1) in the Saints, City Park, Audubon Zoo and Aquarium, live music, and festivals galore. Additional musings on family life, parenting, and raising a special needs child are shared on Team Chrestman’s blog: Kohl and the Gang.