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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.”



  • BrutallyHonest

    Here is an idea. How about the Claver family donate some money to the Iowa State Fair to be used to build a sidewalk that would go from the campground to the fair grounds. Then they could even name the trail after Carter. I absolutely feel for this child and hope that he is able to do everything that he wants to do, but you cant always expect that everything is catered to you. Im pretty sure the fair has been going on for over 100 years and this has never been an issue before. I am also confused by the part where the mother says she is concerned that he could tip over and not be able to catch himself, however at the beginning of the story it explains that he has no control of his muscles, therefore someone has to push him in is wheel chair, he is not able to wheel himself. So, i am confused as to how he could accidentally tip over, unless the person pushing the wheel chair was not able to control it.

    • Shirley

      Have you ever had a handicap person in your family??? Well I have and they have a right to accessibility accomodations funded by the tax dollars that the rest of the population has. God created all equal so let’s have equality!!!

      • steph

        How much do you want 2 bet that this woman doesn’t have a handicap acccessible camper? Does it have a wheelchair lift into the camper? I highly doubtit & its not about equality. I have a 16 yr old that has been in a wheel chair since 3. He is tube feed and needs 24 hour care. He can’t walk or talk or even hold up his head and really can’t move. I have been camping at the fair for over30 years.

      • Brent

        Shirley: My family has camped at the fair over 25 years and my nephew (just under 17 years of age) camps with us every year. My nephew is confined to a wheelchair. In your opinion, what would you consider a handicap accessible campsite?

    • Rebecca Van Hesteren

      Disguising your real name with “BrutallyHonest”….is that because you are ashamed of what you say or because you are afraid someone will know who you are and you would be ridiculed?…Either way…Are you that moronic??? I have a totally disabled child and I will tell you first hand that it is indeed hard to do ANYTHING. How about trying to have some understanding and maybe compassion for another human being.
      Randy—How about they make the camp site handicap accessible ONLY…..how would you feel about that?

      Im willing to bet that if Non-Handicap people had the same difficulties with not just parking but basically every little thing that we “handicap” families have to endure you all would have way more compassion and maybe be on our side to fight with ignorant people like you-
      My son is terminal, completely disabled. He was not born like that. He suffers from Late Infantile Batten Disease, he was diagnosed in Jan 2013 after 2 years of being misdiagnosed. He was 2 when he had his fist seizure and quit breathing….at that time he was a fully functional happy little boy. Now he is completely bedridden, he cant eat, swallow, walk, talk, hold his head up….HE CAN SMILE AND LAUGH….There is no Cure, no treatment..his life expectancy is 8-12yrs of age…We try to take him to do things that will make him laugh and smile….things he used to love, try to understand how difficult it is to travel with a child/adult who is completely dependent. Wanna say “oh new moms do it every day”……you’re right they do….with a 5-9lb baby…..not a 50lb 4ft tall (Or more) boy (girl) as my son is…..I am 5’6 and 135lbs….Every place should be handicap accessible……period. Or there should be places that are for Handicap people only…… I will even include my FIRST AND LAST NAME :-) —–REBECCA VAN HESTEREN

      • Stephanie

        Rebecca, I am surprised that you feel with way. I too have to deal with a totally disabled child, My 16 yr old son has Infantile Battens Disease. He was diagnosed at age 2 1/2 years and we were told he wouldn’t see 3yrs old. I have been camping at the fair for over 30 years and we have taken Thomas – this will be his 16th year there. We are in the same spot every year and are at the top of a hill and are very far from paved roads. We have several blocks on grass, uneven terrain and crappy gravel roads to travel on to get to a paved road. I would bet to guess that this woman does not have a handicap accessible camper, if he is in a wheelchair they should have a lift in the camper and the entire inside should fully comply with being handicap accessible. That is where she should start first before trying to get a spot closer to the paved road. I am guessing that this woman is one of those that have to wait to come into the campgrounds until the Sunday before the fair starts and has to fight to get a spot before someone else gets into it (that’s how it works starting on Sunday). Also the most PERFECT spot in the campgrounds are along the paved roads. Everyone walks, rides the shuttle etc on those roads, so you can see everything and everyone. Oh, by the way, nice to meet you, I don’t recall seeing your name on any of the Batten Sites. :)

  • bjort bjornagin

    what a sad pathetic little child one must be to live in the shadows like a coward, spewing hatred and venom simply because you can’t handle normal human interaction, having driven everyone away with the igliness of your soul.

  • Lonnie Appleby

    Here is an idea…I am imagining after all of the medical and care expenses, the Claver family does not have a lot of spare money to donate. Here is another idea…have you never been pushing something along (not even necessarily downhill), like a wheelbarrow, and you hit a pit or a small hole and it completely goes off balance and you cannot keep it from overturning? Here is another idea…if we have to have a percentage of parking spaces at all other establishments designated specifically as handicapped accessible, why is the Iowa State Fair campgrounds exempt? (especially when you consider these close parking spots are available to people who have sometimes contributed to their own physical difficulties). Here is an idea…have you ever seen Stephen Hawking control his own wheelchair because there is this thing called technology? Lastly, here is one last idea…it has been my vast experience that anybody who openly and quickly describes themselves as “brutally honest,” tends to enjoy the BRUTALITY just as much as the honesty; in fact, oftentimes more.

  • Randy

    “Brutallyhonest” has a point. No one is saying that they cant go to the fair. There are plenty of people that stay at hotels or other places that are handicapped accesible. Shirley, I do have disabled people in my family and we deal with it. We dont ask people to completely cater to us. Haivng the entire fair cater to them is not a right. They have options. I hope they find a safe way to enjoy the fair,without strapping the tax payers of this state with another costly project.

    • unbiased approach

      Not trying to say either side is right or wrong with the comments posted thus far with the exception of maybe one of them I don’t think anyone should try and express an uneducated decision on what is best for the well being of this little guy until they ride a day in his wheels

  • Fair goer

    This family needs to talk to a current fair board member- Mr. Randy Brown. He is disabled and in a wheelchair. He camps at the fair, see what special things he gets ad a fair board member and make the fair do the same for the public.

  • Phil

    I am handicapped do what I do , my family dropped me off by the main street and I go eat a corn dog while I wait for them

  • unbiased approach

    From what I can tell I’m seeing adults comment on this myself included but I wouldn’t mind possibly having the opinion of an 8 year old disabled child as well! Oh wait that’s what the news piece is about! A little boy that isn’t asking the entire fair to cater to him randy just help him with a camping site that taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for but the fair itself would

  • Stephanie

    I have camped all my life and have really never seen a handicap camping spot. What does that entail: a concrete slab poured?

  • Heather

    The part of this story that they left out is that this fight has been going on for years and they have offered the family a more accessible spot by the sidewalk and bathrooms and they have refused to take it

      • heartcar

        I just came from the Fair camping lot with two handicap people onboard the shuttle. The shuttle has a lift to help the handicapped from the campground to the fairgrounds and I just witnessed two people in wheelchairs riding the shuttle with no problems. Am I missing something here I just can’t see what there is to complain about. Yes some camping spots are on a hill but many are nice and easy accessible by a wheelchair. There are many wheelchair bound people in the campground right now and I have not heard anything bad from any of them. What am I missing here?

      • Heather

        I have family that work for the fair and the security there for years and years that deal with her every year

Comments are closed.

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