The Day My Two-Month-Old and Husband Blew Up the Internet

The great shopping cart debate of 2019.

Sarah Pruett
6 min readJan 11, 2019

Last night as I rocked my baby to sleep I couldn’t help thinking about what a crazy story she’ll have to tell about how she and her dad went viral on the internet over a picture with shopping carts.

Picture of my husband in a wheelchair and a baby in the stroller on a sidewalk blocked by a lot of shopping carts.

My husband has been injured for 20 years due to a spinal cord injury and we’ve been married for almost 10 years. We encounter accessibility issues daily and run a nonprofit dedicated to designing universally accessible homes, so not much surprises us. The design of our homes and communities lack functional features for those with injuries, health conditions, and disabilities. Yes, there is the ADA here in the USA, but it’s not perfect, and people don’t understand the need for these design features until they themselves experience a change in health, or know someone who does.

I stood in the pharmacy line to post the picture into Facebook (to friends only) and we headed back through the parking lot to get back to our car at Firehouse Subs. I got everyone loaded and Scott drove us home.

Some friends started posting on the picture and were asking if they could share. I switched it to “public” and we went on with our evening.

We weren’t angry, we just took a picture and I posted it to Facebook to bring awareness to an example of barriers we encounter on a daily basis. We weren’t in it for attention. Is it laziness to not put a cart back? Maybe. I do not know everyone’s personal situations for doing so, but you can check the comments on the post to see what people say about that.

The. Shares. Kept. Coming.

By Sunday morning we’d hit over 2,000 shares and I’d already had a few strangers post they thought it was fake or for attention. I couldn’t believe this. Really? Like I had time to run around that lot with a baby and pop all those carts on the curb to get attention? That’s not me. Not us. Barriers like this are everywhere and until you experience yourself or take the time to understand someone else’s perspective, you just won’t get it. Spend a day with someone in a wheelchair (or another mobility device) in a home, school, and the community and I can guarantee your eyes will be opened to how things are often not designed well.


By that afternoon the trolls and haters had arrived. We were close to 4,000 shares and made it onto the first page of Reddit.

Why don’t you just walk in the road like normal people?

Why do you need to shop for shoes at Payless if you are in a wheelchair?

Totally fake. Photoshopped. 100%.

You just did this for likes and attention. Staged.

Can’t you just move the carts out if the way like everyone else?

Go around through the grass.

Go through the parking lot made for things with wheels.

Store employees are slacking in their jobs and get paid to get the carts.

Why didn’t you park in handicapped parking?

Why are you so far away from the entrance if you get priority spots up front?

I’ve never seen a sidewalk in a complex like this so this can’t be real.

Why didn’t you drop him off in the loading zone?

You knew your condition so why did you choose to go down the sidewalk if you saw the carts?

Not only were people evaluating every decision we made that evening based on one picture (and only what they saw in the picture not considering what was beyond the frame), but some crazy debates have escalated about shopping carts… and the debates still continue. As I write this there are over 80,000 shares of my photo and thousands of comments all over the internet.

Although the nasty and rude comments remain on my thread, I have received so many public and private messages of gratitude thanking me for posting and saying it was something they never considered and will definitely be more aware. We even had some apologies. Friends and family encouraged us and stepped into the conversation on my thread to stand up to the ridiculous, ignorant, and hate-filled comments. These positive comments are what we are taking to heart so, thank you!


I feel silly writing this, but because there is so much debate about what really happened in the photo above, here’s the play-by-play of our rather boring trip to run a few errands:

Screenshot of Harrisonburg Crossing from above outlining the orientation of the stores and the order we went to them.

Scott Pruett and I had several stops we wanted to make in the Harrisonburg Crossing shopping center, which is designed with stores on either side with a big parking lot in the middle. We parked in one spot then walked around the complex to shop, as it’s really time-consuming to get in and out of the vehicle for each store with a Scott and his wheelchair and a baby and her stroller. We parked in an accessible spot to eat a late lunch at Firehouse Subs, rounded the corner and hit up Ross (where we ran into our neighbor), Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and then Barne’s & Noble (where we chatted with a friend and his son). It was getting close to 5:15pm and we knew we had to make our last stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a prescription. Plus, I knew our baby needed to eat sometime soon as well.

We headed across the parking lot and decided to travel down the sidewalk that spans the lot. It has an accessible curb cut on each end (none in the middle). It was getting dark and we felt it would be safer than traveling through the busy parking lot as Scott is lower to the ground and it’s harder for people to see him when backing out.

Many people saw a blue line to the right of the carts and figured we parked in the “accessible spot” next to where the photo was taken. This photo shows otherwise (no signage, curb cut, access on/off the sidewalk, etc).

As we started walking down the sidewalk we saw a few carts in the way, but we aren’t strangers to moving things out of our path as so often we find things blocking sidewalks. However, when we got down close to the pile-up, we realized there were a ton of carts! It was honestly the most we’d ever seen in one place blocking a sidewalk so I took a picture… yes, THE picture.

I moved one cart and Scott started to move a few, but I was worried we’d hit the cars. So instead of taking a ton of extra time to move them, I helped pop Scott down the curb and did the same with the stroller. We walked through the parking lot to Wal-Mart and that was that.

Really, that’s all that happened.

I’m not going to get into all the other issues brought up in comments on the photo, but I will say this: accessibility rarely makes sense until you need it (or someone you know needs it), and then problems become glaringly obvious.



Sarah Pruett

Program Director and Occupational Therapist at The Universal Design Project