Friday, May 28, 2010

Model T Crossing America for Vets

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and what better commemorative than the journey of two guys across country in a 1916 Model T to raise awareness and money for Disabled American Veterans.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Accessible Recreation Fair in Boston June 5!

Preparations are well underway for the annual DCR Accessible Recreation Fair in early June! If you live in the greater Boston are you won't want to miss this great opportunity. It's the place to find out about summer recreation programs and opportunities as well as try out a variety of land-based activities.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Celebrating the CCC at Wendell State Forest

I had the distinct honor to witness a very special event today at Wendell State Forest - an annual CCC day celebrating the Civilian Conservation Corps. A government work project initiated by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and lasting until 1942, the CCC employed young men from cities and put them to work throughout the U.S. in rural areas clearing land and laying the foundations for nearly 800 state parks.

There are few CCCers still alive today and their numbers are dwindling fast. Adam Drozbowski, 96 years old, lives just a few miles away and still drives up the hill to attend the event each year. "One day," he said, "we'd cut wood, the next day we'd build roads, the next day burn brush, every day was something different!" The beautiful stonework in the park is linked directly to his gnarled hands. Though Adam only lived in the CCC camp on site for 6 months, the experience tied him to the land. He went on to serve in the Army, then returned to the area and worked in local paper mills until he retired 30 years ago.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Time to Plan a Trip to the Beach!

Summer is fast approaching and as warmer weather gets more consistent, most of us start thinking about a trip to the beach. Sunshine, cooling breezes and being by the water brings a welcome relief from our usual routine.

For people who use wheelchairs as well as others with limited mobility, the beach can be a barrier to the water, but not so for those who pick a beach with a good boardwalk or better yet, beach wheelchairs. Boardwalks in good condition and cleared of sand provide great specific access points to a beach experience and may or may not have places to sit. Beach wheelchairs offer the possibility of traveling on the sand to the water's edge with more general access to wherever you want to go, within pushing range. Those who need a comfortable place to sit and rest in order to enjoy a beach experience with the family will appreciate the roomy comfort and cushions.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Early Birders Catch the Oriole!

I stole out early one morning this week before heading to the office to go birding with Joe Superchi on one of his monthly accessible birding trips in Athol. The day was cold but sunny, after quite the cold snap. Though it seemed like the birds were waking slowly at 8am, by the end of the 2 hour excursion at the water treatment plant, the 10 of us who came together had a good fill of avian action along a wetland.

Joe's trips are a local community affair. The Athol Bird and Nature Club sponsors the accessible birding ventures and there are usually a few members in attendance, including Joe's high school science teacher, Bob Coyle. Joe's sister came, and his brother who is visiting from Washington. I was pleased to see some newcomers who had read about the excursion in the paper. Lori uses canes and has difficulty walking any distance. As a new birder this was a perfect opportunity for her to meet some new people and find out about accessible places to bird. She and her husband Dave followed us in their vehicle along a quarter mile paved roadway through the wetland and birded some from their car and also parked and got out to bird on foot with us.

Monday, May 10, 2010

All Terrain Innovations for Crutch and Wheelchair Users

Two exciting and relatively new products have come to my attention recently, designed by two separate people with similar last names.

Sidestix are the first sports crutch designed for people who want to explore all types of terrain, from sandy beaches and rugged trails to rocky summits and snowy slopes.

The FreeWheel is an add-on front wheel that lengthens the wheel-base of an ordinary wheelchair and provides enhanced travel on all terrain.

Both of these products are designed by people with disabilities who could wait no longer to get out there. That is one of the things I love about the world of adaptive recreation equipment - so often products are user-designed to improve quality of life.

Sarah Doherty, a Massachusetts native now living in Canada, lost a leg at age 13 when struck by a drunk driver while on her bicycle. Already an athlete and outdoors person, Sarah wasn't willing to let go of her adventurous pursuits. She became a more avid hiker as well as an occupational therapist, and feels it is her calling to create better crutches to improve people's lives. Sidestix have been under development since 2004 and were launched this year as a product for sale, after extensive testing by Sarah herself in places like Mt. McKinley and Mt. Kilamanjaro.
Sidestix feature interchangable tips for different types of terrain and shock absorption to protect joints. The tip also pivots like an ankle, swiveling to maintain contact with the ground while the crutch user swings their weight. Already proven on various extreme trails, it looks like it has great potential for sports too. The first SideStix produced are selling for $900 - that may be the
first hurdle for crutch users to overcome in reaching for new horizons - but the investment is no doubt well worth it.

The FreeWheel Wheelchair Attachment is one we'll be testing soon in DCR's Universal Access Program. Designed by Pat Dougherty of Garden City, Idaho, it greatly enhances the range of a typical wheelchair to include trails, grass, curbs, rough road and more. Pat is quadriplegic and confesses he created these so he could chase his kids around the backyard! We are excited to be able to hike with people using their own chairs, instead of our outdated Terra Trek wheelchairs, especially in moderate terrain where the Terra Treks aren't fully needed.
I spoke with Pat on the phone recently and found out that the FreeWheel also makes it much easier for those pushing their friends and family in wheelchairs, as well as for independent users. Pat says he has tons of letters" from happy customers who are thrilled to get into previously off-limits places and feel its the best thing they've spent money on in years. People are getting well beyond their backyards with the FreeWheel! At $499 plus $50 shipping, it certainly beats the price of an all terrain wheelchair!
Photos courtesy of SideStix and FreeWheel.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Hike of the Season at Mt. Tom in Holyoke

DCR's Universal Access Program started the 2010 hiking season at Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke today. Brenda Davies of Stavros Outdoor Access (wearing white shirt) led the hike around the quarter mile accessible loop trail alongside Lake Bray.

A small group of local people with disabilities gathered for a discussion of beavers prior to the hike. Gini Traub, a DCR park interpreter, passed around a beaver puppet to assist with introductions, then several objects were shared educationally in preparation for seeing more evidence of beaver activity on the trail.

On a beautiful May day, the group moved at a gentle pace, enjoying various elements of nature, including bird songs, turtles and frogs, and new green growth in the forest as well as each other's company. The bugs were merciful, the air was sweet, and the temperature was ideal - a perfect start to spring!
Mt. Tom State Reservation is a noteworthy park for enjoying an accessible outing in the Pioneer Valley. There is a building at Lake Bray (off Route 5) with accessible parking, bathrooms and both indoor and outdoor picnic spots. From there, an access route brings you to a small fishing platform with a bench at the water's edge. The scenery is tranquil and quite nice for photography. The quarter mile accessible trail starts from the parking lot nearby and travels along the water to another fishing platform before circling back through the forest.
Upcoming hiking programs will take place at Wendell State Forest (CCC celebration), Lake Park in Worcester (letterboxing), and Halibut Point in Rockport (seaside stroll). Each hike usually has a theme and associated fun activities. For a full schedule call DCR's Universal Access Program at 413-545-5758 or Stavros Outdoor Access at 413-259-0009.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Adaptive Recreation Fair on Cape Cod

Today while driving I passed a young man on a bridge overlooking a river. His wheelchair was empty next to him alongside the rural lane and he was standing, leaning over the railing, fishing. That was quite an image on a summery hot spring day for me to contemplate as I continued on my way.

His wheelchair was a straightforward institutional style. He had probably wheeled to this spot from a small town center a quarter mile away. He looked to be enjoying his solitude in a beautiful spot, yet I wondered about his possible isolation. Does he know about the growing availablility of recreational options for people with disabilities? Would he be able to take advantage of adaptive recreation programs nearby? Would he want to? I know from my work that there are still many people who are "stuck at home" - limited by real barriers such as lack of transportation and low income, and even perceptions about what is within personal reach. I hadn't wanted to disrupt him, but I also regret not stopping for a quick chat to see what was biting - and what he knew about adaptive recreation opportunities.

Meanwhile, introductory adaptive recreation events are popping up all over this spring. Discovery Night is taking place Tuesday, May 4 in Wallingford, Connecticut - the subject of a previous posting here. DCR is hosting a Recreation Fair in Boston on Saturday, June 5 - see the sidebar for info. And coming up on Saturday, May 15th, is yet another adaptive sports fair on Cape Cod.

If you live on or near Cape Cod, here is a great opportunity to attend such an event, meet people involved in adaptive recreation, and check out equipment! From 11am - 2pm at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Cape Cod and the Islands (RHCI) in Sandwich, join in on the fun! RHCI is located at 311 Service Road East. Sponsored by RHCI and CAPEable Adventures and other regional organizations, this free event will open doors to sailing, kayaking, cycling, golf and more!

Bike-on, Northeast Passage, Bourne Community Boating, Disabled Sports New England, and the Cape Cod Curling Club will join CAPEable Adventures in presenting a variety of demonstrations. Don't miss out! For further information, call 508-566-3298 or email

Photo courtesy of Craig Bautz.