Saturday, October 30, 2010

Excellent Innovation - SideStix and Renegade Wheelchair

Yesterday morning, Brenda Davies of Outdoor Access and I "crashed" an Occupational Therapy conference in Norwood, MA to hear Sarah Doherty give the keynote address, then recieved a pair of her all terrain sports crutches called SideStix to try out in our Universal Access programs. We spent the afternoon at Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston checking out the Renegade Wheelchair with John Rackley, its intrepid quadriplegic designer. What a treat it was to be introduced to two wonderful adaptive designers and their exceptional equipment, in one day!
Sarah shows off her SideStix in the sand.

Sarah Doherty grew up in Taunton, MA and traveled from Vancouver, BC to re-connect with the OT community in Massachusetts. At 13, she lost one leg, and has been on an amazing trajectory ever since. Her keynote speech was the story of her life, which includes not only becoming an occupational therapist, but being the first woman to summit Mt. Rainier in Washington on crutches and the first person to summit Mt. McKinley in Alaska with one leg. In the process, she learned a lot about what she needed from her crutches in extreme conditions, and SideStix are the result. Lightweight, resilient, and well-engineered, Sidestix feature shock absorption and rotational "ankles" with interchangeable tips for various conditions including snow, sand and mud. Sarah, now 50, will be field testing her shoulder-saving product on Mt. Rainier again next year. Go Sarah! I had arranged to pick up a demo package in advance, and still we couldn't believe we were walking away with a pair to try with our program participants! Check out SideStix on video!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peer Mentors Needed for Adaptive Recreation!

DCR's Universal Access Program is building a small network of peer mentors as part of its REC Connect Project. If you live in the Boston, Worcester, or Holyoke areas of Massachusetts, have a disability, and want to help out at programs as well as have fun at them, contact Heidi Marie-Peterson at 413-577-3840.

Adam assisted our recent hike at Borderland.
Adam Markell is our first peer mentor in the Boston area. He is an avid hiker and swimmer and  has been assisting hiking programs in eastern Massachusetts this summer and fall. Adam is using this opportunity to explore and experience outdoor recreation for people with disabilities. He is making all kinds of connections between disability networks as well as providing great physical and social support to our programs. Adam will also be helping us survey participants, track their progress in activities, and refer them to a wide variety of recreation opportunities. The work he is doing is building his resume and job skills and giving him valuable work experience in addition to assisting us with our goals. I'm looking forward to seeing Adam at the Weston Ski Track this winter, where we will be cross country skiing, kicksledding, and snowshoeing.

If you think you would enjoy being a peer mentor and would like to join Adam in our programs, we'd love to talk to you. Check us out on facebook! Call Heidi or email her at We are open to working with your individual interests and abilities to determine your unique peer mentor path!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beauty at Borderland, Beach Chair Makeover, and Upcoming Halloween Treat at Maudslay

Charms Collaborative group at the entrance of the Ames Mansion.
If you haven't been to Borderland State Park, it is well worth an autumn outing! Located on the border of N. Easton and Sharon, Massachusetts, this former estate south of Boston offers miles of forested carriage roads and trails, six ponds, glacial outcroppings, an unusual mansion, and a fascinating slice of history. Oakes and Blanche Ames were both from prominent Boston families and devoted to the outdoors. He was a professor of botany at Harvard; she was an artist, feminist, author and inventor who designed their unique stone home, now 100 years old. Both had numerous civic involvements, and together they collaborated on a lifelong study of orchids, which are one of the most thoroughly documented plant families thanks to their efforts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mass Audubon Introduces Sensory Trails

A post and wire guide system allows blind visitors to access
nature at Stony Brook Sanctuary in Norfolk.
Interpretive nature trail designers are increasingly aware that it is vital to include all of the senses - sight, sound, taste, olfactory and tactile - in planning self-guided educational trail experiences for visitors. By doing so, trail users of all ages are more likely to engage with nature and retain what they've learned. Experiential learning also tends to be more enjoyable for everyone. For trail users who are blind or have partial sight, drawing upon non-visual elements and designing for navigation is key to providing an experience that can be fully appreciated.