Friday, July 29, 2011

Explore the Parks with Outdoor Access

DCR park interpreter describes fort history on Georges Island.
Summer is rolling along and so is our adaptive hiking program! Here's an update:

Outdoor Access, affiliated with Stavros Independent Living Center in Amherst, MA, facilitates these gentle outings as part of our DCR Universal Access Program each year from May through Octoberr. Recent outings to Rutland State Park outside of Worcester, Georges Island in Boston Harbor, Walden Pond, and Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston have all been described as "Fun!" by everyone I've talked to. Adaptive recreation equipment and friendly staff allow for better access to park trails. Interpretation and letterboxing give the hikes an educational and playful component.

Georges Island is a unique place to visit - it features a historical military fort and a brand new visitor center. Recent additions of 6 ramps make the fort more accessible than ever before. A pleasant ferry ride from Long Wharf in Boston will get you there, with Boston Best Cruises. Consider visiting Spectacle Island too - its a real beauty with gentle hills that offer easy travel to the summit along a paved path - with a great view of Boston. You can go on your own any day of the week. If you use a wheelchair you'll want to be aware of the tides and contact the park to ensure best docking times. Each year we offer a group accessible tour with Outdoor Access and for some people, "it is the only way to go!"

The use of a mountain wheelchair for more rugged terrain
allows staff to better assist wheelchair users.
Yesterday's hike at Blue Hills Reservation in Milton took place on a perfect summer day. Two groups came from The Educational Cooperative and a low vision group joined us later. Some families also participated with several young children. Everyone enjoyed finding stamp, stickers and simple game activities in letterboxes while hiking a mile around Houghton's Pond. 
Join us for more state park outings!!! Don't miss out! Individuals, families and groups welcome! To register for any of the following programs, call Outdoor Access at 413-259-0009.

August 15         Breakheart Reservation, Saugus
August 31         Robinson State Park, Agawam
September 15   Chicopee State Park, Chicopee
October 6         Borderland State Park, Sharon
October 12       D.A.R. State Forest, Goshen
October 22       Maudslay State Park, Newburyport

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Adaptive Recreation Discoveries Near and Far - Via Word of Mouth

The Boston Renegade Beep Baseball team. Rob Thayer
on the far right side standing tall.
At last week's ADA celebration in Gardner, I met Robert Thayer, a blind man who mentioned to me he plays Beep Baseball with the Boston Renegades.

"Beep Baseball!" I said, "What's that??"

"It's baseball for blind people," he smiled as he explained. "We play with an electronic ball that makes a tone we can hear. There are two bases instead of three, and the pitcher and catcher are sighted, but everyone else is blind."

I finally got to look it up today. Check out this YouTube video that shows the game in play. So cool!

Wheelchair swing in use at Morgan's Wonderland.
This week, while flying kites on the beach in Falmouth, I met a woman who told me all about an inclusive amusement park in Texas where everyone can enjoy a family fun park experience in grand style. She couldn't remember the name of it though. Thanks to the internet that is no longer a barrier! Just search for "accessible amusement park, Texas" and you'll find the website for Morgan's Wonderland, no problem! Very inspiring place!

I'm particularly intrigued by the Sensory Village and the Music Garden - there is also an accessible carousel (we have one here in at Holyoke Heritage State Park also). You'll find an amazing array of opportunities at Morgan's Wonderland, including a dedicated fitness center for people with disabilities. According to the website, only 10% of the population of people with disabilities engages in sports and recreation play. (Ouch!) Maybe that's true in Texas, but not here in New England, RIGHT? Actually, Ross Lilley of AccessSport America in Acton, MA, was just interviewed in the Boston Globe and he talked about the same phenonmenon. If you have any more perspective on this, please share!

In the meantime, the woman on the beach told me she'd heard of someone who moved to Texas just to live near Morgan's Wonderland! Check it out!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Celebrating the ADA in Kayaks!

It was almost 100 degrees today - just a shade cooler in Gardner, Massachusetts, than the "feels like" temperature of 108 degrees in Boston. At Dunn Park an annual celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) brought out over 100 people to enjoy the outdoors.

The ADA helps prevent discrimination against Americans with disabilities and was signed into law on July 26, 1990. As one woman said to me today, "the ADA is what I refer to if anyone questions me when I request tutors for my son in school."

Despite the heat advisory forecast today, the Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council held the outdoor picnic with live music and DCR's Universal Access Program offered kayaking and hiking with All Out Adventures and Stavros Outdoor Access facilitating the activities.

Lots of people with a wide variety of disabilities kayaked for short half hour tours on Dunn Pond, many for the first time. A lively breeze kept paddlers relatively cool for a refreshing experience. Big thanks to All Out Adventures and DCR park staff for providing this opportunity.

Join All Out Adventures for more paddling this summer!! Here is a quick list of program opportunities in state parks. Call AOA at 413-527-8980 to sign up for one hour time slots and a relaxing paddling lesson. Celebrate the 21st anniversary of the ADA out on the water!!!!

Concord: Walden Pond State Reservation, Mondays: July 25, August 1, 8, and 15

Worcester: Quinsigamond State Park, Regatta Point: Thursdays: August 4, 11 and 18

Goshen (Berkshires): DAR State Forest: Wednesdays: July 27, August 3, 10 and 17

Westfield: (canoes): Tuesdays: August 2, 9 and 16

Friday, July 15, 2011

Family Camping Fun and Tips for Success

It’s that time of year again – camping season! This is a Guest Post from Peter Chase, co-parent of three kids, one of whom has a disability, all of whom love camping. Peter volunteered with our REC Connect Skating Program in Worcester this winter and now provides his personal story and expertise on family camping in New England. He also kindly offers himself as a resource to families interested in camping. Thanks Peter!

Peter and Everett enjoying the water together.
Our family loves to go camping from spring through Columbus Day. I am grateful that our parents took us camping when were kids – there’s nothing I looked forward to and enjoyed more.

Now that I have three children of my own, the tradition continues. My kids love it as much as I did. Some trips are just our immediate family, some are with extended family, where family members bond with each other while enjoying a refreshing dips in the pond, playing ball, or exchanging stories by the campfire. All without the distraction of electronics – imagine that!

Seven years ago, we welcomed our son Everett into the world. Everett has a form of Menkes disease, leaving him non-verbal and without the ability to walk or even sit up. Nevertheless, he is an engaged, fun loving kid who takes a back seat to nobody in his love of camping and the outdoors. He has always been his happiest when outside. His favorite activity is swimming. Anyone who is at the campground beach or pool quickly know that Everett is there by his loud hollers of joy when my wife Michele or I take him in the water!

Everett also now enjoys bike rides on his new Duet Bike thanks to the Make A Wish foundation that was kind enough to furnish us with this spring. He loves it.

He has an older sister Meredith 10, and a younger sister Heather, 5. They both eagerly count down the days to our next camping trip.

I would encourage and family that has a member with a disability to give camping a try if you haven’t already. It can be great fun for the whole family creating wonderful lifelong memories.We camp in a pop up camper, and we often have 2 adults and 5 kids when we take nieces and/or nephews. Most of the time, we have a large tarp set up if there’s any chance of rain. I like to go to the campground ahead of time- sometimes the night before, and return home the same night, so everything is ready when the family arrives.

If you have a family member with a disability, I strongly recommend doing some advance scouting before booking a trip. How level are the roads? If they’re not paved, are they firm enough for a wheelchair? How easy is it to get into the pool area, or down to the beach? State Park campgrounds typically have handicapped sites, near the bathrooms, but they may not be the site you’re looking for. Do your homework to ensure your camping trip is a successful one. Never book a trip based on a brochure or a website, you really need to see it in person.

Peter and Michele and their three very happy campers at
Harold Parker State Forest.
We camp at Harold Parker State Forest in Andover a couple of long weekends a year, and we like the deep forest setting and large sites. Everett’s two sisters love the playground, and the roads are fairly level for taking Everett on his bike rides. At Harold Parker, we like sites 74, which is an accessible, large and level, mostly free of roots site near the bathroom, and the field is right behind it. Site 66 is a management site which can’t be reserved, but it is next to the playground, and is a flat, large wooded site and a favorite of ours when we can get it.

If I think bugs are going to be bad, I set up a screen house. (camping in early and late in the season is great, because we don’t have to worry about bugs with Everett - he can’t protect himself from them.) We also have a hat with side flaps that we spray with repellent with DEET to keep them away from his face, and of course spray his clothes when they’re really out. This is all necessary only at dusk generally.

We also camp at NH, MA and VT state parks, and a couple of campgrounds in ME – Papoose Pond and Cathedral Pines. Our favorite campgrounds are Lorraine Campground in Harold Parker State Forest, Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, NH, Mt. Ascutney State Park and Wilgus State Park in VT the fall.

Read more about these campground options and get Peter's contact info by clicking "Read More"!

Rustic Appalachian Mountain Club Facility Goes Green - and Accessible!

The modernized accessible bath house at Noble View.
I've been hearing about Noble View for years now. It is an 350+ acre outdoor center in the Berkshires that is surrounded by 117,000 more acres of forest, rivers, and rural solitude reminiscent of times gone by. Situated high on a hillside in Russell, MA with breathtaking views of the Pioneer Valley, Noble View is owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and managed by volunteers. I just found out that an 8 year accessibility project has recently been completed, making Noble View an exciting new option for outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities.

Two cottages and a bath house have been upgraded to make them ADA accessible and feature green technologies. A farmhouse and campsites are also available. Hiking, nature study, and winter activities are some of the activities enjoyed on 34 miles of trails. Keep in mind that staff are on site only for scheduled events - otherwise it is self service. It sounds like a great place to go if you are independent or with a group. I think you probably need your own recreational equipment.

Outdoor Explorations, a Medford-based accessible recreation organization, uses Noble View for their outdoor programs. "Noble View is one of the few places in Massachusetts that can fully accommodate our outdoor trips for significantly disabled children and adults, so when we use Noble View, accessible outdoor recreation and lodging is never a worry," said Merri Pearson, Executive Director of Outdoor Explorations, a nonprofit offering outdoor activities to people of all abilities. "We've greatly enjoyed our trips there and our participants love to go snowshoeing, sledding, hiking, and kayaking in the nearby areas. Plus Noble View's green features are perfect for helping to support our teaching of environmental stewardship principles."

For information about Noble View, including a trail map, suggested hikes and walks, and area attractions, visit For reservations, contact the registrar at 413-572-4501 or email

I have to make my way to Noble View!! If you get there before me, let me know how you like it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

65 Year Old Veteran Handcycling Across America!

Bob cycling through LA.
Bob Wieland of Arcadia, CA just left Los Angeles on July 3rd on an inspirational journey to Washington, DC. - by handcycle! (A Top End Excelertor XLT Pro for those who need to know!) He'll be traveling across country and back for a total of 7000 miles to raise awareness and donations for the Los Angeles Dream Center - an organization that rescues people in crisis, including those who are homeless and victims of human trafficking. Bob has been a long-time supporter of the LA Dream Center which serves 40,000 people per month with living, educational and rehabilitation support to help them achieve independence. Donations made to his ride effort will also support wounded war veterans.

What an amazing guy! Bob lost his legs while attempting to save another soldier during an ambush in the Vietnam War. He ended up in a body bag but luckily became conscious in time to attract attention. Sounds like he's been going strong ever since, with a powerful zest for life and helping others. "I lost my legs," says Bob, "but I didn't lose my heart!" He is an inspirational speaker and marathoner who raises money for charities. In 1986 he completed a 3000 mile journey across the United States on his arms. In 1996 he handcycled 6000 miles across country and back. This year, he's doing it again! Go Bob!!!!!

You can read more about Bob here and follow him and make a donation at The closest he'll get to us here in New England is New York City, but no matter, we can cheer him on!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Side By Side with SideStix

This is the first Guest Post to Everyone Outdoors! Dwayne Boyd discovered SideStix All Terrain Sports Crutches through DCR's Universal Access Program. He has worked hard to acquire his own pair. Thank you Dwayne for sharing with us the thrill of finding the right equipment arrive on your doorstep and the new joys it brings to your life!

Sage Korins-Boyd and Dad walking.
Photo by Noa Korins-Boyd.
 It has been less than two weeks, since I left work two hours early to intercept a package on my back deck. The box held more than just my new SideStix. Inside that box was an image of my future self. These crutches are the tools that will allow me to be the person I wish to become after realizing my dream of owning my own pair of high performance crutches.

Upon my arrival at home that day, no one in my family was home to see my first moments of excitement. My next-door-neighbor was taking in her laundry from the clothesline. She was happy for me. I paused and smiled as I read the card taped to the outside of the box, it read, “Oh the places you’ll go…” One’s got to respect a company that uses a quotation from Dr. Seuss.

I began breaking the packing tape with a pair of scissors when my wife and children arrived in the driveway. My wife’s immediate reaction was one of concern, “Why are you home so early?” she asked. “Is everything alright?”

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Therapeutic Recreation Day in Boston July 14!

If you can get there, the T.R.E.C. Sports and Recreation Day coming up on Thursday at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Pier in Boston should be a fun event! T.R.E.C. stands for "Therapeutic Recreation Enhances Confidence."

In celebration of National TR Week, the TR Department at Spaulding is sponsoring an afternoon of adaptive sports, crafts, games, refreshments, music and "fun in the sun" on Thursday, July 14th. You'll find a variety of local organizations on site, as well as resources and adaptive sports equipment to try out. The event will take place from 1-4pm at 125 Nashua Street. July 21st is the raindate.

I hope to stop in on this one myself - it is rare for me to get the chance to see how others organize these types of events and I'm always looking for new ideas and equipment!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Big Bikes for Big People

Joan Denizot with her line of Zize bikes.
Photo by Herb Swanson.
Quite a few people who come to our adaptive cycling program are on the large size, so we have introduced a couple of bikes in recent years especially designed for bigger riders. Designed to carry  up to 550 pounds, these heftier bikes make all the difference for people who want to ride - and ride safely. Such bikes allow big people to develop a regular exercise habit and can help with losing weight if that is a goal.

We have a couple of conventional looking two wheeled  bike designs. The "Easy Boarding" Cruiser made by Biria, is easy to use and quite popular - no need to lift your leg over the high bar! Yet it only serves people up to 215 pounds. Our Zize Bike from Super Sized Cycles will carry people up to 550 pounds with an exceptionally strong durable frame, solid seat, and resilient wheels. The Zize ("Size with attitude") comes in several styles to suit various riders and riding styles - and you will have to swing your leg over to get on. With bikes called "A New Leaf" and "Time of Your Life" though, how can you go wrong? There is even a model called the "Big 29er" designed for tall and heavy people - a rare bike indeed.

The Personal Activity Vehicle - a semi-recumbent trike
designed for big riders.
Super Sized Cycles is a Vermont based company that specializes in premium bikes for big riders. They also sell electric bikes and adult tricycles, such as the Personal Activity Vehicle we also use in our adaptive cycling program. The PAV is an excellent sturdy option for anyone who might be challenged by balancing a two wheeled vehicle or just wants an even more comfortable ride. You can also get bike accessories and bicycle clothing for big people from Super Sized Cycles, and their website features a blog for large riders.

Super Sized Cycles was founded by Joan Denizot, who was frustrated when she could not find a bike built for her size. "The people who really understand bikes told me, " she says, "that, in fact, it was very risky to ride a bike that was not built strong enough for my weight. Even bikes that were built for big riders only went up to only 225 pounds. The more I searched for my own bicycle, the more convinced I became that there is no way that I am the only fat person looking for a solid bicycle or adult tricycle. Biking is a great exercise--and it's EASY! Of course big people would cycle if they could buy a bike that's built for them, without having to be sized up by some mega-fit sales clerks who sell equipment made for skinny people."

Kudos to Joan Denizot for taking the bike by the handlebars and fulfilling an important need! Now large sized riders can fulfill their biking dreams! Thanks Joan!