Friday, December 28, 2012

Adaptive Downhill Skiing Basics

Thanks to Chauncey McCarthy for this rundown on one of the most exciting adaptive sports of winter! Thanks to New England Disabled Sports for their photos and thanks to Posie Mansfield for her photo three track skiing! With these contributions I now have a good grasp of the basics of adaptive downhill skiing.

Downhill skiing is a great way you can enjoy the winter outdoors! If you like the exhilaration of speed, open views of mountains and clean crisp air, consider trying out an exciting new adventure on the slopes! It’s a wonderful opportunity to master a new set of skills and enjoy a colorful community of thrill seekers amidst spectacular scenery! With well-developed equipment and instruction, adaptive skiing has a growing presence at many major ski resorts, serving a large range of people (kids included!) with different types of disabilities.
Seated skis are a primary mode as well as the standard image of adaptive skiing. Sit skis work well if you have a spinal cord injury, lack of balance, or inability to stand. Sit skis come mainly in two design styles - the mono ski and bi ski. Sit skiers and adaptive ambulatory skiers use outrigger poles - forearm crutches modified with a ski tip bottom to help maintain balance and initiate turns.

A bi ski is the right choice if you have limited trunk control and some upper body strength. This sit ski has a large bucket seat mounted to two skis directly underneath the seat with limited suspension. Fixed outriggers can be used to increase stability. The instructor can tether into this ski to control the experience of the skier who may be passive or participate to the level of their ability.

A mono ski is a great choice for someone with trunk control and upper body strength. This sit ski has a bucket seat mounted with a suspension system to one ski. It can be self loaded and allows for a complete independent skiing experience once the skier had learned how to fully control the ski. With a lower center of gravity, sitskiers really fly downhill!

If you are ambulatory, adaptive skiing is achieved through three and four track skiing. These terms refer to the number of tracks left in the snow by a skier. Three track skiing is when a skier is using one ski and two outrigger poles, or two skis and one outrigger pole. Four track skiing is when the skier is using two outrigger poles and two skis.

For someone with limited leg strength or balance a device called snow slider can be used. The snow slider is essentially a walker attached to a pair of skis - outriggers can be added to increase stability and a tether can also be used by a support person.

Two track skiing for those who are blind or visually impaired is accomplished with tethers, verbal commands and other methods. A blind skier and sighted guide ski together wearing designated vests so others on the ski slope are aware of their presence. Instructors may use other skiing aids during the lesson to help increase the experience.

Many adaptive ski programs also serve youth and adults with autism and other intellectual disabilities, modifying instructions and stimulating influences to the best of their ability to allow for a more successful learning experience.

Several ski resorts in the New England area offer adaptive downhill skiing. Feel free to contact them if you have more questions and want to give it a try!

New England Disabled Sports offers adaptive skiing lessons at Loon Mountain (Lincoln, NH)
Ability Plus offers adaptive skiing at Mount Snow (West Dover, Vermont) and Attitash (Mount Washington Valley, NH)

New England Handicapped Sports Association runs adaptive skiing at Mount Sunapee, NH

Stride Adaptive Sports provides adaptive skiing lessons at Jiminy Peak Ski Area (Hancock, MA)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Ski Programs for Vets in New England

Veterans who are looking for some winter fun will find a lot of options this winter in New England! If you are not a veteran there is still useful program information here for anyone interested in winter sports! The New England Veterans Paralympic Regional Development Program announces its Winter 2013 Events and Programs:
Mount Washington Valley, Soldiers For Soldiers, Jan. 12 & 13, Attitash, NH
Winter Wonderland Weekend that includes Alpine skiing, Snowboarding, Nordic skiing, Snowshoeing, Ice Skating, Bonfires and Sleigh Rides. For more information, contact

VA New England Winter Sports Clinic, Jan. 14-18, Mt. Sunapee, NH Skiing, sports massage, Sled Hockey, snowmobiling, air rifle shooting, and more! Contact Ralph Marche for an application and more information.
Military Salute Weekend, Jan. 26 & 27, Attitash, NH
For more information, contact

Bart Center 8th Wounded Military Hero’s Weekend, Jan. 25-27, Bromley Mountain, VT
Skiing, snowboarding, competition and comraderie; lessons and adaptive equipment provided. Visit, call (802) 824-5522 x 430 or email

Leaps of Faith Disabled Skiers’ Adaptive Snow Ski clinics, Mt Southington, CT
Jan. 29, Feb. 26 and March 12. No experience necessary, visit or contact Joel at (203) 426-0666.

Veterans No Boundaries Winter Program, Feb. 1-4, Sunday River Resort, ME
For disabled veterans and active duty military personnel as well as their families, the program includes alpine and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, biathlon and snowmobiling.
Visit, call (800) 639-7770 or email

6th Annual USABA Winter Festival, Feb. 8-10, Pico Mt., VT
Vermont Adaptive is hosting this festival –for individuals who are visually impaired. To include Downhill, Cross-Country Skiing and Goalball; the participants will choose to either “learn to ski” or “learn to race” in each category. Whether a first-time skier or competitive racer, the festival is catered to each athlete’s ability. Guides and instructors are provided by Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports, and the event is open to all ages and abilities. Along with learning to ski and cross country ski, the participants will attend a banquet dinner with a keynote speaker, a pizza party, and will be staying the weekend in the Killington, VT region. Contact Tom Alcorn at for details.

Check out the Winter Nordic & Alpine Ski Programs around New England –

Nordic & Biathlon:
AbilityPLUS (VT & NH)
Maine Adaptive Sport & Recreation (VT)
New England Disabled Sports (NH)
New England Nordic Ski Association (Northeast Adaptive Race Series)
Northeast Disabled Athletic Association (VT/Northeast Adaptive Race Series)
Northeast Passage (NH/Northeast Adaptive Race Series)
Pineland Farms (ME)
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports (VT)

AbilityPLUS (VT & NH)
Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country (NH)
Bart Center (VT)
Granite State Adaptive (NH)
Maine Adaptive Sport & Recreation (ME)
New England Disabled Sports (NH)
New England Handicap Sports Association (NH)
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports (VT)

Ski Clubs/Trips:
CapeABLE Adventures (MA)
Sports Association at Gaylord Hospital (CT)
Leaps of Faith Disabled Skiers (CT)

Looking for more winter fun? Check out the Cape Cod Curling Club!

The New England Veterans Paralympic Regional Development Program's website for up to date information and events around New England!

Thank you to New England Disabled Sports for photographs!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Year End Appreciations

At year's end I must express my deep appreciation to all the staff and volunteers who make adaptive recreation possible in Massachusetts State Parks. Without skilled outdoor leaders, knowledgeable disability service professionals, and hands-on help from volunteers, our year round programs would simply not be possible.

Peter Chase has volunteered in
Worcester for 2 years and
brings his son to programs.
We operate many of our programs by hiring adaptive recreation organizations to facilitate activities at selected parks that feature accessible locations. Countless volunteers join these organizations to share their skills and expertise and enjoy a fun service opportunity. Many volunteers return year after year. Some are students in physical or occupational therapy, therapeutic recreation, nursing, outdoor leadership and other related or non-related fields. Others are parents or retirees or making time for community service even while employed. All are a huge support we could not do without!

Waves of gratitude to the following organizations and their staff and volunteers: All Out Adventures, Community Boating, Holyoke Rows, Stavros Outdoor Access, Waypoint Adventures and Windrush Farms. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to providing great quality inclusive recreation opportunities!

Heidi Marie-Peterson also
developed a games program.
With the end of our REC Connect grant, we lost our grant coordinator Heidi Marie-Peterson. Heidi worked with us for two years, helping us build our Adaptive Skating and Games on Ice programs in Boston, Worcester, and Revere. She recruited participants and coordinated volunteers in addition to gracing our office and programs with her friendly and easy-going personality, outdoor leadership perspective, equipment support and gentle sense of fun. Even after her position ended, Heidi continues to volunteer at the Holyoke skating program. Thanks Heidi for a job well done! We wish you well in your quest for a new one!

Steve Jewett has assisted on the ice in Revere for 3 years.
Some volunteers work with the Universal Access Program directly, helping us with the programs we run in-house. Three people who provided exceptional volunteer assistance with Adaptive Skating and Games on Ice are Steve Jewett, Peter Chase, and Steve Frieman. Thank you all for your sustained commitment to helping out!

Steve Freiman has helped us
 in Holyoke for 2 years.

We are all feeling the pinch with current challenges to our economy. DCR's Universal Access Program will continue to seek creative ways to keep our programs thriving and support adaptive recreation. Check out our Winter Calendar on the tab at the top of the page! We know it will take continued volunteer support to counteract reduced funding. With deep gratitude we thank those who have assisted us over time and welcome new volunteers to join the fun!
Training for outdoor winter recreation activities will take place on January 5 at Wendell State Forest and January 9 at the D.A.R. State Forest. Contact All Out Adventures at 413-527-8980 for January 5 and Stavros at 413-259-0009 to attend on January 9. Anyone interested in assisting with indoor ice skating can call 413-545-5758 for more information.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Adaptive Snowboarding

Guest Post from Chauncey McCarthy, DCR Universal Access Program's Equipment Specialist. Chauncey is a snowboarder, so I asked him to research adaptive snowboarding so more of us could understand how it works. Thanks Chauncey! Don't miss the inspiring video at the end of his post!

World class adaptive snowboarder Nicole Roundy is training
for the 2014 Winter Paralympic snowboarding team. Follow
her progress at
Snowboarding is a great way to escape from the distractions of life and connect with nature and friends. There is nothing better than the sensation of carving down the slopes on a nice winter day, or surfing the powder after a snowstorm. Even the chairlift ride can be a great time to catch up with old friend or make new ones. The mountain community is a great place to spend time and make memories.

Snowboarding has come a long way since its start in the 1970s. As the sport has progressed so has the equipment and the range of people it can serve. Adaptive snowboarding is now more available and is offered at many ski resorts.

Adaptive snowboarding can serve a wide range of different disabilities but not all - if the person does not have the ability to stand or walk adaptive downhill skiing would be the right alternative. Currently there is not a sit snowboard available for widespread use.


Ski resorts are able to accommodate people with different disabilities by using a wide range of snowboarding adaptations and teaching styles. New snowboarders should plan on using a tradition snowboard setup. Depending on the rider's disability they will be outfitted with different adaptive equipment. Often this includes ski poles or outriggers to help increase balance. Outriggers can also be used for someone with limited muscular control or strength.

Snowboard lesson using Sno-wing.
The Sno-wing is an adaptive training tool that goes over the rider and attaches around their waist. The instructor can then control the ring that is around the rider helping the rider control the board while getting a better feel for the equipment and how to maintain balance.

A rider bar is another adaptation that is available to someone with low balance or a lower extremity disability. This is a bar that is attached to the toe edge of the snowboard creating a place the rider can hold onto while snowboarding. As the snowboarder progresses through the learning period their instructor might also use a tether to help control the board.

Using a rider bar.
If this has spiked your interest in adaptive snowboarding there are many mountains in the New England area that offer this service.

Ability Plus offers adaptive snowboarding at Mount Snow (West Dover, Vermont) and Attitash (Mount Washington Valley, NH)

New England Handicapped Sports Association runs adaptive snowboarding at Mount Sunapee, NH

Stride Adaptive Sports provides adaptive snowboarding lessons at Jiminy Peak Ski Area (Hancock, MA)

New England Disabled Sports offers adaptive snowboarding lesson a Loon Mountain (Lincoln, NH)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Being on Ice Inspires Play!

With winter comes ice, something many people avoid for its potential hazards, yet in the right context, ice brings out a sense of fun and playfulness. Where an ice rink is defined, indoors or out, any sort of game or play activity is bound to be going on. Being on ice propels the body into movement to stay warm.  Testing the slickness of ice translates into sliding, spinning, gliding, chasing and smiles. Ice inspires play!

I've loved the playfulness of being on ice all my life. I grew up in a neighborhood where a baseball field was flooded every winter by the local boy scout troop. The kids, teens and adults attracted to this local patch of frozen water became an impromptu winter community where play ruled. For many years an adult I often sought out frozen bodies of water to play games with my dogs. Now, as an adaptive recreation professional I observe and join people's delight on ice every winter in our programs. I love the way disability seems to evaporate when people with and without disabilities use ice sleds to play hockey.

Spontaneity and inventiveness abound in our adaptive skating programs. There seems to be a new game created at almost every program we facilitate. Some of the games we've generated include spinning donuts in power wheelchairs, ice sled races, hockey games with balls and pucks of all sizes and styles, flying kites while skating, lining up in ice sled trains, building foam block towers and walls to crash into, slaloms, and power chair towing of people in ice sleds in a variation of crack-the-whip. With skaters on conventional skates, using skate walkers, ice sleds and/or their own wheelchairs, and others using ice grippers over their shoes, the possibilities are still being discovered!

 If you are feeling hum drum about winter or need a therapeutic dose of fun and games, consider getting out on the ice wherever you are! If you live in Massachusetts we have a few programs coming up in the next ten days, with more scheduled for January through March.

December 2 - Holyoke
December 6 - Worcester
December 11 - Revere

Call 413-545-5758 to register for these programs sponsored by DCR's Universal Access Program! The whole rink is ours to play on for two hours! Come as you are (with warm clothes, gloves and a hat) and embrace winter with a spin on the ice!

Do you play on the ice? Please share your game inventions using the comment link below!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Accessible Public Skating At Massachusetts State Rinks!

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has officially announced the start of public ice skating November 23 at 42 rinks around the Commonwealth. DCR's Universal Access Program maintains adaptive ice skating equipment at 20 of these rinks.

Towns with state rinks that feature adaptive ice skating sleds are Auburn, Boston, Brighton, Brockton, Cambridge, Franklin, Greenfield, Holyoke, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Medford, Newburyport, North Adams, Plymouth, Revere, Somerville, Springfield, Taunton and West Roxbury.

Ice sleds offer a seated option for skaters who cannot use their legs or who have balance issues too difficult for conventional skating. Those who can use their upper bodies evenly can use two shortened hockey sticks with a figure skating pick on the opposite ends of the blades for self propulsion. A stroller bar handle can be inserted into the back of the ice sled to push sled skaters who cannot self propel or steer. Anti-tippers prevent people from tipping over backwards and an adjustable leg tray allows kids and adults to use most sleds. This equipment offers more inclusion of people with disabilities into the rink experience. Whole families can skate together!

Click here for a reference list of where ice sleds are located in the Massachusetts State rink network. Most rinks have two sleds, two sets of sticks, and one stroller handle. Some rinks (Brockton, Holyoke, Revere, Springfield, West Roxbury, Worcester) have more sleds and handles, and some rinks (Cambridge, Hyde Park) only have kid-sized sleds. (Kids fit well into adult-sized sleds but not usually the other way around!) Call the rinks directly (using phone numbers listed on the link above) or DCR's Universal Access Program at 413-545-5758 for more specific information.

For a full list of DCR skating rinks with public skating hours and directions, click here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Accessible Trails in Massachusetts

Coastal trail at Belle Isle Marsh
Autumn is the most spectacular time to take to the trail and appreciate the glory of being outdoors. There are many great trails experiences in Massachusetts that accommodate wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments. From Cape Cod to the Berkshires, these trails can be enjoyed by everyone.

Trails designed for accessibility feature wider pathways (three to five feet wide), stable and slip resistant surfaces, low grades, minimal cross slopes, ramped bridges and easy-access viewing areas. Some accessible trails also feature seating at intervals, Braille signage, audio tours, and sensory elements to create a broader base of inclusion. It is common for designated accessible trails to be a quarter to a half mile in length, sometimes longer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Forest Bathing - Prescription for Well-Being

Have you ever taken a bath in the forest?

Chances are, if you like the outdoors, you already have - even if you never got wet at all!

In the midst of leaf peeping season in New England, I chanced upon an article about the practice of forest bathing in Japan. I am often in the woods and it certainly makes me feel better, a sentiment with which all nature lovers would surely agree. Turns out scientific studies in recent years demonstrate that spending time in the forest reduces stress by lowering heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Actively enjoying the visual beauty of the forest, connecting physically with trees, plants and the earth; listening to the sounds of wind, water and birds - all this opens us to bathing in the energy of a place. A healthy forest, as an intact natural system, offers a bounty of good energy, which can elevate our own energies.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Places to Go in Massachusetts State Parks - Thanks to Kathy Lowry

Accessible footbridge at Quabbin Reservation.
Kathy Lowry worked for the DCR Universal Access Program until she retired last month. She has been a quiet behind-the-scenes presence, a landscape architect who worked for many years diligently at making accessibility improvements to  Massachusetts State Parks. Without people like Kathy, the natural world would not be so accessible. Thanks Kathy for all you have done!!

Kathy's departure has put me more in touch with a gap between the tasks Kathy tackled on a daily basis and the long term enjoyment of the results by the public. In an effort to bridge that gap, here is a list of places you can go for accessible outdoor experiences that had the expert input and guidance of the same dedicated individual.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Adaptive Rowing Going Strong!

Blind rower Barbara Black has found her way into a single.
Summer is over and so are our paddling and sailing programs, but adaptive rowing is still going strong!

The boathouse at Jones Ferry in Holyoke will continue to see a lot of action as rowers keep up their practice and training. Fall is the busy time for races. Several rowers traveled to the Bayada Regatta in Philadelphia in August and had a great time as usual. Holyoke Rows had their annual Paper City Regatta on the Connecticut River 2 weeks ago, in which everyone won a medal. Next races up are the Head of the Charles in Boston on October 20 and the Head of the Fish in Saratoga at the end of this month.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Accessible Fall Festivals and Upcoming Events

Autumn has arrived with refreshing cool temperatures and color changes in the landscape! Celebrate the season by attending an outdoor event! Here are several upcoming festivals and events in eastern Massachusetts and beyond that feature good accessibility. If you know of others, please share!

Saturday, September 29

Blue Hill Weather Observatory Open House & Kite Festival 10:00am –4:00pm

Things are looking up atop Great Blue Hill at Blue Hills State Reservation just outside Boston! Enjoy the amazing view, fascinating history and fun activities at the oldest continually operating Weather Observatory in the country. Join us for an open house and fun festival for all ages. Free admission to events; donation for some activities. Rain or shine. For details and parking info, call 617- 696-0562, especially if you need accessible parking as spots are limited at the top. Learn more at People can bring their own kites or they can buy them from the gift shop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recreating Oneself Via Recreation - Posie's Story

I met Posie Mansfield at our horseback riding program last month and was amazed by her end-of-the-summer adventures. Within the week she had been kayaking, surfing and horseback riding, and was aglow with stories of her recent outings. Embracing recreation has clearly helped her transform her life in a positive direction after suffering two major losses. I was delighted when she agreed to share her story and I hope she will inspire others to find new ways to enjoy life. Thanks for your Guest Post Posie and for all you do to help others find their way!

In late December of 2010, I developed a serious and near-fatal staph infection in my left knee, the same knee that had a total knee replacement in May of that same year. My doctor tried IV antibiotics, but there came a time when it became a choice between losing my life or losing my leg. There really wasn't much of a choice. My children and I met with my surgeon, and on January 5, 2011, they amputated my left leg above the knee. Just a month earlier, in late November, my husband of 46 years died suddenly and tragically from a massive heart attack. I thought my life was over. Losing him left me with my heart broken and my life forever changed.

Instead of seeing the loss of my leg as another tragedy, I decided to see it as an opportunity, a chance to start a new chapter, to rewrite my future and travel a new journey. Never having chosen this path or surely never expecting it, I had to make a decision to do one of two things. I could either retreat into myself, sit alone for the rest of my life, or pull myself up, head held high looking ahead, not back, and push myself to take on my life's challenges with as much strength, dignity and grace that I could muster. Quitting was never an option.

Since losing my leg, I am now stronger, healthier and more active physically than I ever dreamed I could or would be. I miss my husband every day, but I have channeled that emotion by trying new adventures to honor his memory, taking on challenges like sailing, kayaking, rock wall climbing, skiing, horseback riding, skydiving and surfing. I have discovered a whole new world of adventures available to me through many organizations like Spaulding Rehab, DCR, Waypoint Adventures, New England Disabled Sports and more.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Time to Follow the London Paralympics!

The Summer Olympics have come and gone with their usual high profile coverage in the past month. I find the Olympics always fascinating to follow - and how great it was to see so many ads showing Paralympic athletes along with Olympic athletes!

Now, on the eve of the London Paralympics, it has become evident that these will be the biggest Paralympics ever, with over 4000 athletes competing from 160 countries. Almost 2.5 million tickets have been sold already, a likely indicator of a first time sell-out in Paralympic history. Media coverage will be greater than for previous Paralympics and offered in more countries than ever before.

Beginning on Aug. 29 and continuing through the conclusion of the Games on Sept. 9, U.S. Paralympics will provide 10 daily video highlights packages via its U.S. Paralympics YouTube channel. The videos will chronicle the competition, athlete stories and will also include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Videos chronicling the lead-up to the Games are also be available now.

In addition to the online content, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air one-hour highlight shows on Sept. 4, 5, 6 and 11 at 7 p.m. EDT. Following the Paralympic Games, on Sept. 16, NBC will broadcast a 90 minute special from 2-3:30 p.m. EDT. All NBC and NBC Sports Network Paralympic highlight shows and specials will re-air on Universal Sports Network and

The IPC, the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement, also recently announced its online coverage plans for the 2012 Paralympic Games, which will include broadcasting 580 hours of live sport from London 2012 on during the competition.

Some of the athletes I will be following include:

Victoria Arlen of Exeter, NH, a 17 year old swimmer with Transverse Myelitis who broke 2 world records and 10 Pan American and American records at the U.S. Paralympic Trials in Bismarck, ND, this June.

Blake Leeper of Nashville, TN, a 22 year old blade runner who has tied Olympian Oscar Pistorius's world record of 10.91 seconds in the 100m T43 and will be running against him in what may be the most popular event of the 2012 Paralympics.

Anjali Forber-Pratt of Natick, MA, an avid wheelchair racer and eloquent Paralympic ambassador I met last year who has broken all kinds of records and will be competing in her 2nd Paralympics.

Who are your favorite Paralympians???

Adaptive Recreation Highlights in August

DCR Universal Access Program update in Massachusetts State Parks - It has been a very busy summer and gone by all too fast! Some of my favorite moments from this month - 

Hiking at Walden Pond - I was thrilled to see David and others travel 1.7 miles around the pond where Henry David Thoreau staked his claim to literary history. We visited the original site of Henry's hand-hewn cabin with three people in wheelchairs then worked our way along the well-beaten trail - even over some massive stone steps. It was a real sense of accomplishment for all involved. David transferred out of his new power wheelchair - which he controls with his head - to circumnavigate the popular pond with his wife Brenda and Universal Access Program staff Chauncey and Fiona.

Horseback Riding at Bradley Palmer State Park - I fit in a visit to our annual 2 day riding program in which people with all kinds of disabilities take the high view of the trail thanks to Windrush Farms from nearby Boxford. They provide staff, volunteers and four mellow horses, plus a wheelchair ramp that unfolds off of a trailer. One hour rides give some the much needed enjoyment some have waited for all summer, even those who may have ridden all their lives prior to losing a leg, as was the case for Posie (shown on left with cane) and Lee (astride the first horse).

Sailing at Community Boating in Boston - It was a pleasure to meet Margaret, a participant who has been sailing for four years and now spends most days of her summer on the dock and river. When she's not sailing, she uses skills honed in building theater sets to help out with much needed tasks at Boston's oldest public sailing venue, including creating the sign at the entrance. Margaret's arthritis, vision impairment, and lack of private transportation don't stop her from taking the T to pursue her passion.

Though horseback riding is done for the season, hiking and sailing continue into the fall. Don't let summer end without fulfilling your sense of adventure!

September 6 - George's Island, Boston Harbor
September 13 - Chicopee State Park, Chicopee
September 30 - Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield
October 3 - Holyoke Range State Park, Amherst
October 18 - Borderland State Park, Sharon
October 20 - Maudslay State Park, Newburyport
Call Stavros Outdoor Access at 413-259-0009 to sign up!

August 27- September 30
Weekdays: 1-5pm
Weekends: 10am-3pm
Call Community Boating at 617-523-1038 to find out more. Sessions through the fall are booked, but visiting to check out the program for next year is a worthwhile chance to enjoy the Esplanade and there may be cancellations!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Celebrating the ADA with Outdoor Recreation!

Yesterday's 22nd Annual Celebration of the ADA at Dunn Pond State Park in Gardner, MA was another fantastic day! Threatening weather forecasts did not stop the Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council from conducting their popular event which included a free catered meal on the green and wonderful live music. DCR's Universal Access Program provided kayaking and trails experiences. The rain and storms held off, the sun came out, and over 150 people enjoyed a meaningful day commemorating the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I especially noticed a lot of people were discovering they could enjoy kayaking and getting out on a woodland trail when previously they had not thought this was possible or something they would enjoy. Some people with severe disabilities were well bolstered with padding in the front of a kayak while someone paddled and steered in the back seat.

Other individuals were able to use unique hand adaptations to help them paddle independently on the gentle waters of the pond. Our rugged hiking wheelchairs allowed those who are challenged by walking to get further into the woods with less effort on a smooth trail, supported by team members. Out on the trail, people enjoyed nature interpretation and following clues to find letterboxes (hidden boxes that contain stamps to commemorate an outing).

All in all, it was a great experience, enjoyed and appreciated by not just those who came to attend, but by the park staff and those who worked hard to organize the event. Such opportunities should not be seen as a once-a-year event.  Summer is not over! We have programs going on in a variety of parks through August! Space is still available in many programs so please don't hesitate to call, find out more, and sign up for more outdoor summer fun!

Here's a list of upcoming recreation opportunities: Don't miss out!!!

Kayaking at Douglas State Forest (on the Rhode Island border) - 2 days left: Thursdays, August 2 and 9.
Kayaking at Regatta Point, Quinsigamond State Park, Worcester - 2 dates: Thursdays, August 16 and 23.
Canoeing at Hampton Ponds State Park (near Springfield) - 3 dates: Tuesdays: August 7, 14, and 21. Call All Out Adventures at 413-527-8980 for the above 3 programs!

Kayaking at Hopkinton State Park in Hopkinton (out the outskirts of Boston) - 3 dates: Thursdays: August 2, 9, and 16. Call 508-435-3965 to sign up! Families are especially welcome!

Upcoming Hiking Programs:
Walden Pond State Reservation (in Concord, outside Boston): Thursday, August 2
Robinson State Park (in Agawam, near Springfield): August 28
Boston Harbor Islands ferry ride and hike: September 6
Chicopee State Park, (in Chicopee, near Springfield): September 13

Call Stavros Outdoor Access at 413-259-0009! Hiking programs continue through October!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Community Paddling With Waypoint Adventure

Its hard to imagine a pristine feeling wild place on the edge of Boston, but the Charles River offers just that on the Newton/Needham line at Nonantum Park. I joined Waypoint Adventure there for an adaptive kayaking program last week and had a great day paddling with magnificent clouds reflected on the surprisingly tranquil river.

Dan Minnich and Adam Combs are the innovative force of Waypoint Adventure, sharing both the business management and outdoor guide responsibilities of their adventure organization. They led small groups through introductory lessons and warm-up stretches on land before we launched our boats for an hour or so of paddling on the Charles as it passes through Cutler Park Reservation owned by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Dan and Adam encouraged us to contemplate community as we enjoyed the natural beauty and each other's company on the gentle expanse of river. Turtle, muskrat and heron sightings were common, and conversations sprung up among various combinations of paddlers.

I was delighted to hear from another paddler, Jen, that she had just returned from canoeing in the Boundary Waters with Wilderness Inquiry, where is it still the norm to navigate using paper maps and be out of range of cellphone reception. Thank goodness for those more remote wilderness opportunities! Jen left her wheelchair on shore for our venture upriver and really appreciated paddling without the weight of camping gear.

Don Summerfield, who identifies himself as a brain injury survivor, learned early in his rehabilitation how important it is to stay active and keeps at it by participating in programs offered by Waypoint Adventures, Stavros Outdoor Access, Spaulding Adaptive Sports Center, and DCR's Universal Access Program. He said, "I realized today, paddle by paddle, that we are all stewards of this great earth, and to share this with all our community!"

Dan told me a wonderful story of leading a kayak clinic in New Hampshire recently, where he was able to introduce Joni (of Joni and Friends), a well-known woman with quadriplegia, to kayaking using the Creating Ability seating system in a tandem kayak. We marveled at Waypoint's brush with fame and how we all, no matter who were are, have new adventures awaiting us.

Waypoint has two more dates on the Charles River coming up - August 2 and 16 - plus other guided adventures on deck. Don't miss your chance to connect with community - in nature, in a small group adventure, and with the greater adaptive recreation community as a whole! Call 781-454-5297 to sign up!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adaptive Kayaking at Hopkinton State Park

Last week I was able to join our adaptive kayak program at Hopkinton State Park for one session. To my surprise I recognized the participants from our Adaptive Recreation Fair on June 9 in Boston. Michelle rolled up on her scooter with young Lincoln at her side. They were soon set up on a "sit on top" style ocean kayak. Becca, a staff member from B&G Outdoor Recreation, which runs a fantastic waterfront boat concession on the lake, was their assigned instructor. She and I paddled alongside Michelle and Lincoln across the lake on an exceptionally scenic afternoon in sea kayaks. What fun!

I was delighted to hear that Michelle had found out about our Recreation Fair from the MS Society in the greater Boston area. It was her first exposure to DCR's Universal Access Program and they had a great time cycling and letterboxing there. Since the event just over a month ago, she and Lincoln have been wasting no time in exploring their state park resources. I heard about their adventures trying out the Mobi-Chair at Scusset Beach State Reservation donated by SMILEMass, and a trip to Carson Beach in South Boston. They plan to return to Hopkinton State Park to kayak each week and also visit our kayak program at Walden Pond State Reservation.

You can too! There are plenty of time slots available at Hopkinton State Park, conveniently located just outside Boston. The program will run every Thursday through August 16 and costs $10 per person. Visit Boating in Boston or call (508) 435-3965 to sign up! The boat concession is open 7 days a week and offers a variety of water sport equipment rentals, lessons and camps including sailing, canoeing and paddleboarding in addition to kayaking.

If you meet Michelle and Lincoln out there, say "Hi!" for me!

Supporting Adaptive Kayaking in the Berkshires

Guest Post from Emily Piccirilli, our Universal Access Program summer clerk, who offers a her unique perspective on helping with our adaptive kayak program from shore. Emily paddled with the program for the first time this week. Thanks Emily for all you do, which is much more than "simply registering participants")!

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday afternoon than kayaking out in the summer air. The Adaptive Kayaking program at the D.A.R. State Forest in Goshen MA, at the eastern edge of the Berkshires, is lead by Brenda Kennedy-Davies of Stavros Outdoor Access. It is a fun way to get out on the water with support if you need it. Brenda, an occupational therapist, and her staff are all avid kayakers and have a wealth of knowledge about outdoor recreation and safety on the water. A trained lifeguard is also present. At 5 dollars per person the program is affordable!

The park is beautiful and filled with many recreational options. With easy access to accessible trails and a swimming beach close by, many participants sit at picnic tables and have lunch before or after their kayak session. Whether you are arriving early or staying later, swimming at the beach is a fun way of cooling off after kayaking on a hot day.

In my three years of helping with registration at this program I have met a variety of different and wonderful people. I have made many new friends and learned a lot about outdoor recreation. The program is open to all - from beginners getting into a kayak for the first time to those who have been kayaking for years. The excitement of the participants fills the air as they launched onto the water. Across the lake I hear fun-filled laughter as they play water games like basketball or tag by tossing a rubber chicken into boats. Blueberries growing along the water’s edge can be picked by hungry kayakers who drift by.

I love this time of the year, when I can get out of the office and join in the group effort to help those with disabilities do what some think they will never be able to do. The joy on their faces as they discover that they can do it is the greatest reward. I take it all in and watch from the water’s edge as Brenda and her staff kayak out across Highland Lake with participants, some of whom may struggle to get around on land, yet glide effortlessly on water. I could not have said it better than when Allan Butson came up to me after he and his son Brandon went out kayaking for the first time and said “this organization and everyone here is wonderful.” He couldn’t be more right about the devoted group of people who work so hard to make these programs happen. Although my job is simply to register participants, I am proud to say that I, in my small way, was able to help make someone’s dreams come true.


Adaptive Kayaking programs at D.A.R. State Forest are held on Mondays: July 30 and August 6 with Outdoor Access. Call Brenda at 413-259-0009 to pre register! Also, if Monday’s don’t fit into your schedule kayaking at D.A.R. State Forest is offered by All Out Adventures on Wednesdays: July 18 and 25 and August 1, 8 and 15. Call 413-527-8980 to pre register!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Paddling Adaptations

We are gearing up for our summer paddling programs to start next week! A new purchase for canoeing this year is the Universal Paddling Seat from Creating Ability. We started using this seat for kayaking last year. Adjustable side bars are fantastic options for those who need torso support and can be removed individually for those who don't. The overall comfort and stability of this well designed seat inspired me to get some for canoeing as well.

The canoe version mounts on a conventional wooden canoe seat - there is no design yet for plastic molded canoe seats, though that may be in the works. The terrific advantage of the Universal Paddling Seat is that it enables someone who might otherwise be relegated to the "duff" position in the middle of the boat to sit on a seat and paddle in the proper position. It also offers reclined positions and shoulder support if the person in the bow is not paddling. The beauty of the seat design is that it can be adjusted easily to offer as much or as little support as needed by each individual paddler. We are looking forward to trying this out with program participants in July!

Often the most needed modification is assistance holding and using the paddle. We've been using Creating Ability's hand adaptations since last year as well. No more home-made hand supports using inner tubes and zip ties! The basic across-the-back-of-the-hand-grip works well for those who have some  hand function but need support to keep the hands on the paddle.  Hands slide in and are held in place comfortably and can be slid out with ease.
For those unable to grasp the paddle but have good arm function, Kevin Carr of Creating Ability offers a unique hand cuff that slides into an attachment on the paddle. Hands are held in place on the paddle even if fingers can't grip the bar and the arms can be used to propel. In the event of a capsize, it is simple to slide the cuff and therefore hands out of the paddle attachment. New this year, we are exploring Kevin's latest adaptation for one-armed paddling, called ProPel, using a similar cuff system mounted in the middle of the paddle. Kevin also suggests the ProPel can be used with canoe paddles. We'll try it out.

Recently, I happened upon an innovative one-armed paddle design for canoeing designed a few years back in Wisconsin by a professor of outdoor education at Northland College. View it on YouTube here. If you are interested in this item, contact

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer 2012 Adaptive Biking Opportunities!

Adaptive cycling opportunities in Massachusetts and beyond continue to increase! Here are the active cycling opportunities in New England I know of - all great resources if you are looking for bikes to use and others to ride with!

Spaulding Riders Club - A community cycling club in Boston inclusive of athletes with physical disabilities will hep members find the right assistive devices to enjoy cycling on a regular basis. The Club hosts rides that are open to everyone regardless of disability status, every other Thursday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The dates are June 14 and 28, July 12 and 26, August 9 and 23. Cyclists meet at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston Pier, 125 Nashua Street in Boston (near the MBTA North Station) at 5:30pm. Ride begin at 6pm. If you own our own cycle, no reservations are necessary. For more information or if you are an athlete with a physical disability who are already been fitted to an adaptive cycle and would like to rent a cycle for the nominal $5 per session fee, please call 617-573-7104. Cycles are available by reservation only on a first come first served basis.

Spaulding's Adaptive Sports Center also hosts an every other Wednesday adaptive cycling ride along the Cape Cod Canal in Sandwich from Memorial Day to Labor Day in conjunction with CapeABLE Adventures.

Gaylord Sports Association Cycling Club - Monthly rides in Connecticut - Bring your own bike or reserve one. Call to reserve and directions will be sent to you a week before the ride. Rides are from 5-7pm, Tuesdays July 31 in New Haven, August 21 and September 18 in Cheshire. 203-284-2272.

DCR Universal Access Program - Weekly adaptive cycling program on Fridays from 11am-4pm in Hadley, MA from July 13 to August 24. A wide range of bikes available to ride in hour time slots on the 8 mile Norwottuck Rail Trail, including handcycles, recumbents, tandems and kid's bikes. Call All Out Adventures to register: 413-527-8980.

DCR also offers 2 adult handcycles for rental on the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Brewster at Rail Trail Bike Shop. Call 508-896-3491 for more information.

All Out Adventures - Cycling for Seniors (60+) - Weekly cycling program on Wednesdays from 10am - 2pm through October 17 in Hadley, MA. (No program June 27 and July 4). View their bike selection on line here. Call 413-527-8980 to register.

Northeast Passage - Click here for NEP's Summer Cycling Schedule! They'll be in NH, MA, and ME this summer with a variety of rides including the annual Notch Century Ride in the White Mountains where you can challenge yourself to ride 100 miles in 1, 2 or 3 days!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fun Day in the Park!

Fantastic weather and a perfect Adaptive Recreation Fair took place in Boston last weekend! Alongside the Charles River, people with all kinds of disabilities came to enjoy the beautiful day and try out cycling, kite flying and other activities at DCR's annual event.

Many wonderful volunteers and organizations helped make the day a huge success. As I visited each booth, I was amazed by the presence of many dedicated souls and marvelous endeavors than are improving the quality of life for everyone.

The Oak Square YMCA, located in Brighton, has an new adaptive fitness room. Maura Krueger, their health and wellness coordinator, showed me terrific photos of adaptive fitness equipment in use. I love that more gyms are coming on line with inclusive workout systems. Working out is a great way to build strength and endurance for outdoor pursuits! Find out more from Maura at

SMILE Mass is an organization new to us this year, the passionate mission of two women to improve vacation opportunities for families with disabilities. Their first project is to bring 100 beach wheelchairs to Cape Cod beaches by the end of 2012 . These aren't just any beach wheelchairs, but Mobi-Chairs, which are essentially rolling lounge chairs that float on the water. I had my first chance to actually sit in one and was impressed by their sturdiness and comfortable design! SMILE Mass has many more ambitious community-based projects planned. You can support their efforts through the purchase of ongoing raffle tickets. They offer great prizes! I'm right on board with this week's hot air balloon ride for two!

The Northeast Chapter of AMBUCS also set up a booth, with several AmTrykes for children on display. We recently purchased two Amtrykes, the 1516 ProSeries trike, which offers independent and/or supported steering and a range of seating adjustments that allow not just a wide range of users, but the potential for a child to grow up and still use the same bike. How cool is that? The first rider on our new AmTryke at this event demonstrated another vital aspect of this versatile and durable bike design - bring along your oxygen tank and ride! These bikes are a great personal investment - the Northeast Chapter offers 10% off AmTrykes and their therapists will help fit you to the right bike. You can reach them at

New England Disabled Sports brought a wide selection of adaptive recreation gear, including the Action TrackChair, a motorized wheelchair with snowmobile treads that looks like the pinnacle of all-terrain mobility devices. Geoff Krill answered for me what I'm sure is everyone's number one question - it costs $9300 - seems like a lot of money, but for those in the market, it is much more affordable than other models which run upwards of $25,000. New England Disabled Sports is based in New Hampshire and affiliated with Disabled Sports USA, the U.S. Paralympics team, Loon Mountain Ski Resort, and the Wounded Warriors Project.

A light intermittent breeze off the water allowed kids of all ages to test small kites after decorating them under a tent. We love seeing the smiles this new activity brings as people enjoy both parts of the kite experience. Along with taking home these free kites, we hope those who attended the adaptive recreation fair will also carry with them a sense of fun and motivation to pursue more summer recreation opportunities this year!

A long list of credits must follow for such an event. Thanks to All Out Adventures for facilitating adaptive cycling and doing a fantastic job as usual! Thanks to Waypoint Adventure, Community Boating, Northeast Passage and Spaulding Adaptive Sports Center for providing recreation opportunities for all! Thanks to Stavros Outdoor Access for taking people on short hikes and letterboxing. We are grateful to the many staff of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation who helped with various tasks to make the day go so smoothly! Also to the Empowerment Christian Church for providing a crew of people to monitor event safety! Thanks to Work, Inc. for dedicating two nurses to cover first aid. I am most appreciative of my colleagues and co-workers in the Universal Access Program for all your hard work! Thanks to the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, EMARC, Franciscan Hospital for Children, Partners for Youth with Disabilities, and Boys and Girls Club of Boston for all you do and providing a booth at our event! Heartfelt thanks to all who gave your time and energy in support of a great day!