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.