Sunday, December 22, 2013

Unique Invention's Ice Sleds

A gentle game of hockey shows ice sleds with and without
stroller bars attached.
Seated ice skates offer a greater opportunity for skaters of all abilities to have fun on the ice. Not just for people who use wheelchairs, ice sleds give ambulatory people with balance,  fatigue, and other issues the ability to switch skating modes and explore new ways to move and play.

DCR's Universal Access Program has been providing ice sleds at state rinks for about 15 years. Ice sleds built by Unique Inventions of Peterborough, Ontario have met our standard for program use and provided hours of fun for users of all abilities indoors and out.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Walk on the Wild Side in Boston

Inspired by recent completions of sensory trails by Massachusetts Audubon, I visited two sanctuaries in the Boston area just before Thanksgiving.

The trail at Boston Nature Center offers easy access to a
natural place.
At the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, I discovered a fragment of wild space where birds and other wildlife take refuge from the buzz of surrounding urban activity. A quick mid-day walk on the 1-2 miles of trails revealed a flock of wild geese flying over, a perched red-tail hawk, a gaggle of wild turkeys in the underbrush, and a foraging flock of songbirds, including one of my favorites, the white-throated sparrow. It was easy to find birds with the leaves down. With very little effort I got a much needed dose of nature!

A mile of the trails includes audio tour stops, which you can access with your cell phone. Since I was short on time, I opted out of the audio component and let the signage guide me along the wide level trails. The Boston Nature Center is located on the former state hospital grounds and so healing is a featured theme on site. Just the presence of a natural sanctuary space offers a sense of healing. I was surprised to find a hidden body of water suitable for migrating waterfowl to rest, well secluded from urban stimulus but viewable from a wheelchair accessible boardwalk.
Later in the day at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, I activated the audio tour there and found it a helpful addition to my enjoyment of the Ice Pond Trail and the start of the Farmyard Loop Trail, before my battery died. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged if you plan to visit any one of the ten Mass Audubon sanctuaries statewide that feature these Sensory Explorations Trails for all senses, all seasons, all people. The trails are a wonderful self-guided interpretive resource in the natural landscape. The audio tours provide a comfortable amount of information and a user friendly approach that allows you to listen only when and where you wish.

Sensory trail interpretation doesn't get any better than this!
I was delighted by stops along the Ice Pond Trail that featured plaques with sculptural renditions of local wildlife. The trail itself offers a navigational system with a rope mounted along a wooden fence with large wooden beads indicating signed stops. Small signs provide titles for audio tour highlights in large print and Braille. Sculptural plaques provide a tactile opportunity to compare size and features of pond residents. This type of feature demonstrates the commitment and dedication Mass Audubon has for serving people of all abilities at their sanctuaries.

People with visual impairments and other disabilities were consulted in the development of these trails, which are well worth visiting whether or not you have a disability! Find out more by clicking here!

At the end of the short Ice Pond Trail, I passed the Drumlin Farm Visitor Center and continued on the Farmyard Loop Trail where I immediately encountered several wild turkeys in and alongside the trail. Since it was the day before Thanksgiving it seemed like an appropriate surprise to be running into turkeys in each sanctuary! These were very calm and relaxed, not bothered by human presence at all.

There is an opportunity to observe rehabilitated wildlife in outdoor aviaries and exhibits before the farm yard tour. I was a bit transfixed by the unexpected chance to observe a fisher loping and jumping throughout its hillside habitat on Bird Hill – what an energetic and lithe creature!

Bring a map with you for the Farmyard Loop Trail. When my cell phone died after Bird Hill I couldn’t figure out which way to go to sequence the stops. With a rainstorm pending, I headed back up to the gift shop to do a little holiday shopping. No matter what, you have great choices at Mass Audubon!

I look forward to returning to Drumlin Farm for the farmyard tour!