Saturday, April 19, 2014

Accessible Fishing in Massachusetts

Spring is here and the fish are biting! For those who seek to relax with a line in the water, there are   many accessible locations for fishing as well as a fantastic year round array of fishing programs in Massachusetts.

In DCR's state parks, wheelchair accessible fishing docks can be found at a variety of locations including Carson Beach and Castle Island (Boston), the Cape Cod Canal (Sandwich), Mt. Tom State Reservation (Holyoke), DAR State Forest (Goshen),  and Dunn State Park (Gardner). Other locations with level ground or good beach access are Houghton's Pond (Milton), Hampton Ponds (Westfield), Farnum's Crossing (Cheshire) and Berry Pond (Pittsfield).

Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife's Angler Education Program offers introductory clinics, fishing derbies and festivals, fly tying courses and more throughout the state. May and June are the peak season, although events are offered year round. While many programs are family oriented, coming up on May 17 in Marlboro is a Learn-to-Fish event for disabled veterans only. Click here for their calendar! In addition to traditional fishing equipment, the Angler Education Program has adaptive fishing gear for those with disabilities.

There are adaptive fishing products available for those who have limited or no grip, one arm only,  and difficulty casting, as well as fishing rod holders that fit on wheelchairs or attach to the body. You can find them all at Access to Recreation or Adaptive Outdoorsman.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Essential Eligibility Criteria

It’s spring! 
Want to ride a bike? Never been on one before – or since your disability?
How do you know if you can actually do it?
Essential Eligibility Criteria can help anyone interested in a new recreation adventure figure out if they can participate, based on what is required in order to do the activity safely.
Once established by an outfitter for their unique programs, these criteria become public information, highlighting what each participant must be able to do and offering easy reference points for determining eligibility. In the past year, DCR’s Universal Access Program has developed Essential Eligibility Criteria for each adaptive activity offered year round in Massachusetts State Parks. Now, if you are interested in cycling this spring or kayaking this summer, we can converse with you more uniformly and accurately about what is required. 
In order to participate in any Universal Access Program year round, we have a set of general criteria that apply. If you meet these first tier requirements, you are eligible to participate! These are the general criteria:
  • Come to the program prepared for the weather and conditions of the day, including dressing for the elements and being able to provide own sun/rain protection and hydration/snacks.
  • Be able to manage personal care such as dressing, toileting, eating and drinking independently or with the assistance of a companion who accompanies the individual and serves as a caretaker.
  • Be able to transfer on/off/in/out of equipment independently or with assistance (if over 200# must provide own transfer assistance)
  • Be able to follow verbal and/or visual directions independently or with the assistance of a companion, caretaker or interpreter.
  • Be able and willing to wear protective equipment properly, such as bike helmets and personal flotation devices.
  • Use equipment appropriate for personal weight without going beyond the weight capacity of program equipment.
  • Be able to refrain from behaviors that pose a risk (such as aggression, inability to set boundaries, lack of safely awareness, drug/alcohol use or influence) to self and others, independently or with caretaker assistance.
For specific recreation activities, additional criteria apply. If you are interested in cycling, here are the things you must be able to do in order to participate in our cycling programs:
  • Be able and willing to follow basic rules of safe riding on a rail trail with street crossings.
  • Be able and willing to respect the mechanical integrity of bikes.
  • Be able and willing to avoid trail hazards, as guided if needed.
  • Be willing to stay on the bike trail within the limits of park boundaries.
  • Be able to tolerate moderate physical exertion.
  • Be able and willing to respect your limitations with regards to how far you plan to go.
  • Be able to return bike on time.
Feel free to contact us at 413-545-5353 if you have further questions or would like information on upcoming cycling, hiking and paddling programs. Asking about eligibility requirements is a great way to start a conversation!
Essential Eligibility Criteria have been required by the U.S. Forest Service of all outfitters on national lands, so if you are interested in any activities offered in National Parks or Forests, you should be able to contact the outfitter and ask about their EEC! As EEC catch on among all kinds of recreation providers they will become the norm for providing clear information to anyone interested in new outdoor pursuits!