Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Adaptive Hiking Equipment and Techniques

“Within a couple of minutes of starting the hike, I started to notice a change in myself. I became more relaxed and more centered. There is something about walking in the woods surrounded by ferns and wildflowers under the shade of all the trees that I find very calming.” -David Whitenett, quadriplegic hiker
DCR’s Universal Access Program has been offering adaptive outings around Massachusetts for 15 years, providing opportunities statewide for individuals with disabilities to hit the trail and discover their park system. The programs are facilitated by Brenda Davies of Stavros Outdoor Access, a program of the Center for Independent Living. Brenda’s warm personality and the use of a variety of equipment and techniques have given many people wonderful outdoor experiences they might not have had otherwise, from Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor to Pittsfield State Forest in the Berkshires.

We based our program on the hiking techniques developed by Northeast Passage of Durham, NH in which the use of a modified all-terrain wheelchair allows seated hikers to move off accessible trails onto more rugged terrain. While this can be an independent endeavor for athletic individuals, most often this is accomplished with teamwork, a process that works well for individuals, families and groups in a program structure.

“We didn’t think that everyone could participate but your mountain wheelchair and staff helped make it possible for a memorable hike for us.” -Neal Drew, teacher

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Checking out the Accessible Trail and Birds at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary

Cyndy Chamberland shares her recent process getting comfortable with birding outdoors on her own as a power wheelchair user. Without natural places that offer accessibly designed landscapes, this would not be possible for many people with physical disabilities. Thanks Cyndy for offering your experience to inspire others with disabilities to explore their local resources! Thanks Mass Audubon for your dedication to making nature accessible to all! 

Recently on a cool but sunny late morning I met up with my friend and former colleague, Marcy Marchello, at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary for a little birding expedition and to check out their accessible sensory trail. Arcadia is a Mass Audubon property practically in my own backyard.  It's located off the Manhan Rail Trail in Eastern Massachusetts.  Yet while it is so close, I have only ventured there just a few times in my twenty-something years living in Easthampton. Why is that?  Well for starters, as I am  quadriplegic and use a power wheelchair, so I am leery about going into the woods and on trails unless I am sure the trails are accessible.  It isn't pleasant when you find out that the trail or outdoor site has obstacles such as steps, boulders, logs, streams etc. that restrict wheelchair users and other persons with physical and visual disabilities from accessing the trails and area.  We don't always know if a place is accessible to us even when it is in our own neighborhood or town.