This month, DCR's Universal Access Program staff have been testing out some new adaptive equipment for next year. It's been a treat to get out into the fall landscape!
We tested a canoe paddle modification we made based on a recommendation from AccesSport America. Bending the paddle in two spots keeps hands low for those who have trouble raising their arms. We found this modification worked in both bow and stern. Adding hand supports from Creating Ability made it possible to steer. Our only concern is the paddle could be lighter!
We also tested new kayaking equipment from Creating Ability including the kayak chariot, transfer bench and paddle pivot.
The kayak chariot makes pushing and pulling boats in and of the water with passengers much easier and takes a lot of strain off staff. We found a little bit of back bend is still required, but very little effort to move loaded kayaks. Empty kayaks can be placed on the big-wheeled chariot, then quickly hooked into place with straps. A small stepstool is required at the bow to level the kayak for loading.
The transfer bench can be added over the kayak on the chariot. This system allows paddlers using wheelchairs to transfer onto the bench at the side of the kayak (braced by the wheel below). Hand grips on the top surface of the transfer board can be repositioned depending on entering or exiting the kayak. Once the paddler has slid into position above the kayak seat, they must be able to raise their upper body enough so that helpers can slide the removable seat out from under them. Then it is possible to lower oneself down into the kayak seat. The transfer bench system is easily removed and now the kayak with paddler(s) can be rolled into the water.
This system appears to work well, although we haven't fully tested it yet. Paddlers must have good upper body strength. The one downfall we have found is that the transfer bench system does not work with canoes as it is currently designed.
Kudos to Creating Ability for continuing to design working solutions that make it easier for more and more people to paddle! We are looking forward to using these improvements to next year's paddling programs!