When you are in a wheelchair, many outdoor activities can seem out of reach. However, there is an ever growing number of charities, organisations and products solely geared to enabling people with disabilities to get outdoors and enjoy participation and activities including the beach and the hills!! They can be life changers. Whether you need some help to re-build your self-confidence and show yourself just how much you can do, or if you are newly injured and want to try out various activities or be shown how to get back into a loved sport, consider the information below.
The Calvert Trust is a fantastic organisation with three outdoor centres (Lake District, Kielder, Exmoor) which
"enables people with disabilities, together with their families and friends, to achieve their potential through the challenge of outdoor adventure in the countryside."
They welcome all people whether disabled since birth or following an injury and have a wide range of outdoor activities. These offer a challenge and the pleasure of adventure and achievement within a safe and structured environment. Their staff are dedicated and enthusiastic and totally qualified to care for the needs of their visitors and in the activities they run. They have suitable accommodation and facilities for friends and families to enjoy the experience also.
Sailability encourages and supports people with disabilities to take up the sailing and facilitates many sites all over the UK to develop sailing opportunities with accessible venues and boats. Sailing is one of the very few sports in which able-bodied sailors and disabled sailors can participate on equal terms.
If you have wanted to sail but not known how to get out on the water or thought that sailing wasn't possible because of your disabiilty then you couldn't be more wrong. There are so many RYA Sailability clubs up and down the country with experienced people keen to welcome you, all you need to do is get in touch with them.
"a registered charity, provides sport and challenging pursuits for people with paralysis around the UK. People with conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke, MS and others, are able to participate in a whole range of sports - scuba diving, sailing, archery, angling, abseiling, quad-biking, gliding, canoeing, clay pigeon shooting, go-karting, land-yachting, wheelchair tennis and many more.
It is not about creating elite sportsmen and women. It is about trying something new and different. It is about the adrenaline rush, putting the buzz back into a life corralled by the wheelchair, taking the 'dis' out of disability and focusing on ability. To inspire the thought, "If I can do this, what else can I achieve?"
At this point, I'd say that Blokarting is a hugely fun and inclusive recreational sport. Sportability offer taster days. A group of us booked a day at Weston Sands and hoofed around the beach with big smiles! This photo below says a lot about the day we had. If you decide this sport is for you, equipment is easy to come by, not as expensive as many other things (e.g. handcycling) and you have the advantage of buying mainstream kit, so can access a bigger 2nd hand market. There are a growing number of organisations and competitions.
The Back-Up Trust is a charity for people with Spinal Cord Injury. Under the tagline "Transforming lives after Spinal Cord Injury" they run a great number of courses designed to either build confidence and get people outdoors or show people how to get back into their old sports post-injury. For example, run skiing, sailing & outdoor activities courses.
Regain Sports Charity say they aim "To help British sports tetraplegics lead independent and fulfilling lives; ensure equal opportunities for tetraplegics; assist in providing equipment and facilities to improve mobility, communication, education and employment opportunities and to form lasting relationships and provide support for sports tetraplegics and their families."
• The Mountain Trike is the active chair for active people! Born out of a love of mountain biking, the Mountain Trike was created to enable wheelchair users the freedom of the great outdoors. After four years of intense development, the Mountain Trike all terrain wheelchair breaks the mould and gives riders the freedom to roam where they want, when they want. No other off-road manual wheelchair provides comparable high levels of manoeuvrability, uneven surface performance and comfort. The Mountain Trike is truly an everyday outdoor wheelchair, whether in the city or the countryside.
Tim is an incredibly helpful and friendly guy who is passionate about biking himself and so completely understands the need to get out and active. He says that the Mountain Trike gives:
"riders the freedom to venture out around town or into the countryside. Whether that is to the beach, down muddy tracks, over grass or along cobbled streets, gravel driveways and even through snow. We call this All-Terrain."
• The FreeWheel is strong and lightweight wheel which attaches to the footplate of a manual wheelchair making moving over uneven ground, grass, cobbles, rough paths, snow, etc.. much much easier. It is incredibly quick and easy to attach to a footplate (takes seconds) and can be used with or without fat off-road rear wheels to make the going easier. It also has a couple of accessories, including a luggage rack. You can buy these from a number of Mobility shops including Spokz.
• The Joëlette by French company Ferriol Matrat is a clever product to help wheelchair users get out in the hills and countryside. It is
"a one-wheeled all-terrain chair manoeuvred by two volunteer 'sherpas' that enables eve the most heavily mobility-challenged children or adults (muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, quardriplegia) to get involved in hiking. This chair solution is also adapted to elderly hiklers, enabling them to alternate walking with spells in the Joëlette."
It has various options for accessories such as head rests, armrest extensions, a nifty two wheel system which makes tougher hiking easier for the 'sherpas' and even an electric pack to add assistance on the uphills (it switches off to conserve power in the downhill freewheels). Currently Spokz and Molten Rock are selling these in the UK.
• The Hippocampe is another clever French product which boasts
"Head for the surf and get as wet as you like in the innovative Hippocampe all-terrain wheelchair. Towed, pushed or self-propelled, the easy to manoeuvre Hippocampe enables you to turn obstacles into opportunities whether you’re on the beach, rambling in the woods or out on the piste. Designed by disabled people for disabled people, Hippocampe enables everyone - of any age - to enjoy outdoor activities to their full ability. In short, Hippocampe puts the fun into function."
It is availble from Delichon in the UK.
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