12 Active Things to Do with Someone with a Disability
Adaptive sports and equipment make it possible for people with chronic illness, aging limitations, and disabilities to be more active than ever before. Here are a few activities that may allow everyone to join in the fun!
1. “Walk” accessible trails: More and more communities, as well as local, state, and national parks and lands are making trails accessible to those in wheelchairs or who otherwise need a flat traveling surface. Paved paths allow a wheelchair to get out into the woods, glide along the lake shore, and more. Check with your community parks and recreation agency for accessible trails in your community or visit www.traillink.com for a nationwide list, by state, of old railroad routes converted to accessible trails.
2. Go biking: Perhaps you’d be better off riding those trails. Numerous alternative bicycles are on the market today that may allow someone with a disability to enjoy biking either solo or tandem. Here are just a few.
- Handcycles: People with little or no use of their lower body but good upper body strength might enjoy a “handcycle” pedaled by hand and arm power.
- Recumbant: Pedaling from a supported seated position may make it easier for someone who is older or with lower back or spinal issues to cycle.
- Tricycles provide stability for children and adults with balance challenges.
- Tandem bicycles let someone who is blind enjoy the ride with a sighted partner. There are adapters that allow two single bikes to be joined, and for the severely disabled, a tandem with a wheelchair mounted on the front.
- Body powered trikes are operated standing up. Rather than pedaling, the user rocks from side to side to propel the vehicle.
- For children, there are bike trailers that hook onto an adult bike.
You can investigate a variety of adaptive bicycles via the internet on the following websites:
3. Talk with the animals: Zoos, aquariums, and public museums are accessible to someone in a wheelchair, or with a walker or with another mobility device. Many even offer wheelchairs, free or to rent, for those who are ambulatory but tire easily or cannot walk far. Call before you go to find out if there are special entrances or reduced fees for people with a disability.
4. Take in a game or show: Theaters, public auditoriums, stadiums, and arenas offer accommodation to people with disabilities — everything from accessible seating to amplified sound devices. Oftentimes opera productions, because they are sung in a foreign language, project the words in the local language — a nice visual aid for someone who is hard of hearing. Get out and enjoy what the entertainment world has to offer.
5. Ride the waves: Pontoon boats offer a very safe, stable ride for the elderly and those in wheelchairs. If you live near a lake and you do not own a boat, contact your local community recreation program, YMCA, or church to find out about boat rentals and adaptive recreation programs near you.
6. Paddle your own boat: People with disabilities can “duff” in the center of a canoe or with even a little upper body strength and ability can paddle their own kayak. To see how it can be done, watch this video.
Creating Ability designs and manufactures paddling gear that enables people of all abilities to get out and enjoy the water. For more information visit www.creatingability.com
7. Cast a line: Many people with disabilities enjoy fishing. Oftentimes, someone with a disability can fish with a free or reduced fee license. Most counties have a map of accessible fishing piers and sites in your area, or check with your state’s natural resources agency. Fishing Has No Boundaries is an organization that partners able bodied fishing enthusiasts with people with disabilities so the latter can go or keep fishing. There are 23 chapters in 11 states; if none near you, perhaps your local YMCA or community recreation department will arrange something.
8. Hit the beach: Check with your city, county, or state parks and recreation department to see if they offer “beach wheelchairs” that allow those with severe disabilities to “walk” in the sand and play in the waves. Even if they don’t you may find a boardwalk that is accessible to wheelchairs that will let you enjoy the beach for a while.
9. Go camping: Outdoor recreation opportunities for people with disabilities are growing. Some states, like Wisconsin, rent rustic to fully accessible cabins where someone with even a severe disability can enjoy camping. Contact a state or national park property near you to see what may be available.
10. Ski the slopes: Cross-country sit-skis let people with mobility impairments enjoy the peace and solitude of winter. Since the user sits to ski, balance issues are eliminated. For easier maneuverability, choose a location with relatively flat groomed trails. For a list of models and manufacturers, visit Disabled Sports USA.
Some community recreation programs and commercial ski hills, such as Whistler Blackcomb offer sit-skiing programs for the alpine skier. If this sport interests you, contact your favorite ski hill to inquire what they have to offer.
11. Bowling anyone? Rain or shine, summer or winter, the bowling lanes are open. Contact your local bowling establishment to see what kinds of adaptive bowling opportunities are available.
12. Shoot some hoops: Wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sports for people with disabilities, find out more at the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
Where there is a will, there is a way. There is almost no sport that has not been adapted to make it possible for people with disabilities to participate on some level. For more suggestions, do an Internet search on your area of interest or call your community recreation department to inquire about opportunities in your area. If you are a veteran, you might contact the Paralyzed Veterans of America for information and assistance in all areas of life.
Perhaps you are as amazed as I am at how many accessible and adaptive recreational opportunities are available for people with disabilities. Now get out there and enjoy the fun!
For more insights by Shelley Peterman Schwarz, read Strategies for Living at www.MakingLifeEasier.com and her Blog, What I Learn about Living from my Chronic Illness.
©2012 Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC www.MakingLifeEasier.com
For reprint permission contact Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com