[Photo by Joshua Zader/FlickrCC]
If you’re lucky enough to live on the Far South Coast, surrounded by so many spectacular wilderness areas and fun things to do outdoors, you might not think of “nature” as being something that isn’t just open and available to everyone.
But, truth is, there are a lot of Australians out there that aren’t able to get out to, and enjoy, the wonderful places like national parks, beaches, rivers and natural playgrounds that most of us take for granted.
For people with physical disabilities, in particular, the barriers to providing access to wilderness areas are often very specific and tangible.
For example, how do you make it possible for someone confined to a wheelchair to pass along a rocky track in order to see that secluded beach, or to photograph wild life?
Facing that challenge, which is very real, it seems to me that we two options here.
Option 1: Don’t do anything, and resign ourselves to the fact that beautiful wilderness areas are only for able-bodied people.
Option 2: Figure it out.
At Light to Light Camps we’re much more interested in tackling problems than ignoring them. We’re down with Option 2. And so Jenny and I have been brainstorming in recent weeks ways to accommodate people with disabilities on Light to Light Camps adventures.
[Photo by havewheelchairwilltravel.net]
We’ve been in conversations with wheelchair accessibility advocates, and attended a workshop about “Inclusive Tourism” in Bega this week.
We’ve also been exploring what intrepid and adventurous people elsewhere have done to make national parks more wheelchair friendly. It’s been inspiring to read about this amazing family’s incredible outdoor adventures made possible by the TrailRider – which allows their son, who has cerebral palsy, to traverse the same trail and wild areas that they do.
(NSW National Parks has a TrailRider available for visitors to Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Dorrigo National Park and Kosciuszko National Park. But not Ben Boyd National Park. Yet.)
We’ve also come across this handy web resource – nican.com.au – promoting inclusive recreation opportunities for all Australians. And Queensland’s Outdoor Recreation Federation site has some great example of how people with disabilities are forging new pathways in the outdoors, including a sweet new wheelchair specially designed for beaches!
We are committed to helping make the Light to Light Walk and Ben Boyd National Park a place that people with disabilities can access and enjoy. It might take some time, but we believe it’s something we have to do.
In order to do that, we’d love your help. We need to hear from people who understand the challenges of needing a wheelchair to get around, to tell us what kind of modifications and improvements they’d like to see to make it easier to enjoy the wild outdoors.
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.