The nationwide push for equal access to facilities for the special needs population has gained noticeable momentum. One vital area of the movement is outdoor accessibility to parks and athletic facilities — such as national parks, training facilities, and sporting arenas.
American philanthropist, founder and chief executive officer of the non-profit organization KaBOOM!, and disability advocate Darell Hammond explains, ‘Growing up in a group home, and with an undiagnosed learning disability to boot, the odds of success were not on my side. But when I joined the high school football team, I learned the value of discipline, focus, persistence, and teamwork – all skills that have proven vital to my career as a C.E.O. and social entrepreneur’.
This nod to the benefits of outdoor activities and athletic pursuits for those with special needs underlines the need for complete outdoor accessibility. Here are some instances where that initiative is playing out in surprisingly successful ways.Outdoor and athletic #accessibility for special needs #abilitymission Click To Tweet
Taming the wilderness: Outdoor accessibility puts Israeli forests within reach
The serenity and solitude of the forest is one of nature’s most effective attitude adjusters and healing tonics. However, uneven — and sometimes even downright treacherous — terrain can prohibit access to wheel and powerchair users. But a recent outdoor accessibility initiative in the Hemed Forest — located just outside Jerusalem — has created access to the woodlands for individuals with special needs.
In coordination with partner LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible, an organization that offers accessible hikes and educational nature activities around the country to children and adults with special needs, the adaptations include:
- Trail paths that are paved with raised edges to assist people with canes and walking sticks
- Path railings placed at a level to be accessible to wheelchair users
- Braille signs in parks and forests
- Playground equipment, picnic areas, and toilets physically accommodating
- A ring trail that begins and ends at a small waterfall
- A small wading pool that leads downstream to a dam
The Hemed project serves as an outdoor accessibility model for other national and state parks as a demonstration of what can be done with funding and a conscious effort to meet the various needs of all visitors.
Teeing off: Mobility adaptations create opportunities on Long Island golf courses
One of the more underserved niches in the handicap outdoor accessibility market is the adaptations required to make traditionally upright sports and activities available to wheelchair users. For example, the sport of golf has recently introduced a motorized wheelchair that allows a person with a spinal cord injury or other disability to participate in sports or activities while standing.
At an initial cost of $25,000, the Paramobile is the very latest in mobile adaptable power chair technology, that boasts the following unique features:
- Battery-powered, multi-terrain vehicle
- Can be driven on greens and through sand bunkers
- Can manage inclines of up to 30 degrees
- A built-in gyroscope keeps the machine stable
Although originally designed for the golf course, several special needs foundations have found ways to adapt this outdoor accessibility technology to allow individuals to attend a variety of events and activities that work better while standing.
40-love accessibility: Professional wheelchair tennis gains French following
As the list of wheelchair and handicap sports continues to grow, some are enjoying an especially rapid advancement and rabid following. In France, professional wheelchair tennis has seen its popularity soar on the wings of a cadre of talented, colorful players.
When France won their eighth men’s World Team Cup in Alghero, Italy this year, participation in amateur events grew exponentially. There are currently 30 wheelchair tennis tournaments in France, with half of them being official ITF (International Tennis Federation) events. Also, the French inter-club championship is the only wheelchair tournament of its kind in Europe.
Now, the focus of the sport is on the next generation of special needs tennis players that will form the future of this growing French phenomenon.
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