Paraplegic veteran Darol Kubacz recently flew over mountains in Arizona with the help of the Able Pilot program, which provides access to paragliding and other high-altitude sports for vets with disabilities. The program uses a new wheelchair design called the Phoenix, which includes an ultra-light wheelchair attached to a harness. The Phoenix allows a wheelchair user to paraglide just like ambulatory paragliders.
The Able Pilot program recently took five paraplegic veterans up in paragliding flights using the Phoenix device. The program is a chapter of the United States Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, and according to their website, their mission is to “help people with disabilities (spinal cord injuries, amputations, and neuromuscular disease) to safely experience the freedom, joys and sense of accomplishment of free flight that paragliding offers.”
“We’ve all accepted that our mobility is limited,” Kubacz told The New York Times. “But it’s a constant grind to drag our wheels around. In all these sports, moving is effortless again. The sense of freedom is just so incredible.” The recent Arizona flight that included Kubacz was created in conjunction with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, and was partially funded by grants from the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA, sponsor of the Wounded Warrior Sports Project, told The New York Times, “They are doing things we never thought possible 10 years ago.”
Veterans with physical disabilities have been traditionally limited in their options for recreational sports when they return from the field, but a new generation of disabled vets have pioneered adaptive sports to give wheelchair users the ability to enjoy the outdoors, exercise and have fun. Adaptive sports enjoyed by disabled vets such as Kubacz include paragliding, surfing, rock climbing, rafting and kayaking, as well as other extreme sports. New mobility equipment helps veterans with disabilities like paraplegia enjoy these outdoor activities in new ways.