Friday, October 26, 2018

Outdoor Activities for the Mobility Impaired

Outdoor activities are known to promote physical and emotional well being. Participating in these fun pursuits should be a human right that is available to everyone. Increased awareness about the needs of physically disabled persons and advancements in adaptive sports equipment have made it possible for the mobility impaired to enjoy more outdoor activities. Here are 10 popular recreational activities for the mobility impaired.

#1 Camping and Hiking

There’s no better way to experience the beauty of nature than camping. This immersive experience allows you to temporarily live among the flora and fauna that make up the earth’s diverse ecosystem. Many people do wilderness camping and hiking for the unique challenges that these activities present. These adventures are even more formidable for the mobility impaired. The best excursions are ones that take your skill level, equipment availability, and performance goals into consideration. Many national parks have wheelchair accessible trails and facilities, and some offer all-terrain wheelchairs that allow you to tackle unpaved trails. You should always make safety a priority during camping trips and carry a cell phone, a whistle, and a hiking buddy with you at all times.

#2 Paddling

Water has the power to relax, invigorate, and inspire all at once. Those are the emotions that many people get while canoeing, kayaking, and rafting America’s numerous waterways. Paddling is an outdoor sport that is particularly favored by physically disabled people. If you can swim, you’re well on your way to leaving your wheelchair behind and gliding out across the water. Small boats require little adaptation based on their particular impairments in its book Canoeing and Kayaking for Persons With Disabilities. 
The book also emphasizes the safety aspects of paddling while disabled. Love the idea of going on frequent paddling trips with groups of able-bodied and disabled persons? Join the Disabled Paddlers Association.

#3 Wheelchair Tennis

Playing tennis offers a way to socialize while getting cardiovascular exercise in the fresh air. Persons who have physical disabilities find it easy to get started playing tennis after they learn the basics of the game. Some adaptations that are made for the mobility impaired include smaller, lighter-weight rackets and wheelchairs with camber wheels that improve stability. The rules are often modified to allow for two bounces instead of one before players return volleys. If you’re a serious wheelchair tennis enthusiast,
you can invest in a chair that is specially designed for court sports.

#4 Horseback Riding

According to medical research, interacting with animals can be therapeutic. For the mobility impaired, horseback riding can help them to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and improve balance. Some pieces of adaptive equipment that physically disabled horseback riders use to better enjoy the pastime are mounting platforms that accommodate wheelchairs and high-back saddles that support weak spines. Riding horseback is a great way to see a wilderness area without using an all-terrain wheelchair.

#5 Swimming

For physically disabled persons who are concerned about losing strength, swimming is a proven total-body workout. Whether you’re doing the backstroke or the breaststroke, you’ll improve your muscle tone and cardiovascular health. Many persons with disabilities choose swimming as their outdoor sport of choice because the activity is easy on the joints and inherently refreshing. You almost never hear about a mobility impaired person suffering a swimming injury, and the recreational activity requires no adaptive sports equipment.

#6 Beachcombing

Everyone loves a good treasure hunt, and that’s exactly what happens during a beachcombing excursion. Beachcombing involves identifying and collecting coins, lost keepsakes, and pretty shells on the beach. It’s an outdoor activity that is as old as the beach itself. It’s a wonderful pursuit for mobility impaired people who have children. Pieces of equipment that you’ll need for a family-friendly beachcombing trip are a long-armed metal detector and an extended reacher grabber tool that will help you to pick up your treasures.

#7 Snowboarding

If you’re looking for breathtaking scenery and heart-racing fun, you’ll want to find a ski resort that offers adaptive snowboarding for the mobility impaired. Cruising down snow-covered slopes at top speeds can increase your confidence and enjoyment. To learn the basics, contact an instructor who specializes in adaptive snowboarding. He or she can guide your technique based upon your unique disability. The instructor will know what adaptive equipment is available to make your snowboarding excursions safer and more enjoyable. Organizations such as Disabled Sports USA and Paralympic Sport Clubs provide
mobility impaired persons with information about local snowboarding programs and resources.

#8 Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair basketball is one of the earliest adaptive sports. Mobility impaired persons who have lower body challenges use basketball as a social outlet and a way to get exercise on park courts. Whether you’re classified as permanently disabled with cerebral palsy or are recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, you can sign up for wheelchair basketball games through the National Wheelchair Basketball Association or organize a pickup game at your local outdoor court. Casual players typically use standard wheelchairs to play, but competitive players invest in sport chairs.

#9 Picking Fresh Produce At a Local Farm

Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance that you’re within miles of a farm. Large community gardens and small farms often open their gates to the public and allow customers to pick their own produce. You can spend hours gathering the best that the farm has to offer. Things to consider before showing up at the farm are the types of produce that you plan to pick and the farm’s layout. You want to pick items that grow at least to the height of your wheelchair. This will guarantee that you can reach these culinary treats. You’ll also want to call the farm ahead of your trip to find out the width of the garden rows. The rows should be wide enough to accommodate your wheelchair. Picking fruits and vegetables at local
farms is a favorite pastime of those who like to eat and spend time outdoors. You can extend the fun by using the freshly picked produce to make a backyard barbeque-style evening meal.

#10 Sailing

Sailing is an outdoor pursuit that requires strategy. Experienced skippers have extensive knowledge of sea currents, wind behavior, and their vessel. They are able to maneuver their boat quickly by using water currents, wind directions, and their vessel’s navigational instruments. Adaptive sailing programs match you to sailing instructors who teach you sailing safety rules, boating terms and basic boating techniques. These instructors have access to boats that are equipped to accommodate physically disabled crew members. Some boats have electronic joysticks that control the boat’s rigging system. Others have passenger transport benches and grab bars that help sailors enter and exit the boats without their wheelchairs. Using adaptive sports equipment, any trained mobility impaired person can successfully and safely operate a boat. Since mastering water and wind behavior takes practice and experience, you’ll likely want to take your time, enjoy being out on the water, and learn at your own pace. When you’re ready to get started, the Warrior Sailing Program has information about adaptive sailing in your local area.

Final Thoughts

Physically disabled persons require only a fearless spirit and a standard wheelchair to enjoy many of the described leisure activities. For other outdoor pursuits, you’ll need specially made equipment to safely play the sports. Your outdoor hobbies can quickly get expensive, but financial aid is available. To fund your next adaptive sports equipment purchase, check out grants at the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the Loma Linda Health PossAbilities program, and the National Association of Injured & Disabled Workers.

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