Final Giving Access to Adventure at State Parks

(UNDATED) – Accessibility to nature is imperative to humans and their health. Spending time outdoors has been proven to improve memory, reduce blood pressure, and fight depression.

It’s one thing to have trouble finding the time to spend outdoors with the hectic schedules of balancing work and home lives in modern society, but what if you had no access to an escape into nature?

Individuals without a disability can sometimes take for granted the ease with which they are able to run outside, hike trails, ride bikes and partake in other outdoor activities. It’s not the same for a person living with a disability.

“I truly enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of nature – like seeing the occasional deer stepping out from among the trees at dusk; sensing the fresh smell of flowers, grass, and everything that’s alive and growing; and hearing birds chirping and the wind through the leaves,” Deloney Ryann said. Deloney suffered a spinal cord injury while traveling abroad in 2013.

Unless trails are firm, stable and maintained regularly, outdoor excursions can be a difficult challenge to some with a mobility disability. New technology can help overcome some of the barriers.

The Magic Mobility Extreme X8 power chair is a motorized chair that can traverse accessible outdoor trails, including those with surfaces of gravel, dirt, sand, and snow.

Now, these all-terrain chairs are available at Charlestown State Park, Indiana Dunes, Chain O’Lakes, Fort Harrison, McCormick’s Creek, Mounds, O’Bannon Woods, Pokagon, and Spring Mill state parks and the list continues to grow.

Park office staff at each park are available to provide tutorials on how to use the chairs.

Funding for the motorized all-terrain wheelchairs was made possible by grants from the Emma L. Snyder Charitable Foundation through the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation. The Emma L. Snyder Charitable Foundation also provided a grant to create an interpretive area at the park that will offer educational and accessible displays, exhibits, and interactive learning areas.

Hopefully, with new technology like the all-terrain chair, lack of full accessibility won’t hold anyone back from enjoying the benefits of spending time in nature.

“Making parks accessible is very important and has a lasting impact on many people who want to explore public lands across the state,” said Jody Kress, executive director of the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation. “The Foundation sees that need and hopes to continue to make a difference.”

Ric Edwards, ADA/safety program director for Indiana DNR, said it is important for each state property to remove barriers, where feasible, and to be ADA compliant in order to create outdoor opportunities for all Indiana residents. Parks that make these chairs available not only attract persons with disabilities but also their families and friends who want to enjoy an outdoor hike or bike ride alongside their loved ones.

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