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Camping with Disabilities

Most of society envision hikers and campers  to be ultra-fit-top-shape athletes... This is a misconception... Those that love the Great outdoors  are of all colors sizes and shapes and some of us are physically disabled too.

Whether you are in a wheelchair, have a prosthetic limb,  suffer from nerve damage or a debilitating ailment your love of the wilderness is still within reach.

I started Survival Intuition programs  for such individuals to give those with disabilities  hope and courage and the means to get out in to nature to do what they love.  This inspiration to do this  all began for me in college while i was attending U Mass Dartmouth University for engineering.

The dean of engineering learned of my interest in helping people (its why i was learning engineering) and told me of a program that they had called S.H.A.R.E.   It was a volunteer program that the engineering and science department had to help those with disabilities.  Inventing or repurposing old equipment to aid people to do daily tasks.  Remember  the late Stephen Hawkins physics professors speech talking device,  this is but one of the types of device aids that we created.

When i was 17  i had 2 major accidents to my back that would result 20 years later in me being crippled for 6 months and bed ridden for another 3 months unable to walk, stand or even sit waiting on my back staring at the ceiling hoping that an opening would become available for my doctor to perform surgery. But alas it took too long  and nerve damage resulted, but i could stand once again- walk on my own accord and become part of society once again

Many people take for granted the simple things  in life. Sleeping for example. People get tired and go to bed and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed. That isn't  my life though.  The nerve damage makes it hard for me to fall asleep and the pain is what constantly wakes me up.

So what does a person do?  Just give up on life?  Accept that they cannot do the activities they once loved?   Be home bound-  a freaken couch potato?  I couldn't accept that as my reality. There had to be more- a way to still do what i loved in the outdoors.

Ok so  one also has to know their limitations. I can never ride a traditional  bike ever again  that part I knew and accepted. Nor could i scale a mountain or jump out of a plane.  So the question was what can i do.. what gear or invention or jury-rig do i need to be able to achieve outdoor freedom.

Even though you are disabled you still have choices  in life and activities that you can still do  just with a little help from entrepreneurs' inventions.

Well i loved kayaking but sit-in kayaks were no longer an option. So i bought myself a sit-on-top kayak.  The seat it came with  just didn't  cut it for my disability  so i got a surf to summit 4 inch raised ultra plush seat. The paddles I had were now too heavy for me to use with nerve damage so I found the lightest  buoyant paddles on the market by Werner paddles. For days on the ocean where i knew i may tire out i had an emergency sail that i rigged to my kayak so that if i couldn't paddle back to shore i could sail back . I would later redesign a hitch mounted dear winch to accommodate a kayak instead so that i could raise the kayak to my SUV's roof without lifting it myself. 

I also loved camping.  Sadly  i realized that all my previous camping gear  that i bought when i didn't have nerve damage was just to heavy for me to carry.  So i started over from scratch.

Bought ultra light gear to replace my much much heavier camping gear.  I could no longer get in or out of my tents with ease so i switched from a tent to a hammock. I started bringing with me climbing gear   : carabiners , climbers pully, rescue figure 8 and paracord. With this climbing gear i was able to jury-rig contraptions to help me lift ,move, and build things without having to physically lift stuff by hand.

No matter what your disability is  there is hope.  A persons  life is not over  just cause they are disabled. The innovations of the world has created items  and gear to assist you in your endeavors. Your limitations are just that: a barrier preventing you personally from doing a task  but with the right technology assisting you, your horizon is an endless blank canvas that is ready to be explored...

I urge those that are disabled to not give up & look to the internet to find gear aids and search for  organizations that can either assist you, inform you or point you in the right direction to achieving your goals  in the outdoors.  Realize you're only true limitation is fear.

Fear of the unknown

Fear that leads to giving up

& fear of achieving your goal.  yes  that is such a thing. 

Keep up the good work Michael.  I have instant connections with people that have had serious injuries.   Lying in bed for a few months, doing therapy for years, gives one pause and gives time for reflection about living with disabilities. 

I have already scoped out some good campgrounds with handicapped access.  There are new off-road wheel chairs available now.  I will never be able to stop going out there.   It is just too important. 

Thx ppine  and I feel the same way as you do. Honestly, hard not to as one shares  a connection with those that have had similar experiences.

With all the new innovations out there in this world  to assist people with disabilities, the only thing stopping people form doing what they want is opportunity, money, and last  fear ( fear of the unknown, fear of failing, fear of succeeding) All we have to fear is fear itself...Franklin D. Roosevelt. 1933 presidential  inauguration speach

By the way, FDR may have borrowed that line from Henry David Thoreau, who write in his journal (since published) in 1851: “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.” 

I think it is great that most campgrounds now have designated site (s) for those with physical challenges--seemingly a recognition that camping should be more accessible to all.  But the larger struggle may not be with the sites themselves, but with the various camping accoutrements which may or may not work for those with such challenges. 

The good news is that camping is the essence of making do with what you can....and that is a great philosophy for all of us.  

I should have listed the complete quote lol :

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. FDR

I only mentioned him as per Trailspace guidelines of giving credit where credit is do.

Actually you would be amazed how many different camping  accoutrements (you forced me to grab a dictionary for that word)  that are out there that solve many problems  for those with disabilities. Not all of which though are mass produced.  Some are created for people specifically either by a custom job or from a non profit organization that builds gear and donates them to those in need  like the program S.H.A.R.E  that I volunteered at in College.

For those that are not disabled knowing of such things  is uncommon. Necessity forces us to research and reach out for new technology and innovations. Those in the field that help disabled people  have  a vast wealth of knowledge of items to assist with individual disabilities.

I remember working at S.H.A.R.E. on a text to speech device where the individual had no use of his body below the neck and he was unable to talk verbally.  I made a switch 0 , 1 which is a positive or false that worked like a computer mouse  left click right click that was activated via a tube. Blowing into the tube was like left clicking  while inhaling through the tube was like right clicking.  This allowed him to access a program from an old computer I repurposed to scroll through a series of words, phrases, and sub choices so that he could speak to people .

A more advance version of this can be seen by watching Stephen Hawkins adv physics classes on youtube

October 23, 2021
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