Exploring Family Adventure in the Outdoors
Jeff could see raindrops hitting the surface of Jenny Lake from the canoe. The distant ridgeline made a dramatic dark form against the gray sky. Even though there was a drizzle, the mood was light inside the canoe. Jeff was laughing, as he would occasionally click paddles with his mom directly behind him. He would playfully urge his mom to get back to work and stroke her paddle. His mom smiled, knowing that the family would remember this trip to Yellowstone for the rest of their lives.
The above passage describes a family enjoying a unique outdoor adventure. What this passage did not say was that Jeff is eight-years-old with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. What made it possible for Jeff to have this extraordinary experience with his family? With some imagination and ingenuity, the family and organization running the trip secured his wheelchair insert to the canoe seat. This allowed him the extra support to sit upright, hold the canoe paddle and fully participate to the best of his ability.
This canoe outing was representative of the family's desire to not only increase Jeff's involvement in family activities but also increase the range of possibility for their family vacations. This aspiration became more fully realized in 1999, when the Gardiner family participated in a federally funded project facilitated by Wilderness Inquiry (WI) . Jeff was able to have this kind of experience with the help of his parents and Wilderness Inquiry.
Using their everyday living experiences as a point of departure, the Gardiner family worked with WI to identify and minimize potential risks without eliminating the activity's challenge and enjoyment. With forethought and planning, an outdoor adventure can be developed according to each individual's disability or condition. Information to properly design family-based outdoor activities may persuade your family to consider outdoor recreation activities as a viable family leisure option.
If you have a family member who has a disability, the idea of taking your entire family on an outdoor adventure may appear to be a bigger risk or larger task than you are willing to take. You may have a number of concerns. However, the first step in getting out with your family is to realize that a person with a disability is not precluded from participating in an outdoor adventure. Families that include members with disabilities can venture into the natural environment together, improve their skills, overcome natural obstacles, gain a sense of accomplishment, and incorporate integrated outdoor recreation as a life-long family pursuit.