Here’s a quick roundup of some fun activities you might not have thought you could do in a wheelchair. From taking to the skies, to hitting the hills, there are plenty of accessible options available throughout the country. We’ve listed some ideas nationwide to inspire you to find options locally.
Ride in a hot air balloon
Everyone wants the chance to leave the confines of the day-to-day grind behind, to throw off the shackles of gravity and to go soaring among the clouds. Fortunately, soaring can be done without leaving your wheelchair on the ground in a range of wheelchair-accessible hot air ballooning trips across the country.
At Love is in the Air Ballooning, which prides itself on being Nevada’s only wheelchair-accessible hot air balloon, riders can take an hour-long journey and see “Sin City” from a different angle. The trip starts over the west side of Las Vegas and offers incredible views of Spring Mountains, Red Rock National Park and, of course, the Strip.
The ride is suitable for anyone who can comfortably sit for at least an hour. Access to the balloon is via a ramp. A special side-viewing window means everyone has a great view of the passing landscape, whether they are sitting or standing.
In case you are worried about safety, the balloon has an FAA-approved locking system, which secures passengers traveling in a wheelchair. Anyone traveling in a wheelchair must be accompanied by at least one caregiver.
Visit the beach
Sand and wheelchairs don’t make the best bedfellows. But all that is changing as more and more beaches across the country up their accessibility. There are generally two options for enjoying the beach on wheels – using a specially designed beach wheelchair or making your way to the water’s edge down a rubber mat in your own wheelchair.
California’s beaches are especially well set up for wheelchair users, as a great example of accessibility, with many counties offering free beach wheelchairs. These have large, wide wheels that make navigating the sand a doddle. While many of them need users to bring a beach buddy to help with pushing, several offer motorized chairs that can be self-propelled. Availability is usually on a first-come, first-served basis, although some require advanced booking. Many of the beaches allow the manual chairs to go into the water, up to about 6-inches deep, so you can get your wheels and your feet wet.
If you prefer to stay in your own chair, check out one of the nation’s beaches with a mobi-mat or other beachfront access way. The mats were inspired by the mats used by the US Marine Corp for beach landings. They are made from 100-percent recycled polyester. The mats are in use at over 30 Florida beaches, for example, and at plenty of other places across the country.
Take to the hills
Visiting the beach is one thing, but too often, regular chairs just can’t handle rugged and hilly terrain. Thanks to the Action Trackchair, visitors to Staunton State Park in Colorado can experience the best of nature.
The Trackchair is a combination wheelchair and tank in one. The electric tilt mechanism means users can stay level even while crossing hills and uneven terrain and with a battery that last up to 10 miles (six-eight hours of continuous use), this is one chair that won’t let anything stop you from conquering the great outdoors.
The park has designated trails for the chair (which is available free of charge) that give access to some of the most stunning parts of the park. These include high grassy meadows, a variety of fauna, geological and water features and incredible views of Pikes Peak, Lions Head and Mount Rosalie.
If you prefer to stick with your own trusty wheelchair – electric or manual – there are plenty of accessible paths, trails and tracks at state and national parks across the country. If you don’t already have one, apply for an Access Pass. This lifetime pass, available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have been medically determined to have a permanent disability are eligible to receive a pass granting access to more than 2,000 sites, including those run by the National Park Service. And did we mention it’s free?
Camping isn’t for everyone (think mosquitos, “rustic” toilets and things that go bump in the night), but if it is your thing, there is an increasing number of wheelchair-accessible options springing up over the U.S.
Wisconsin is especially proud of its accessible cabins. It offers two rustic (read: basic) cabins in Copper Falls and Blue Mound state parks and eight cabins with more facilities throughout some of its other parks.
The two rustic cabins are wheelchair accessible indoors. Outside, there is an accessible fire ring and picnic table. Bathrooms include an accessible pit toilet (we did say it could be rustic!), flush toilets and a shower near the cabin.
For those who are more “glampers” than campers, the eight larger cabins might be more your speed. They are wheelchair accessible, have a kitchen with low counter, stove, microwave and fridge and come equipped with two hospital beds with lift. The bathrooms have a wheel-in shower, bench and shower commode chair and, yes, we pretty much guarantee their fair share of creepy crawlies! Enjoy.
Take a hay ride
A traditional fall hayride doesn’t exactly scream something you can do without transferring from a wheelchair, especially as most hay wagons aren’t exactly easy to get into or out of. Fortunately, the folks at Oak Ridge Prairie County Park in Indiana decided years ago that their seasonal hay rides (offered in September and October, only) should be open to all.
The site has a permanent ramp that leads straight into the wagon. Once on board, the wheelchair can be locked into place for the duration of the ride for maximum safety. The only downside of this “traditional” ride is that the horses have been replaced by a tractor.
Guest post from accessibleGO.com is a travel platform for people with disabilities offering bookings, reviews & community.