'The great outdoors' and ‘wheelchair accessible’ may not typically coexist within the same sentence, but they absolutely should. Outdoor adventures are for everyone, regardless of someone’s abilities. And thanks to improved accessibility at national and state parks, public beaches, and more, much of what used to be off-limits for wheelchair users is now within reach.
The changes seem to be everywhere. At John Dillon Park, a fully accessible campground and wilderness area in Adirondack State Park, wheelchair accessible trails and lean-tos are now on offer; and just a few years ago, accessibility improvements were made to the elevator at Carlsbad Caverns State Park, making caving a safe option for visitors of all abilities.
If you are a wheelchair user who dreams of enjoying the outdoors, but doesn’t know how to actually make it happen, this beginner’s guide is for you. Below, we cover what to pack for an upcoming adventure—whether you’re hoping to hit the trails or just spend a day in the sun—destinations to start with, and communities that will give you yet another reason to get outside this summer.
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Pack the right gear
Before you venture outside, it’s important to think about what you’ll need to make your time in the outdoors as seamless and stress-free as possible. Aside from basics like a flashlight, a compass, sunscreen, a rain poncho, and a bottle of water (or two), there are some items that can enable wheelchair users specifically to have a better time.
Whether you use a manual or powered wheelchair, rolling on outdoor trails can get bumpy. Uneven terrain may even loosen parts of your wheelchair and knock them out of place, so it’s important to always have a set of Allen wrenches with you in case on-the-spot maintenance is needed. If you have limited upper body control, consider using velcro straps around your chest or your feet for added stability.