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Adapting the Outdoors

Adapting the Outdoors

People living with disabilities face a whole host of significant physical and social challenges in all aspects of their daily lives. Many individuals and their families can become withdrawn and disengaged, suffering from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, leading to significantly lower ‘well-being’ and ‘quality of life’ indicators.

This is why we founded the charity Access Adventures. Our team, plus many of the volunteers, have directly experienced the fear, uncertainty and loss of self-belief associated with a serious disability and understand the challenges faced. Our camps are designed to reverse this negative cycle by building self-confidence, encouraging participation and inspiring hope for the future.

Research has shown that taking part in sport and having regular exercise can help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

We host a series of adaptive adventure camps where groups of participants engage in exciting outdoor activities that are not easily accessible for people with disabilities. Each camp follows a carefully planned format that provides a safe but challenging environment for participants to push their own boundaries and experience the sense of freedom, exploration and exhilaration offered by activities such as water-skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, mountain biking, kiting, hand cycling and skiing.

The charity pulls together all the elements required to enable disabled participants to access the lakes, rivers, forests, beaches and mountains where these activities take place including accessible accommodation, transportation, qualified instruction and local guiding, able bodied volunteers, bespoke ‘adaptive’ equipment and additional physiotherapy.

Each camp includes a strong social element through shared meals, activity briefing sessions, evening campfires and adaptive yoga. These group activities help participants to engage with each other, providing opportunities for mutual support and helpful discussions.

Many of the participants go on to become active members of the adaptive sport community. They’re often motivated to try other sports and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Unfortunately, adaptive sports are often far more expensive than their able-bodied equivalent - our mission is to make outdoor adventure accessible and affordable for everyone with a physical disability.

Access Adventures has a hectic schedule this spring/ summer, aiming to deliver more camps than ever before, therefore introducing as many people as possible to the positive benefits of adaptive sport. We have 12 separate camps planned over the next 12 months, plus various fundraising events to allow us to subsidise the cost for the participants.

However, we had one more winter commitment before shifting focus to summer activities – the Access Adventures ski camp in Val Thorens, France. We repeated last year’s format – driving out in my spacious S-Max with all the adaptive equipment required by the new disabled skiers taking part. It always amazes people just how much you can fit into the S-Max! It has the functionality of a small van in terms of storage space, but retains the pleasure of driving a luxury car.

Our group was 15 in total, comprising of 8 sit-skiers and 7 able-bodied volunteers. Despite the logistical challenges leading up to the camp, it was another successful event, proving that hard work really does pay off! One of the participants, Hannah, had this to say:

“What an incredible week away! There were no limits, no barriers and just acceptance. I was free, I was alive and I was experiencing pure happiness. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, pushed myself to my limits and experienced an unexpected blessing. None of this would have been possible without the amazing charity Access Adventures. Whilst getting minimal support here in the local community, they have given me the opportunities to regain confidence, learn new skills and experience the joys of living through adaptive sports.”

It’s reassuring to know that others share my view on the power of adaptive sport.  There’s nothing quite like seeing a row of empty wheelchairs in front of a stunning mountain landscape, the occupants off enjoying the exhilaration and freedom of another exciting action sport!