Kathleen Ernst recently published a great piece for the Wilderness Society about disability access to wilderness. Ernst included many references to Wilderness Inquiry, a compliment and testament to being leaders in adaptive outdoor recreation. Telling the story of our origins and continuing to cite Ann Bancroft traveling to the North Pole, Ernst argues that the idea of wilderness legislation being at odds with disability access and equality is completely false and has been thoroughly debunked.
But for a mixed-ability group brought together by a mutual love of wilderness, the camaraderie is present even if some of the campers are in wheelchairs or pulka sleds. The group learns to pool its resources. On a portage trail, for example, a blind person provides the muscle power; while someone who is mobility-impaired provides the vision. In a two-person sea kayak, a paraplegic applies powerful arm muscles to counterbalance the limited strength of an elderly partner. As everyone learns to contribute in whatever way possible, the able-bodied forget their fear of doing or saying something wrong. “This trip changed my perception and appreciation of other people probably more than any other experience of my life,” wrote one participant after a Wilderness Inquiry trip…
Wilderness experience is not just for the able bodied, and it is possible to make more areas accessible with a little ingenuity. This article continues to be something we draw on when thinking about accessibility in the outdoors.
Read the full piece here.
Wilderness Society, Spring 1990