The First National Park To Rent Heavy-Duty Wheelchairs To Disabled Visitors To Enjoy The Scenery

The First National Park To Rent Heavy-Duty Wheelchairs To Disabled Visitors To Enjoy The Scenery

The loss of physical mobility, or never having it to begin with, can make it seem like the world is passing you by. There is a saying that “the world is made for right-handers”, and any southpaw would probably be able to identify with that.

A similar thing could be said about folks who are able-bodied and those who are not. This world is made for people who can get around. Of course, we have wheelchair ramps, and as time goes on we become more conscious of the struggles of others. We learn how to make life easier for others. But every once in a while something way outside the box comes around. Ideas are hatched. Someone asks “how can this wheelchair rider get to the top of that mountain?” “How can that wheelchair rider feel the sand between his toes, maybe for the first time ever?”

Hit The Trail
An organization known as Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes is making molehills out of mountains for differently-abled visitors to a national park in Michigan. The “track chair” has special treads to navigate the steep hills and sandy trails of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

“Here at Sleeping Bear Dunes, about half the park is designated wilderness so in those areas we can’t do a lot of maintenance or changes (to increase accessibility) … so the better option is to have a vehicle that can take the person into these areas so they can experience the trail as it is without having to make major modifications,” said Kerry Kelly, chairman of the group’s board.

Expansion seems imminent. Currently, the track chair can only be rented for use on the 1.5-mile long Bay View Trail, but it’s already a huge hit. Rental is free right now, but you’ll have to reserve it far in advance. They are looking forward to getting another one soon!

Hit The Beach
In California, they are doing something similar. Motorized wheelchairs with big fat tire treads make it possible to get out on the sand, which is wonderful news for any beach baby. If you know that pull the ocean can have on your heart, then you know what it’s like to be united with it once again. For some, there is nothing like the feel of sand between your toes. As one website puts it “we rent experiences, not wheelchairs” and that sums this up nicely.

Freedom Is Yours
Ultimately what this is really about, is giving people their lives back. Some of the most beautiful experiences in life are to be had at the tops of mountains or the edge of the ocean. The cure for anything, they say, is salt: tears, sweat, or the sea.

The inventors of these chairs understand. They know what it feels like to be so full of life, and wonder at life, that it’s all about to make you burst. They acknowledge that has been lost for some people, and their brilliant minds have brought about a solution. But it’s really not heavy-duty wheelchairs they’ve brought. It’s life… raw human experience that they’ve brought… and that’s so beautiful.


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