Opinion

There is no reason for any child to sit on the sidelines | FOR GOOD, FOR EVER

How did you spend your Memorial Day Weekend? Did you go camping? Hiking? Bike riding or searching for clam shells along the beach? Perhaps you went fishing or boating, did some hang gliding or mountain climbing.

We live in the Northwest where there is an abundance of outdoor opportunities, sometimes for little-to-no cost. But what if you had a physical or mental disability that prevented you from doing any of the above? Then perhaps you spent your holiday weekend watching others do what you could only dream about.

Some 26 million people in our country say they suffer from a severe disability. That’s approximately 1 in 10 people. Seven percent of boys and 4 percent of girls ages 5 to 15 have disabilities. So chances are that if you’re not disabled, you know someone who is.

I’m here to tell you that when it comes to recreation for the physically or mentally challenged, it’s time for a change. And that change is happening all around us.

We live at a time when your desire to experience the outdoors is only limited by your imagination. Just as there are a multitude of places to go and things to do in our area, there are a multitude of organizations willing to help those who need it.

Want to go camping? Check out Camp Prime Time. Located near Clear Lake in the Wenatchee National Forest, the camp allows families with seriously ill or disabled children to enjoy the beauty of wilderness camping. Want to go fishing? Look into C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, which provides one-day fishing and boating events designed to accommodate children with a wide range of special needs.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to ride a horse, but your disability has prevented you from doing so. In that case, Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville might be the place for you. It’s nationally accredited and one of the largest full-time therapeutic horsemanship centers in the United States. And it’s right in our backyard.

If you want to feel the wind on your face as you ride a bike or paddle a canoe, Outdoors For All Foundation has a program for you. Located in Seattle, this is one of the largest nonprofit organizations providing year-round programming in outdoor recreation for people with physical, developmental and sensory disabilities. Their programs include cycling, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing, rock climbing, white water rafting and more. They even have summer camps and all the equipment needed to participate.

There are all sorts of adaptive sports organizations, including Sammamish Rowing Association, which provides rowing programs for people with back and leg restrictions. And there is Robinswood Tennis Center in Bellevue, which offers adaptive tennis and wheelchair tennis programs. Footloose Sailing Association in Seattle provides adaptive equipment and sailing events to get people with disabilities out on the water. Other local organizations support the disabled in sports such as rugby, soccer, and even cross-country skiing.

And don’t forget Renton. The City of Renton, in partnership with the Renton School District and Renton Rotary, just opened the new Meadow Crest Playground, designed for children of all ages and abilities. The site is fully wheelchair accessible and has surfaces and equipment that help children with physical challenges move around unencumbered. Kids can clamber over the 25-foot long caterpillar, ramble up a rock wall, strike the chimes, or roll their wheelchair into a specially made swing.

Summer is upon us. Don’t let the disability of someone you love prevent them from enjoying what the Northwest has to offer.

If you’d like more information on how to access programs, activities, or accessible locations for someone with a physical disability, contact your local city Parks Department, or one of the following organizations: Americantrails.org; Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office; Washington Access Fund; or the Washington State Accessible Outdoor Recreation Guide. Or contact any of the organizations listed in this article.

 

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