Pictured: Taylor Murphy enjoying the All Terrain program at YMCA Mount Evelyn Recreation Camp with Parks Victoria Sherpa volunteers.
On Saturday 16 February, YMCA Victoria in partnership with Parks Victoria delivered a training day for the new inclusive program Access All Terrain focused on giving people with disabilities and mobility limitations the opportunity to experience the joy and freedom of camping outdoors.
Ten participants attended the training day at Mount Evelyn Camp and trialled a range of outdoor recreation equipment such as Parks Victoria’s TrailRider all terrain wheelchairs, handcycles and beach wheelchairs. Parks Victoria’s Sherpa volunteers from Mt Dandenong National Park also attended the day and assisted participants to explore bush walking trails in a TrailRider chair.
The program’s aim is to encourage more people to experience Victoria’s parks and outdoors with their family and friends regardless of ability. As well as testing out new adaptive equipment, the program also intended to develop participants’ wheelchair skills in outdoor environments and build their self-confidence.
Research shows that people with mobility issues are more likely to have poor physical health and experience higher rates of isolation. The 2015 VicHealth Indicators report showed 40% of people with a disability were less likely to be physically active than those who weren’t.
This program hopes to address these concerns. YMCA Victoria received an $80,000 grant from the Victorian State Government to implement this program and is closely aligned with Parks Victoria’s commitment to making national parks accessible for everyone.
For two young locals, the day was an opportunity to challenge themselves and get active in a relaxing environment.
22-year-old Daniel McCrimmon admitted that for the last few years he has been so busy studying his computer science and an arts degree he has neglected his physical health.
Pictured: Daniel McCrimmon testing out the handcycle.
“This New Year’s Resolution is to get out there and get active,” he said.
Daniel acquired his disability when he was 18 as a result of spinal ischemia, where the blood supply to his spinal cord was interrupted due to a bleed. Although he is not experienced in camping he is willing to give it a go. He sees the program as a great chance to do this and a motivator.
He enjoyed the orange handcycle, which is an adapted version of a mountain bike with the gearing, suspension and tyres made for rougher terrain. It took him a little while to work out the gears, but once mastering this skill, he was able to ride with confidence.
“It seemed the equivalent of flying, but for wheelchair users,” he said.
18-year-old Taylor Murphy has just finished high school and is now taking time out to reassess what he wants to do after a stressful six months. His grandfather encouraged him to attend the training day, hoping that the All Terrain program would bring back Taylor’s cheery demeanour.
He has a rare genetic mutation which causes muscular weakness and coordination difficulties, slowing and slurring of the speech. But doesn’t affect his cognitive function, or his humour and charm.
His experience of the TrailRider was “out of this world.”
“It had me immersed in a different experience that I had never tried at all, and had no confidence to try. I don’t know how to describe the experience, to be totally honest. I felt like I was in a whole other world,” he said.
For Taylor, the All Terrain Program is about giving more opportunities for people who experience a disability.
“This program shows all the possibilities for accessible equipment that you would normally never see is just amazing,” he said.
Although the program is only in early development, YMCA Camp Manager John Kenwright believes the positive interactions and interest is already speaking for itself.
“People with disability face many barriers to enjoy the outdoors: from not having the right wheels on your chair, to lack of opportunities or having the self-confidence to camp independently.
“All Terrain Program looks at all these issues, and provides solutions through accessibility and inclusion, something we advocate across all our YMCA camps.
“As a result, we already have ten people signed up to the first camp at Wilson Promontory National Park in March,” he said.
Tony Varcoe, Director Community Partnerships of Parks Victoria said the organisation is excited to be involved with the Access All Terrain program:
“Parks Victoria is committed to providing opportunities for Victorians of all abilities to access parks and take advantage of the health and wellbeing benefits gained from visiting a park.
“It’s great to see participants enjoying the outdoors and gaining the skills to explore our beautiful natural environment. Enabling more people with a disability to enjoy parks will improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing,” he said.