Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Guest post from Alex Gaut

I have been raving for a long time, and especially recently, about Alex and it is time for you to find out more about her - in her words instead of mine.

It’s hard for me to believe I live in a state that is so far behind the times! South Australia just got its first TrailRider – literally. It just arrived in early November, just before my birthday and what a great gift it was.

I work for the Conservation Council of South Australia (Conservation SA) and in lieu of having missed the World Parks Congress in Sydney, one of my colleagues sent me the report from the ‘Improving Health and Well-being: Healthy Parks Healthy People’ stream. In the report there is the most wonderful photograph of a child in a fabulous wheelchair, being wheeled into the shallow beach water where the gentle waves are lapping – the look of sheer, pure enjoyment and happiness on the child’s face was the starting point for me. The text accompanying this photo also mentions all-terrain wheelchairs and specifically the TrailRider.
That was it. I was hooked.

From then on in it was a personal journey of discovery and realisation. Realising that even though nature should be for everyone, it’s not for every body – not right now but organisations such as Parks Victoria are blazing a trail for all of us to follow.
My next realisation was finding out that to my great shame, South Australia had nothing like this!!

Now that I was fired up, I started doing some research and made connections with, of course, the wonderful David S., who put me on to John Kenwright at Parks Victoria. John and David have both been immensely helpful and supportive.
I also started connecting with people in SA with these interests, including Push Adventures who advise ecotourism businesses how to be more access-friendly, and a staff member in the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources here in SA. This particular staff member is, amongst other things, looking at how to make some of the high use National Parks around the Adelaide region more access-friendly.

Moving forward
Fortunately the SA Department of Communities and Social Inclusion had a grant round open just for equipment, which fitted the bill perfectly. We ordered the TrailRider in June 2016 and it eventually arrived, with motor modification, in November 2016.
Conservation SA will, eventually, be hiring out the TrailRider for free for up to a week at a time so that people can really go to remote places, maybe the Flinders Ranges, maybe Kangaroo Island – who knows?!
But in the meantime we are searching for funding to develop proper sherpa training materials and workshops, and to develop a booking system. This is not as easy as it sounds but we want to make sure that TrailRider users are as safe as possible and enjoy their bushwheeling adventures with well-trained, safe and trustworthy volunteers.
During this journey I have discovered the incredible proliferation of designs for outdoor mobility. It has really grown and now there are dozens of designs with and without motors, for accessing different environments such as beaches, and even a floating wheelchair that can take people right onto the waves in safety – the SA Marine Parks team are very excited about that one!
I look forward to helping every body to enjoy the benefits of nature.

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