Friday, January 24, 2014

Guest post from Dr Bill Jackson - CEO Parks Victoria

I thank Bill for writing this warm tribute to Ros and myself for what has been achieved with the TrailRider in a little over three years. What he did not mention is the incredible work done by his organisation.

“I am delighted to contribute to TrailRider Tales, hosted by our good friend Dr David Stratton. 

 The TrailRider, all-terrain wheelchairs, have captured the imagination of the public, Government and our many partners in this extremely exciting initiative.  

 Dave first introduced us to the TrailRider in a visit to the Grampians National Park.  A few years later and we had chairs at Wilsons Prom, Great Otway National Park, Cape Conran  and Lysterfield Park with more chairs for beach access, and chairs specifically designed for children with a disability, in more locations across the state.  For an increasing number of people with mobility issues and their families and friends, these chairs are proving the perfect vehicle to maintain access with nature.  

Dave and Ros have been tremendous in promoting the health benefits of getting out in nature with the TrailRider chairs.  I’m proud to join them in encouraging more park agencies, private industry and land managers across Australia to invest in all-terrain wheelchairs.  Minor investments make major differences in people’s lives.   We all need parks and continued access to nature.  As we say, Healthy Parks, Healthy People.

Here is a short film for those in search of inspiration “Access For All - Making History on the Oxfam Trailwalker 2013”

Keep up the good work, Dr Stratton.

Kind regards

Dr Bill Jackson
Parks Victoria, Chief Executive”


Monday, January 6, 2014

Guest Post from Sam Sullivan

A wheelie's delight - high and wild
It took me about seven years to finally look at my disability as an interesting challenge and not as a hopeless tragedy. I had enjoyed hiking and camping in the wilderness before I became a quadriplegic and I wanted to experience this again. Together with several other people with disabilities we formed the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society to explore ideas like this. Because we wanted to be as independent as possible our first vehicles were large and motorized. Environmentalists and back to nature enthusiasts were not thrilled to see us lumbering about through the pristine wilderness.

The Team on the Grouse Grind. Three
TrailRiders (DHS)
Eventually we came to accept that we would have to trade off independence for access. I met with an engineer who volunteers with the Tetra Society, a group that makes custom assistive devices for free, and I drew out on a napkin a one wheeled vehicle with handles in the front and back. Paul Cermak came back a few days later with a lounge chair that had been salvaged from the garbage outfitted with a wheelbarrow wheel and some makeshift handles. Thanks to some wonderful volunteers I was able to experience a wilderness hike that weekend. What surprised me the most was that I did not feel like I was being taken for a ride but rather that I was part of a team.

Not long after that I went on my first overnight camping trip. It was a truly moving experience to be able to wake up in the tent in the middle of the forest. For many years we kept improving the vehicle we called the TrailRider. Each time we went on an extended hike we would come up with a list of innovations we wanted for our next device. We would solve one problem but inevitably create other problems. It took many years to achieve the remarkable "Black Diamond" that is now being used around the world.

It gives me great pleasure to see that others are experiencing the wilderness using the "Black Diamond". And how amazing that Australia is becoming a real hotbed of TrailRider use thanks in large part to the enthusiasm and capability of David Stratton. Although I have not been involved with the program for many years I certainly enjoy seeing how people are using it to make their lives and the lives of others better.