Sunday, December 2, 2018

DrDave book crowd funding goes live!

These books have been underway for some time now as this post shows (you can see the whole book here)

Today on the eve of the  International Day for persons  with disabilities (IDPwD) the Kickstarter crowdfunding is finally being launched at

Please be generous!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Who is looking at this blog?

From time to time I looked at where the people come from who read the words that I write. Not unsurprisingly they come from many, many different countries but which countries exactly is surprising.

Aside from wondering where Unknown Region is (maybe it's lots of different regions)
the country Canada, where they were invented, is behind Russia and barely ahead of Ukraine.

What I wonder do Ukrainians and Russians find so fascinating about my blog?

I think the answer is that they see someone they might find they are able to hack into by making comments with links in, that if you follow them, will do nasty things to your computer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ya, boo, sucks!

The day, in 2013, when I couldn't go anywhere
because it was only Rachel, Sam and me.
I have been asked by  John Kenwright's replacement to post some new details for getting in touch with the Sherpa volunteer program at the Grampians or in the Dandenongs.

The details, which I have yet to post because of some technical problems, include a dramatic addition - the idea of a Statewide Sherpa Volunteer Coordinator. A single person who would coordinate and collate Sherpa requests from around the world.

That is precisely what I suggested, back then, in this post. I look forward to watching this roll out.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Come and Try day in the Dandenong Ranges

The beautiful backwoods
Come along and try the TrailRider All Terrain Wheelchair in one of Victoria’s unique
parks and natural environments, the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Where: Grants Picnic Ground, 70 Monbulk Road, Kallista
When: Thursday 29th November 2018, 10am – 2pm
You are invited to trial a TrailRider All Terrain Wheelchair to explore selected walking trails in the beautiful
Sherbrooke forest.  Due to their unique design, these chairs enable visitors with mobility limitations to access
park trails. Parks Victoria’s trained volunteer Sherpas will be available on the day to assist you with the use of
the chair on your walk.
Please register for this day on Eventbrite
For more information

Guest post (and farewell!) from John Kenwright

At the back right in this
group is John, Ros at the
front. David Roberts are
the back left. Megan (?)
at the back left. Me, as
ever (!) in the middle but
surrounded by love.
Mystery woman - for me
at the front
It is a real honour to be asked by David to do a guest post.  I first met David and his wife Ros in early 2011 after I had been working for a year or so in a new role at Parks Victoria to help make parks more accessible for visitors with disabilities. 

David had first contacted our Grampians National park enquiring whether Parks Victoria could acquire a TrailRider chair for the park. The Ranger in Charge at the time, David Roberts, forwarded David Stratton’s email to me for follow up. This is how the TrailRider program in Parks Victoria began.

In 2011 TrailRider chairs were not available in Australia. Parks Victoria were eventually able to track down the manufacturer in Canada and import two chairs for trialling in our parks. 

The chairs proved to be ideal for park conditions and had a range of seating adjustment features were suitable for park visitors of different abilities and sizes. Feedback from visitors using the chairs was so positive that Parks Victoria acquired additional TrailRider chairs for other parks.  

Visitors had told Parks Victoria that they wanted these chairs in or near parks to make it easy to access the chairs and explore nearby trails. This was difficult for many of our parks as our park rangers were out in the field most of the time and did not have the capacity to manage these chairs. This is where local governments came in. Parks Victoria developed partnerships with local governments for the management of the chairs, and they assisted Parks Victoria through their local tourism visitor information centres. 

A number of visitors conveyed to Parks Victoria that they wanted to use a TrailRider chair but they did not have enough fit friends or family members to operate the chair on trails. In response to this need, Parks Victoria established the Sherpa Volunteer Program in the Grampians National Park in 2014. Visitors could not only book a TrailRider chair to use at the park but could also book volunteer chair operators (referred to as Sherpas) to take them out on the trails. Due to the success of this program, the Sherpa volunteer program was expanded to the Dandenong Ranges National Park in 2018. 

After having TrailRiders available for visitors in selected parks for several years, Parks Victoria looked at how the chairs could be made easier to operate for use on steeper and/or longer trails. In partnership with Melbourne wheelchair equipment company Mobility Plus, Parks Victoria developed the first electric motor version of the TrailRider chair. This addition made it less physically demanding to operate the chairs and meant that fewer chair operators (Sherpas) were needed to explore trails. It also meant that TrailRider chairs could now be used on many narrow walking trails as the front and rear chair operators only needed to walk in single file, rather than having two plus operators walking side by side pulling and pushing the chair.

In 2017, Parks Victoria developed a TrailRider advisory sign classification system for motorised TrailRider users. This informed visitors of the level of trail difficulty and recommended number of TrailRider Sherpas required. It was a challenging project to develop the TrailRider trail grading system and data from over 40 TrailRider trails in six national parks were used to develop the trail assessment criteria. A TrailRider trail assessment grading tool has now been produced which can be applied to any walking trail to ascertain trail suitability for TrailRider chairs and grade the level of trail difficulty.

Parks Victoria now has twelve TrailRider chairs available for visitors across Victoria and half of these are motorised. In recent years, TrailRider chairs have been acquired by park managers in other states/territories of Australia and also by some local governments. It is pleasing to know that park visitors can now borrow TrailRider chairs in selected parks around Australia. 

The TrailRider program has been one of many projects undertaken by Parks Victoria to enable visitors with significant mobility limitations to be able to connect with nature and experience the health and wellbeing benefits. The program has meant that many visitors who require wheelchairs can now get out to wild places in nature and share these experiences with their friends and family.

After working at Parks Victoria and being heavily involved in the TrailRider program for eight years, I am now moving on from Parks Victoria. It has been an amazing journey and I have met many interesting people along the way. David Stratton and his wife Ros Hart have been truly amazing and played an integral role in the establishment of the TrailRider program in parks managed by Parks Victoria. David and I have become good friends over the years and I will continue to look forward to reading TrailRider stories on his blog. 

John Kenwright


Friday, October 19, 2018

This is a re-post in recognition of the rained-off Dandenongs Come and Try day

Where we were. My helmet was removed for the photo only
We finally arrived yesterday at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. In the pouring rain, which was not part of the plan, and given the sunlight pouring in the window this morning, was uniquely focussed on our visit.

Jeff Woodward, Cradle Mountain Park Ranger, had gathered together park National Park folk from various parts of the State with a strong focus on rescue. The TrailRider sat in the corner while we discussed the vexing, and expensive, problem of severely sprained ankles out there on the tracks. A typical rescue scenario involves difficult and dangerous, for the bearers, stretcher trips or even a helicopter.
Mountain rescue specialists get the feel of the
chair - indoors to keep dry

For the first time ever I saw an economic argument for a TrailRider - the cost of one or two current rescues would pay for a TrailRider. It could happen pretty soon.

People really got the point when they sherpa-ed me, under consummate sherpa Rodney Brooke's guidance (I had introduced my engineer friend as Australia's most experienced sherpa) , around the Visitor Centre. They went up and down a flight of steps - much easier than they expected. 

Along the way there would be the means for wheelies to be guided along some tracks in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. I was - despite the rain - Ros, Rodney,Joanne and Ranger Jeff took me around the enchanting Enchanted Trail.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Come and Try day in the Dandenong Ranges

The beautiful backwoods
Come along and try the TrailRider All Terrain Wheelchair in one of Victoria’s unique
parks and natural environments, the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Where: Grants Picnic Ground, 70 Monbulk Road, Kallista
When: Thursday 18th October 2018, 10am – 2pm
You are invited to trial a TrailRider All Terrain Wheelchair to explore selected walking trails in the beautiful
Sherbrooke forest.  Due to their unique design, these chairs enable visitors with mobility limitations to access
park trails. Parks Victoria’s trained volunteer Sherpas will be available on the day to assist you with the use of
the chair on your walk.
Please register for this day on Eventbrite
For more information

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Posting by talking

I have finally come to the end of what is probably a 20 year long quest  which is defined the modern way  to write by talking and that is how I am writing this post.  That is probably all I need to say but,  as ever, I am open to questions.

The key breakthrough was probably the Chromebook which is why I've selected that for the picture in this post

Monday, August 6, 2018

Swincar - something new, cool, expensive that might just do it

Maybe this device, the Swincar, ticks enough of the boxes, mentioned in an earlier post, about getting stuck manoeuvring amongst rocks and logs. 

This video shows the Swincar making its way over some pretty horrendous terrain.

The price box is definitely ticked - around GBP 13,000

Like Swincar on Facebook

Friday, May 18, 2018

Why we like sherpas

First thank you to the Anonymous person who left a comment and drew my attention to the chair in this video.

For sure the pilot is more independent in one of . these but, and it's quite a big but, you will notice when you watch the video that some care has been taken with what kind of terrain they go racing over. The one wheel on the TrailRider simply cannot get stuck amongst the rocks in the kind of situation where one wheel fights with the other. Sherpas rock!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

An Inclusive web site

Ever since I started this blog (2012) it has annoyed me to see how hard it is to visit an arbitrary website and quickly find the disabled stuff. Now, my job at the Inclusive Towns Project, extends that to the more general question of Inclusive Communication in general.

The picture in this post is the internationally accepted symbol for Inclusive Communication. It will now appear, accompanied by the direction Press here on every blog I manage. Try it! Soon it will do other things like reading the post aloud or choosing the text size.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Mount Beckworth

The end of the road
Mount Beckworth is one of the three sentinel peaks that look out across a triangular region of Central West Victoria (the others are Mounts Franklin and Tarrengower) It is a place that I have not visited for years but I was given an extraordinary surprise with yesterday.

My wife Ros, sherpa monarchs Joanne and Rodney and sister Jude took me on a Magical Mystery Tour that involved the second deployment of my very own TrailRider. The ascent, sensibly terminated when we were faced by the rubble shown, involved enormous generosity of sprit and effort from a sherpa team of 256 years combined age.

And this is where we were
Click to see the route map
Some younger blood would have summited but, to even younger blood, we owe the nickname of this peak that is noted for the single, enormous tree on top that can be singled out from far away. The little boys used to call it nipple hill. Check out the distant pics in Google maps. 

The area is a Parks Victoria Scenic Reserve and despite, perhaps unclear signs, about driving we came upon a family in their four wheel drive. Damaging the precious land. Get a life, become a Sherpa.

The irony is that you, and your kids, will live longer.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Grampians Walking Track Support Group

Hard at work - click pic to read more
Imagine my surprise at discovering these guys! In 2009, hot with Ros' photos from Canada, I reached out to the Head Ranger at the Grampians - the, appropriately named, Graham Parkes. (I used to think eponymous was the word to use here - when someone simply has the right name for their job - but reading around it things are not that clear)

By the time we went to visit Graham had moved on and we met David Roberts, as 
Wild Places tells, but he must have kept me in his email address book because yesterday I got an email from him telling me tales of the Grampians Walking Track Support Group  which I never knew existed.

The important message is that, at 10.00 am, Saturday 21st April, 2018 they will begin work/thinking about Golton Gorge.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

BCMOS (British Columbia Mobile Opportunity Society) turns 30!

Can you believe it? 30 years (thirty) since BCMOS was established by Sam Sullivan, ex ski accident mayor of Vancouver.

This video shows the TrailRider being used to guide disabled person to the top of Grey Rock (AKA Quarry Rock) in Deep Cove, North Vancouver.  

When Ros and I lived in Vancouver this was one of our favourite outings. So much so that it one of the places I scattered some of my Dad's ashes.

Wish BCMOS a Happy Birthday on Facebook

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Would that we had been there!

All these people I could have given TrailRider Tales business cards to! A
Networkers delight
Getting around is getting harder and going to Melbourne for morning tea seemed a bridge too far (although not for the two wheelies in the picture)

Anyway the occasion was a thank you, from Parks Victoria, to to all the different folk (just look at them!) who contributed to Healthy Parks, Healthy People winning the recent tourism award

In the words supplied to me John Kenwright, Access & Inclusion Coordinator, who has been the leader in this charge:

Parks Victoria and their Disability Sector partners got together today to celebrate the Victorian and Australian Tourism Awards that Parks Victoria won for their accessibility program in the Specialised Tourism Services category.
Parks Victoria Board member and Chair Victorian Visitor Economy Ministerial Advisory Committee,  The Hon John Pandazopoulos hosted the morning tea which saw PV staff and representatives from Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria, Amaze, All Abilities Consultative Committee Mornington Peninsula, genU Karingal St. Laurance, Scope, Austin Health, Travability and Lonely Planet come together to acknowledge the great work that has been undertaken in the last seven years as well as the two recent awards that recognise Parks Victoria as a national leader in providing nature based park experiences for all ages and abilities.  

Healthy Parks Healthy People.

There would have been a lot of chances to charm but not too much time to do it in. Next time I'll go.

Like Parks Victoria on Facebook 

and Healthy Parks, Healhy People too

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The joys of a non-disabled TrailRider pilot

This is the delightful tale that Doug, at Bournda (also) , sent me. Over to you Doug...

The victorious kids
A short note on on unforeseen TrailRider applications. 

On a recent Year 7 camp a student had an ankle sprain. When discussing the planned 5km walk for the next day, I suggested she could use the TrailRider.
So I spoke to the students and explained the story of how it came to be at Bournda, including seeing you at the Parks congress. I framed the exercise for that day as “Sherpa training” so that in future TrailRider activities they would be familiar with what to do. These students are from Jake’s school and telling them how he covered 11km was I think inspirational.

By the next morning the students ankle was sufficiently recovered so she could walk. However, the TrailRider went as “insurance” and other students got to be the passenger as well. 

The feedback from the teachers who supervised was that the students finished the walk quicker than previous groups and with less grumbling about having to walk!

It occurs to me that the TrailRider has a motivational effect and that may be useful to use as an educational tool about mobility needs, even when there is no client that needs it. It helps the students to see how the simple act of walking in the bush is a joy that is denied to many and something to be grateful for.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Yes, yes, yes!

Click pic to visit Travabilty blog
Don't listen to me, listen to Bill Forrester on the Travability Blog who really lays it on the line about why my post, which directed you to the Specialised Tourism category of the Qantas Awards is on its way to being overhauled - by special becoming mainstream.

Why not throw a Like in his direction?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A destination or another step on the path?

Surely, Ros and I could be forgiven for thinking we've finally got there watching this video that Parks Victoria have made to celebrate their win at the Qantas 2017 Australian Tourism Awards (Gold in the Specialised Tourism category)

All that is curious about this delightful and inspiring film is fractional, hard-to-grab instant where you can see
 John Kenwright, Access and Inclusion Coordinator at Parks Victoria. He is the person that made all this happen and his modesty astounds me.
Click pic to view the awards finalists. Parks Victoria is in the
Specialised Tourism category
That fleeting instant is captued here (sorry John)
Healthy Parks, Healthy People is the tagline that is on the shirt of every Parks Victoria employee. Click on the Like button to encourage them.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dandenongs Sherpa Training

Three TrailRiders and many green, Sherpa Volunteer Program
T shirts. Click pic to read the full article in the Mount Evelyn Mail
Last Saturday, fourteen new Sherpa Volunteers stepped up to the plate at the Olinda Park training session. Up until now, the only three-TrailRider pictures I have posted have been from Vancouver, where they are made.

In the words of John Kenwright, Access and Inclusion Coordinator at Parks Victoria 

Grants Picnic Ground in the Dandenong Ranges was the perfect location for its iconic and versatile birdlife as well as the many trails which branch off from there.

Sherbrooke forest is such a beautiful area with the lyrebirds, tall mountain ash trees and so for people with disabilities to be able to share that and see that is very important

Hearing from the passenger for the day (AKA pilot) is even more enticing. Karen Fankhauser, a wheelchair user was the first to be given the opportunity to sit in the new chair and she found it comfortable but gave her the freedom to experience nature.

Freedom ... It means I can actually experience bushwalking and that's something you can't do in a normal chair

For someone with limited mobility or no mobility it's an amazing experience ... instead of just watching from a viewing platform you get to be within the park itself.

Consider Liking the Mail News Group on Facebook. One of their papers, the Mount Evelyn Mail, covered the event, 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Welcome to Sherpa Volunteer Training - video

Josh, my senior nurse son, helped me make this video which is "any place, any time" welcome to the Sherpa Volunteer Program that can be used at the start of any session that Ros, me, Joanne and Rodney cannot make it to.

Most recently that was the session at Olinda Park, in the Dandenongs.

Trainees who are on Facebook might want to join the Private Group that Maggie set up after the first-ever session. Sherpa scuttlebutt should remain amongst sherpas.
It is called Australian Bush Sherpas but you don't need to be Australian to join

Friday, February 2, 2018

Have work, will travel

Yes! I am rejoining the labour force. 

Four places where I can, once again, spend my money

As a Support Officer in the, three Shire wide, Accessible Towns project. Funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) this project sets out to make towns, other than Newstead, places where the disabled, the aged, mothers with twins can move about and do their business.

I will be paid to do what worked so well in Newstead - befriend the shopkeepers and lead them to embracing accessibility in an affordable, friendly way.

Early next Monday I will attend a Training Session in Bendigo. For the rest I can barely wait.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sherpa Volunteer Training in the Dandenongs

Click pic to register
In 2013 I was in the Grampians with two fit, young people and we couldn't go anywhere because there was nowhere to find the other two sherpas. I was sad.

Then John Kenwright (Parks Victoria disability wizard) got his head around the way to organise the, now flourishing, Sherpa Volunteer Program in the Grampians. There have been three training sessions so far (1, 2, 3

Soon - Saturday, 10th February - there will be a session in the Dandenongs, to get a program started there, but this time it will be "front ended" by several, shorter, session that will simply handle the nuts and bolts of becoming a Parks Victoria volunteer of any kind,

That way, when you attend the actual sherpa training, you will already have you volunteer formalities taken care of.

You can register for one of these sessions - on Saturday 3rd February for an hour - here

The session will be at Olinda Parks Victoria Office.