Go Outside and Play: Accessible Activities from a Social Distance

Adrian Johansen

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, you've likely spent even more time than usual inside your residence. If you're itching to get outdoors, these accessible activities are the perfect way to enjoy nature while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Spending time outdoors offers myriad physical, mental and emotional benefits. But, while "getting some fresh air" is a simple act for some, it's not always as straightforward for the disability community.

However, with a little creative thinking and preparation, outdoor activities are possible for individuals with disabilities or limited mobility. You can access the outdoors and benefit from the mood-boosting effects of spending time in nature. Scientifically-proven benefits of being outside include decreased stress, boosted immunity, mitigated pain and increased life satisfaction.

From hiking and gardening to kayaking and camping, there are a variety of activities that you can adapt to accommodate both a disability and social distancing guidelines.

Fresh air

Spending Time in Your Own Backyard

To start, don't feel as if you need to plan a big trip or go far in order to enjoy outdoor activities. In fact, it's quite easy to make your own yard into an outdoor haven, and landscaping itself is an enjoyable outdoor activity.

Even if your outdoor space is small, implementing landscaping ideas such as choosing a variety of plants, finding the right-sized furniture and selecting a focal point can transform your yard into a place where you actually want to spend time. As you arrange furniture, keep in mind social distancing guidelines so the space is ready for an outdoor garden get-together.

Furthermore, spending time in your own backyard can help build up your confidence so you can feel comfortable with moving around outdoors before heading to local parks and beaches. Someday, you might even decide to explore an exotic destination like Patagonia with Wheel the World.

Spending Time in Your Own Backyard

Finding Accessible Hiking Trails in Your Area

For people with limited mobility, it's important to allow time to navigate and overcome any initial obstacles such as entering and exiting the residence. You may want to investigate accessible solutions for your home such as ramps and porch lifts. With those needs addressed, you can begin researching parks with wheelchair accessible trails.

What makes a trail wheelchair accessible? Generally, these particular paths are wider and have smoother grades. No special equipment is necessary to enjoy them. TrailLink is a great resource for discovering wheelchair accessible hiking trails in your state.

If you're worried about the trails being crowded, call ahead to the park information office to inquire about the peak hours and do your best to avoid those times. It's a good idea to have a mask with you in case you come within six feet of anyone on the trail.

Taking to the Water in Adapted Vessels

Like hiking, another accessible outdoor activity is paddling. If you're someone who depends on a wheelchair for mobility, spending time out on the water could even provide newfound independence. It's also easy to maintain social distancing while paddling especially on larger bodies of water.

Both kayaks and canoes can be adapted for more stability and to prevent them from capsizing. Whichever vessel you choose, keep in mind that calm waters are ideal. Of course, you should always wear a life jacket regardless of how calm the water appears.

Due to the many customizations available, paddling is an outdoor activity that lots of people can take part in. For example, people with reduced hand and wrist function can look into specially-designed paddles that will allow them to navigate the waters with more ease.

Planning a Socially-Distant Outdoor Getaway

Another outdoor activity that can still be done within social distancing guidelines is camping. Many health care experts believe that outdoor spaces present a much lower risk than indoors in terms of transmitting the coronavirus.

As with other outdoor hobbies, planning your camping trip involves a bit of additional research if you are a person with a disability. Even if a campground says "first-come, first-served" on its website, many campgrounds have accessible sites on which you can reserve in advance for anyone who needs them.

When inquiring about an accessible site, you should also find out whether the restroom has accessible toilet and shower stalls. Since guidelines for campgrounds are not mentioned in the Americans With Disabilities Act, it's important to double check any accessibility claims.

Before committing to a location, check that the accessible campsite is on level ground with a clear path to the bathrooms. Ideally, it is outfitted with a picnic table that has a significant enough overhang for you to pull up your wheelchair. 

With a little preparation and creativity, individuals with disabilities can enjoy outdoor activities while still practicing social distancing. Whether spending time in your own backyard or organizing a camping getaway, you can take pleasure in nature while reaping the physical, mental and emotional benefits of being outside.

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