There is something fulfilling when experiencing the beauty of the outdoors, whether it’s the warmth of the sun, birds singing or the bright colours adding to the magnificent scenery. It’s hard to imagine not being able to enjoy the outdoors and activities because of a disability.
However, a southern Alberta charity is working hard to provide outdoor opportunities to individuals with disabilities.
Adaptable Outdoors is a non-profit organization whose mission is to give people living with disabilities an opportunity to experience the outdoors and its benefits.
Steve Holly, executive director of Adaptable Outdoors, shared an experience he had skiing with an individual struggling with a disability and the lack of opportunities in Alberta for him and others.
“Seeing the impact that the skiing had on him and asking him, ‘What do you do in summer?’ and he told me that ‘I count down the days until winter,’” Holly said. “That made me kind of sad because, you know, this guy had a great sense of adventure. He loved being outdoors and engaging in skiing, but in summer, there were no opportunities for him to do so.”
Adaptable outdoors has been able to deliver 120 adaptive experiences to 60 clients ranging from ages five to 92. Holly said nature is for everyone, but it sometimes gets overlooked.
“Many people who would love to be able to access parks and natural spaces, provincial parks, or national parks, and nature in general, who typically just don’t have the access, they’re unable to go out and experience a lot of the activities that we all take for granted.”
Adaptable Outdoors initially began in 2019 and has persevered through the years of the pandemic.
Troy Wood, program aide at Adaptable Outdoors, expressed the enjoyment he receives in seeing individuals get the opportunity to discover the outdoors.
“It was just awesome to see people out there,” Wood said. “Rediscovering things that they might not have done for a while, or some skills, they didn’t know that they were able to continue to do; skills that they’ve lost.”
Starting June 29 and all through July and August, Adaptable Outdoors is expanding its paddling and adaptive kayak fishing programs to individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. Registration for programs is available through the Adaptable Outdoor website at adaptableoutdoors.ca.
“Hiking, fishing, kayak, and kayak fishing; those are the four programs that we’ve developed in the short time that we’ve been in operation, and really, that everybody deserves to have the access,” Holly said. “Alberta’s parks are supposed to be for all Albertans, not just for able-bodied Albertans.”
Adaptable Outdoors welcomes volunteers to help with the programs.
By Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 26, 2023