Sailing For Wheelchair Users

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Content via Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Sailing is a great way to experience the freedom of the open ocean.  Three wheelchair users share their individual sailing experiences which range from sailing with traditional boats to using modified equipment.

“I can actually skipper the boat myself as long as I have an able bodied person on board that can handle the lines,” says Danny, a paraplegic sailor. He loves the feeling of freedom he gets while manning a traditional sailboat.

“You basically leave your disability at the dock."

There are also sailboat modifications that allow users with limited upper body mobility to be at the helm. Mark uses two devices called a Windless and an Autohelm to allow him to operate the sails and rudder with a toggle switch. Mark became a sailor after his injury, and now regularly takes his wife Cindy and his service dog out on a boat ride.

There are also sip and puff devices that allow high-level quadriplegics the ability to sail.

Todd, who is ventilator dependent, joined the Challenged America Sailing Club, an adaptive and therapeutic sailing organization. With the help of an engineer who designed a driving system using fiber optics, and assistants who helped transfer him into the boat, Todd was able to sail independently.

“I do this on my own with someone behind me in case of emergencies, but I control all the movements and where the boat goes.”

Are you a wheelchair user who is also a sailor? Share your story and you might be featured on AbleThrive!

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