Adaptive Camping and Accessible Adventures

Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via Disability Horizons
Disability Horizons
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Shannon Kelly, a wheelchair user, is the deputy editor for Disability Horizons. She shares some of her experiences as she visited an adaptive sports program in Chicago this summer. Her adventures included rock climbing, camping, and kayaking.

Adaptive Rock Climbing

Picture of Shannon using pulley system on rock wall

Millennium Park was one of the first stops on Shannon’s adventure. There was an adaptive rock climbing course that was set up (by Adaptive Adventures) in the park on two Monday night’s a month during the summer. Shannon admits she was nervous about participating on the course because she has never been a sporty girl.

“I wouldn’t consider myself to be a sporty girl, so I was nervous about how it was going to go. Rock climbing typically requires a lot of leg strength, so as a wheelchair user, I was curious to see how I was going to be able to participate with just the use of my arms.”

Shannon was surprised at the large group of people with various disabilities who were gathered for the event. Every person was preparing to climb in their own unique way. Shannon chose to climb using a Seated Harness/Arc Chair with a pulley system.

Shannon describes her climbing experience, “Transferring onto the plastic chair with a seated harness draped over it, I got strapped in. Once all the straps were in place, they removed the chair and I was able to ascend with the pulley system, pushing the bar up and then pulling down. With this system, you are pulling up about 20% of your weight, which is still quite difficult.”

“The effort, however, was completely worth it. On getting to the top, the view was incredible. Overlooking boats sailing on Lake Michigan and a beautiful sunset, it was too good to not have another go.”

Adaptive Camping

The next destination on Shannon’s adventure was Mississippi Palisades for adaptive camping. She was again surprised about how many people showed up for the event - with and without disabilities.

“It was great to meet so many people who relate to the barriers that come with having a spinal cord injury, or a disability in general.”

picture of shannon rock climbing on rock wall

Shannon tried rock climbing again at the campsite, but this time it was legitimate rock as opposed to being man made. She states that this climb was more difficult than the first because the wall was so high. “However, it was a really positive experience, particularly because I arrived only knowing a few people, but meeting many and having them cheer me on and motivate me,” says Shannon.

Adaptive Kayaking

Shannon also tried adaptive kayaking while in Mississippi. She used a tandem kayak with extra back support and carbon fiber paddle. Shannon states that these accommodations made it possible for her to experience kayaking and the beautiful scenery of the Mississippi River.

“I’m glad that I took the leap of faith and went on this trip, even though I didn’t know many people. I’m glad I got to unleash my adventurous side and push myself out of my comfort zone. I’m thankful that there are organisations out there to help people with disabilities enjoy sports. The added bonus was getting to meet other disabled people – it gives you a real sense of support and friendship.”

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