Inclusive and Accessible Outdoor Activities in the Lake District
Don’t let a disability stop you doing something adventurous!
Here at River Deep Mountain High we have a very clear belief that outdoor activities can be for anyone. And we mean ANYONE.
With inclusivity being at the forefront of society’s mind at the moment and events like the Paralympics and Invictus Games capturing the attention of the world and proving that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, we though it could be time we tell you about our experiences of providing adventurous outdoor activities for people with disabilities.
There are so many options out there that regardless of your disability, whether it be hidden or visible, there is no reason why you can’t get out there and do something totally adventurous, and over the years we have made fantastic memories with some amazing people who didn’t let their disabilities or insecurities stand in their way.
DISABILITY DOES NOT MEAN INABILITY
I imagine some of you reading this already have a good idea of which activities we’ve provided and how, especially for people with limited mobility, but I think you may be surprised by one or two of the other activities, and the level of determination involved.
For example, have you ever thought that Gorge Walking could be an activity for a blind person? Well, there’s no reason why not…
I think you’ll agree that Martin is a pretty amazing guy, who clearly won’t let a little detail like lack of eyesight stop him from missing out on adventure. His mates, who were with him literally every step of the way, are pretty awesome too!
“I just wanted to send a quick email to a say massive thank you for the Ghyll Scrambling on Saturday morning. The staff were exceptional, and all the lads said they had an amazing time. Johan and the team were brilliant, especially with Martin, and made sure he was safe at all times.
I think the fact that we managed to get a fully blind man up to the top (and up the waterfall) was a testament to how good your staff were. Please can you pass this email on to the instructors as well and thank them for a great day!”
How about Abseiling 43 meters after a stroke in your 20’s has robbed you of the function in your left hand and severely weakened in your left leg?
This is Zoe, and she’s AMAZING! She wears an electric splint around her leg to stimulate the nerves and aid walking on her left side, but her left hand. With our encouragement and her determination, she took on our biggest abseil and WON!
Just look at that smile!
Zoe also has some fiercely protective and incredible friends supporting her. And who made us cry with their feedback!
“One thing I am more inclined to mention is how fantastic Johan and Alison were when out on the activities. As they well observed, I am very protective over my friend Zoe. Over the years we have experienced that she isn’t given the support that she needs, and as a consequence we lost faith very quickly in getting help and assistance from instructors or support staff. These guys absolutely blew that out of the park! They made her feel so empowered and she commented on how Johan was always asking what she needed from him, rather than just telling her. He was incredible with her. There’s not a chance in hell I’d have left her in a canoe with him if he hadn’t have won my trust, and he certainly had hers.
There was a point were Zoe thought that she wouldn’t be able to do the “baby” abseil due to not being able to use the steps. Alison very easily said “okay, then can you sit down?”. She continued on to manage Zoe in such a safe way that enabled her to complete the activity.
Both made her feel like she was in charge of what she was doing, they gave her back control. She needed that. It’s very difficult to explain the psychological implications and motions that she goes through in such short, split seconds, but they guided those processes very very well. (Not to mention their patience with my hyped-up anxiety!!) They deserve masses of recognition and praise. Just a huge well done to you all! I am so grateful.”
Now, let’s move on to the activities you probably had thought of…
Canoeing is one of the more straight forward accessible activities. As our canoes are extra wide and super stable with seating for up to 3 people, this is an activity where working together, sharing the paddling or just enjoying the ride means it’s great for those with more severe mobility difficulties, and also for those with unseen disabilities such as autism or ADHD.
When working with limited mobility there are a few options depending on the severity of needs, but the one we find we use the most is something called an aqua-back chair.
The seat is designed to fit on to the regular canoe seat and provide additional support for the back. It has a harness that keeps the upper body secure while seated, and still allows the arms plenty of movement to paddle, or just run your fingers through the water…
Kayaking can also be a great option for those with good upper body strength and water confidence.
Activity(s): Gorge-walking; Abseiling; Kayaking; Archery No in Group: 3
“A personal thankyou to River Deep, and to individual instructors, for so easily accommodating my personal needs relating to physical impairment – I never felt I was slowing others down, or missing out at all myself. Support included arranging a schedule to include all our activity choices, along with transport to mitigate my inability to drive – priceless!”
Archery is certainly another great activity that can be adapted for those who need to remain seated or can’t stand for long periods.
Some people think Archery is a bit of a boring activity, but that’s because they haven’t done it with us. We use recurve and compound bows, traditional scoring, fun games and group competitions over a range of distances on our archery range. It’s the perfect inclusive activity for those with a competitive nature.
And of course, as I mentioned at the start of this, many people are also dealing with hidden disabilities that impact on their daily lives and can make getting out and doing something as different and challenging as an adventurous outdoor activity, really difficult.
As well as those who require medication to be carried at all times such as diabetics and epileptics, we have also supported, encouraged and guided people with autism, ADHD and anxiety over the years. We understand the importance of giving people the time and the means to take control and achieve something they thought they might never be capable of…
“My son and I have just got back from our day of gorge walking and scrambling with your company. I just wanted to say thank you and that we had a wonderful time. After ten minutes of the gorge walking, my son promptly belly-flopped in a pool of freezing Coniston and exclaimed, “I really love it here.” This is high praise from a grumpy 17-year-old!
To the second point, I would like to give a heartfelt, personal thank you to the instructor, Will. I explained to him before we started that my son is Autistic and that although I was there to support him, Will may need to be clear and concise in his communication. I can only say that Will was outstanding with my son. He has clearly had some professional or personal experience and knew exactly what to do and how to speak. He was wonderful.”
Activity Experience (Pitch, Kit, Content) – 5, “Great experience thoroughly enjoyed by all the family. Johan was great with our kids and especially understanding with our Autistic son.”
We are firm believers that achieving something you didn’t think you could can have a profound and positive impact on the way you view yourself for the rest of your life. No matter whether you have a disability or not.
If you would like to talk to us about how we can make some amazing memories with inclusive activities for yourself or your group, please get in touch with Emma and Beth to discuss your wishes.
“Challenge yourself, go for it whatever “it” may be; we are much more powerful and capable than we will ever know.”
We look forward to welcoming you soon!