Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Launches Outdoors For Everyone Campaign to Increase Trail Accessibility

The following is a sponsored post brought to you by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Long-distance backpacking has a funny way of putting a lot of things into perspective that most people take for granted in their daily lives – the luxury of a hot shower, the feeling of a warm meal on a cold day, or maybe even the comfort of sleeping on a mattress each night. Perhaps one of the biggest things that are brought to light through a long-distance hike is the feeling of gratitude for the ability to explore majestic mountains – an experience that should be available to everyone.

However, for those living with disabilities and/or living with paralysis, being out on the trail can be another reminder of why accessibility is so important in many of our nation’s most iconic places.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is on a mission to help increase the inclusivity of our nation’s outdoor spaces, and in celebration of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month this September, the Foundation is launching their Outdoors for Everyone initiative to bring greater awareness and action toward projects focused on accessibility on our nation’s trails.

What Is the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation?

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation started as a grassroots movement by pioneers who refused to accept the long-standing dogma that a spinal cord, once injured, could never recover or be repaired.

The late actor and his wife for whom the Foundation is named were hands-on, activist leaders who rallied a swelling chorus of voices advocating for people living with paralysis. They recognized that the true heroes in the spinal cord-injured community are those living with paralysis and their families. Today, “Today’s Care. Tomorrow’s Cure.” reflects the dual purpose set forth by Christopher and Dana to provide a continuum of hope for individuals living with paralysis worldwide. Through the Reeve Foundation’s Quality of Life Grants Program, which awards grants to nonprofit organizations that impact and empower people living with paralysis, their families, and caregivers, nearly $2 million has been awarded to help create and increase accessible outdoor spaces.

Outdoors For Everyone Initiative

Outdoors For Everyone focuses on expanding access to green spaces and parks for those living with spinal cord injury, paralysis, and other disabilities. 

This new initiative strives to ensure everyone, regardless of ability, can fully take part in outdoor recreation. One of the most exciting parts of the campaign is an Accessible Outdoor Checklist filled with actionable information for organizations that want to design a more accessible space.

Some of the items on this checklist include providing information in the following areas:

  • Trail Logistics – What is the length, width, surface area, and grade of all inclines on each trail?
  • Trail Facilities – Are there accessible bathrooms and water fountains available? Is wheelchair charging available nearby?
  • Getting to the Trail – Is accessible parking available for both cars and larger vans?
  • Trail Terrain – What type of pavement is used on the trail? Is there any obstacle over 2 inches high that would prevent a wheelchair from passing through?
  • Additional Resources – Are there all-terrain chairs available nearby for use on more rugged terrain or sand?

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The goal is not only to create more trails that are accessible, but to give those living with disabilities and their caregivers the power to properly plan ahead for their next adventure and confidently make decisions about which trails to explore.

Many of these checklist items are a great starting point, but the Reeve Foundation is hoping this tool allows for an opportunity to help organizations and trail maintainers think outside of the box when they come to a section of trail that is challenging to make accessible. From working around large natural obstacles – like boulders or larger root systems – to difficulties in terrain – such as sand, loose dirt, or slick rock – the Reeve Foundation is excited to be working with parks and trail organizations nationwide to make our trails more enjoyable for people of all abilities.

Trail Accessibility in an Ideal World

The ultimate goal would be to ensure that every local, state, and national park has at least some form of accessibility implemented on their trails. Although we are a long way off from this goal, there are a few notable organizations the Reeve Foundation is working closely with that serve as an example of how to begin incorporating some of these changes to trails across the country.

Known for its huge, rugged landscape, Glacier National Park in Montana is a shining example of a park that is working to ensure recreation opportunities for people of all abilities. From smooth boardwalk trails to accessible parking and shuttle options, the park is one of many that has worked with the Reeve Foundation to mitigate accessibility issues and find creative solutions to get more people outside. Other north-star examples of organizations going above and beyond are Reeve Foundation grantees Mesa Verde National Park, working on creating more accessible trail loops, and the Westchester Parks Foundation in New York which recently purchased two all-terrain track chairs.

Although there are approximately 5.4 million people in the U.S. who are living with some form of paralysis, accessibility improvements benefit an entire community. From grandparents to friends with injuries to beginner hikers preparing to conquer larger trails, accessible trails are the benchmark of a community that truly cares about its citizens regardless of physical ability.

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How To Get Involved

If you are a member of a trail organization that wants to get involved/apply for a Quality of Life grant, or an individual seeking support, you can get in touch with the team at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation via their website where they provide information for how to get in touch, the new Accessible Outdoor Checklist, and myriad resources from their Information Specialists.

Reeve Information Specialists are available Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. ET – 8 p.m. ET at 1-800-539-7309. Individuals can also leave a message if calling after hours.

Featured image courtesy of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

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