“'The great outdoors' and ‘wheelchair accessible’ may not typically coexist within the same sentence, but they absolutely should,” writes Cory Lee, of accessible travel blog Curb Free With Cory Lee.
After all, there have been huge strides made for accessibility in the outdoors in recent years. The National Park Service Accessibility Task Force worked on a five-year project, from 2015 to 2020, improving accessibility across America’s parks, reports Josh Laskin. Under this effort, dirt trails in Kentucky’s Mammoth Caves National Park were paved and parking lots were made accessible. At Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, the entire experience from entrance to exit was adapted, with trail upgrades, restroom improvements, and new exhibits. These changes aren’t limited to parks, either. Beaches, like Mission Beach in California and Hanauma Bay Beach in Hawaii, writes Julia Eskins, have recently made beach wheelchairs readily available for free, while others are laying down beach access mats that allow visitors to roll up to the water’s edge in their own chair.
These changes are long overdue. But they are also proof that, for anyone who uses a wheelchair, there are a growing number of reasons to spend time outside this summer, and a myriad of places to go—from local hiking trails, to state parks, to a beach on the other side of the country. Plus, there are plenty of people to go with, thanks to communities like Disabled Hikers and National Park Capable who organize group outings.
There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to accessibility in the outdoors, and of course, wheelchair accessibility is just one facet of a much larger issue. But this summer, we are following the lead of travelers like Lee, and countless others mentioned below, in seeing the many opportunities to explore outdoors on wheels.
Ahead, we cover everything you need to know about wheelchair accessible adventuring this season, products that make days in the sun a little less of a headache, and a few fantastic destinations to point your chair towards in the months ahead.
A Wheelchair-User's Guide to Getting Outdoors this Summer
Writer Cory Lee shares what to pack, where to go, and the communities worth tapping into.
6 Products That Make Beach Days More Enjoyable for Wheelchair Users
From all-terrain wheel conversion kits to clip-on umbrellas, these are the beach accessories wheelchair users swear by.
The Most Accessible National Parks in the U.S.
Paved pathways, all-terrain wheelchairs for rent, and tactile exhibits make these parks accessible to a wider range of travelers.