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YMCA Victoria partners with Parks Victoria to deliver training for inclusive outdoor recreation program

YMCA Victoria partners with Parks Victoria to deliver training for inclusive outdoor recreation program
March 12, 2019

YMCA Victoria in partnership with Parks Victoria recently delivered a training day for the new inclusive program Access All Terrain focused on giving people with disabilities and mobility limitations the opportunity to experience the joy and freedom of camping outdoors.

YMCA Victoria received an $80,000 grant from the Victorian State Government to implement this program and is closely aligned with Park Victoria’s commitment to making national parks accessible for everyone. 

10 participants attended the training day at Mount Evelyn Camp and trialled a range of outdoor recreation equipment such as Park Victoria’s TrailRider All terrain wheelchairs, handcycles and beach wheelchairs. Parks Victoria’s Sherpa volunteers from Mt Dandenong National Park also attended the day and assisted participants to explore bush walking trails in a TrailRider chair.

As well as testing out new adaptive equipment, the program also aimed to develop participants’ wheelchair skills in outdoor environments and build their self-confidence. The program aim is to encourage more people to experience Victoria’s Parks and outdoors with their family and friends regardless of ability. 

Research shows that people with mobility issues are more likely to have poor physical health and experience higher rates of isolation. The 2015 VicHealth Indicators report showed 40% of people with a disability were less likely to be physically active than those who weren’t. The Access All Terrain program hopes to address these concerns.

For two young locals, the day was an opportunity to challenge themselves and get active in a relaxing environment. 

22-year-old Daniel McCrimmon admitted that for the last few years he has been so busy studying his computer science and an arts degree he has neglected his physical health.

McCrimmon acquired his disability when he was 18 as a result of spinal ischemia, where the blood supply to his spinal cord was interrupted due to a bleed. Although he is not experienced in camping he is willing to give it a go. He sees the program as a great chance to do this and a motivator.

McCrimmon enjoyed the orange handcycle, which is an adapted version of a mountain bike with the gearing, suspension and tyres made for rougher terrain. It took him a little while to work out the gears, but once mastering this skill, he was able to ride with confidence. 

He commented "it seemed the equivalent of flying, but for wheelchair users."

18-year-old Taylor Murphy has just finished high school and is now taking time out to reassess what he wants to do after a stressful six months. His grandfather encouraged him to attend the training day, hoping that the All Terrain Program would bring back Taylor’s cheery demeanour.

He has a rare genetic mutation which causes muscular weakness and coordination difficulties, slowing and slurring of the speech but which doesn’t affect his cognitive function, or his humour and charm. His experience of the trail rider was “out of this world.”

Murphy advised “it had me immersed in a different experience that I had never tried at all, and had no confidence to try. I don’t know how to describe the experience, to be totally honest. I felt like I was in a whole other world."

For Murphy, the All Terrain Program is about giving more opportunities for people who experience a disability, on which he commented "this program shows all the possibilities for accessible equipment that you would normally never see is just amazing."

Although the program is only in early development, YMCA Camp Manager John Kenwright believes the positive interactions and interest is already speaking for itself.

Kenwright  added “people with disability face many barriers to enjoy the outdoors: from not having the right wheels on your chair, to lack of opportunities or having the self-confidence to camp independently. 

“All Terrain Program looks at all these issues, and provides solutions through accessibility and inclusion, something we advocate across all our YMCA camps. 

“As a result, we already have 10 people signed up to the first camp at Wilson Promontory National Park in March."

Tony Varcoe, Director Community Partnerships of Parks Victoria said the organisation is excited to be involved with the Access All Terrain program, concluding “Parks Victoria is committed to providing opportunities for Victorians of all abilities to access parks and take advantage of the health and wellbeing benefits gained from visiting a park.

“It’s great to see participants enjoying the outdoors and gaining the skills to explore our beautiful natural environment. Enabling more people with a disability to enjoy parks will improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing."

Image of Taylor Murphy enjoying the All Terrain program at YMCA Mount Evelyn Recreation Camp with Parks Victoria Sherpa volunteers.

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24th January 2019 - Victory Boxing achieves successful outcomes through inclusive youth fitness and wellness programmes

10th December 2018 - Beach matting provides pathway to inclusivity

9th November 2018 - Parks Victoria announces $1.2 million infrastructure facelift for popular open spaces

18th September 2018 - New Parks Victoria Act looks to strengthen park management

12th December 2017 - Parks Victoria to employ 53 new Rangers

14th October 2016 - Free all-terrain wheelchair for Great Ocean Walk

16th October 2015 - Improving public access and safety along Victoria’s Coast

16th June 2015 - Trailrider allows wheelchair-bound Australians to go hiking

11th November 2014 - ACT Parks and Conservation Service launches new accessibility program

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