fishing on a bright summer evening

Adaptable tools for summer fun

By Chris Clasby

As the weather warms and days get longer, it’s the time of year when we all start itching for summertime fun and recreation. It’s also a great time to remember that many recreational activities and types of recreational equipment exist or have been adapted for individuals with disabilities to participate. Regardless of disability, we all like to play, so it’s great to know that such a wide variety of recreation is possible. It’s also been shown that benefits of recreation go far beyond simple enjoyment; those who recreate are more likely to succeed in such other life areas like education and employment. Below are just a few ideas for some disability-friendly recreational fun.

Cast a line

Whether it’s because so many of us love to fish or because those who do fish want to share the activity, many types of fishing equipment have been adapted to disability. The Van’s EZ cast, for example, is a device that enables someone with the use of only one arm or hand or limited hand function to independently cast a fishing pole and reel the line in. Mounted to the armrest of a wheelchair, lawn chair or other stable surface, this device holds the line in place as the user cocks the rod back and then releases it to cast at the perfect time as the user thrusts the rod forward. The line is thereby launched forward and can be retrieved by turning the reel handle with the same hand. Other devices include the Elec-tra-mate motorized reel and others like it or various rod holders and even knot-tying devices for those with limited or no hand strength or function.

View nature through a lens

Almost anyone with any level of function can find equipment to participate in wildlife viewing and/or photography. From autofocus, fixed focus, image-stabilizing binoculars, monoculars and spotting scopes to a wide variety of mounts, stands, and tripods, viewing equipment is versatile. Those with limited fine motor function can find off-the-shelf or adapted distance viewing devices within their full control. Anyone with limited strength and/or coordination can find some type of mount to hold viewing devices in position for use. Adaptations for photography exist to meet the limitations of many. Controls to take photos with remote, bite, and even sip & puff switches enable people with very limited or no hand or arm function to take photos. Some camera mounts offer motorized pan, tilt, zoom, and shutter release controls to enable their users to aim, focus, and take photos without touching the camera.

Aim for the big one

Shooting sports and hunting equipment have been adapted to accommodate nearly any disability. BE Adaptive Equipment makes a variety of shooting devices, including gun and archery mounts that attach to wheelchairs. Some of their products make shooting sports possible for users with limited and even no arm or hand function. Other shooting adaptations enable users with various levels of function to aim, pull triggers and/or simply support firearms or archery equipment. One device called a scope camera display combines viewing and photography with shooting sports by connecting a firearm and a 2.5″ LCD color monitor to display, video, or take photos of its target. The device can be used with any of the above adapted mounts.

Pedal the pass

A cycling enthusiast might find that one specific model or style of cycle is more suitable to his or her specific disability than another. A three-wheeled cycle might provide more stability for those with limited balance while a recumbent cycle might be easier to mount and dismount for others. Differing handlebars, brake levers, and other accessories could be optimal for some users with upper extremity limitations. Even bicycle height and weight are factors to consider for strength-limiting disabilities. Various wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, trekking poles, and other mobility devices simply make recreational mobility easier than others for those with disabilities to get around for recreation.

Develop a green thumb

For those with disabilities who enjoy domestic leisure time or simply being outside without doing specific activities, other types of equipment exist. Equipment for yard hobbies like tending to flowers or gardening is available in various styles or with features to accommodate users with limitations. Some yard tool boxes on wheels can serve as mobile working seats and benches for those who can’t stand long or have limited coordination while walking. From wide lawn shears and trimmers to long-handled rakes and shovels, yard tools to accommodate various disabilities are available from providers like the Gardening with Ease website. Sometimes the same standard tool made by one company offers a specific design that makes it more usable by people with disabilities than others.

Whether recreational equipment has been especially adapted to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities or a specific design just happens to work better for users with limitations, something exists to enable us all to play. This is a perfect time to explore those various types of equipment and our own interests to see how we can pursue activities of our choice. Disability should not deter us from joining many others who find summertime months the best time to play, so get out there and have some fun!

Chris Clasby lives in Missoula, Mont. He is an avid hunter and fisherman, and his work has centered on helping people with disabilities access the outdoors.

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