A Stroll in the Park Made Easy

Millennium Park in Chicago, IL. Photo courtesy of Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.

Countdown to spring: 9 days. Warm weather, budding trees and flowers, squirrels roaming about, birds chirping… you know the rest. With the season fast approaching, local parks are making the move to become accessible, bringing beautiful landscapes and nature to everyone.

In Windsor, Ontario, Lakeside Park has been constantly patching up the stairs that run down the middle of the park. Now the town is hoping to remove them entirely to make the park accessible. The hope is to replace the stairs with a footpath; discussions are still ongoing. Read more about this story here.

Named after the Canadian novel “Beautiful Joe,” Beautiful Joe Park in Meaford, Ontario currently has an extremely steep incline and non-accessible washrooms. The Beautiful Joe Heritage Society is looking to construct accessible public washrooms and install a footbridge that would span the park. Read more about this story here.

If you’d like to learn more about established accessible parks, check out Bowen Park, which has been recognized by the Canadian Institute of Planners as a candidate for the best public space in Canada. You can also take a look at Millennium Park in Chicago, IL.

One example that stood out is the parks of Massachusetts. The Buttonbush Trail at the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Johnny Kelley Trail in Dennis include guide ropes and Braille text. Broadmoor Sanctuary in Natick offers a 1/4-mile handicapped-accessible trail and boardwalk for bird watching. The Department of Conservation and Recreation also hosts accessible hiking programs with mountain wheelchairs, push joggers and lots of rest stops at many state parks.

With the nice weather fast approaching (fingers crossed), Savaria is always excited to hear about parks and outdoor attractions turning to accessible solutions!


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The Passion of Parasports

Sledge Hockey at the ParaSport Ontario Winter Games

Did you know that the Olympic Games include 35 sports, differing from the Paralympics only by 2 game offerings? Buzz about the 2012 Olympics to be held this summer in London, England has begun. And that means… the Paralympics are fast approaching as well!

Parasports are adapted or new sports specifically designed for athletes with a physical disability or limitation. Athletes may use a wheelchair, have a prosthetic limb, or suffer from blindness. The official parasport games are virtually endless, with 33 sports internationally recognized by parasport organizations. The most popular are athletics (similar to track and field), cycling, soccer, goalball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair curling and sledge hockey.

The most widely known parasport organization is the Paralympic Games. The Paralympics run parallel to the Olympics, in the same host city, and include either the summer or winter games.

There are also many local parasport organizations, one of which is ParaSportOntario. The organization just held their annual Winter Games in Huntsville, Ontario. Savaria staff member Ryan Bedard was invited to attend as a VIP and was thrilled at the opportunity to see these incredible athletes compete. This weekend, he witnessed extreme talent and dedication.

“With this being my first ParaSport Ontario Games, I was unsure what to expect. I was amazed, inspired and humbled all at the same time. ParaSport’s athletes exemplify sportsmanship in the truest form. Their passion and competitiveness is unmatched,” says Ryan. “I look forward to attending my next games.”

Paralympic competitors often train for 15-20 hours a week on average, while balancing a full-time career. Many high school/college athletic programs have events where their able-bodied athletes take part in a parasport – such as basketball players playing wheelchair basketball. Those participants are then truly able to understand the strength that Para athletes must have in order to compete.

Paralympic gold medalist Adam Hall says “I was born with a disability, but that’s what life is about. It’s about changing things that are difficult and making them into things you can do. If I was to go on a running race with you, I’d be the one with the disability. But come and have a ski with me and you’d be the one with the disability.”

So congratulations to ParaSport Ontario on their 2012 Winter Games. We, at Savaria, cannot wait for the summer games. And to all of our friends, check out the links below and get involved! Parasports are such a great way to have fun and stay active.









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