Coyote's Corner

Field Lessons and Games, Insights and Resources

The outdoors, a place of….Accessibility?

by Sara Hinck

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Part 1 of our series on Accessibility in the outdoors. Read part 2: Professor Valley, Place of…Accessibility.

All of us have access needs, we all have things that we need to do or have access to, to be able to interact and engage with the world, to feel comfortable with the world, to be able to meet our bodies’ needs. Just that, some of those needs have been much more normalized and accepted. Whereas other needs have not been.

Syren Nagakyrie, Founder of Disabled Hikers

Everyone deserves to be outside.

In the first if our three part series on Accessibility at Professor Valley Field Camp, we want to take a moment to highlight the many organizations that support CFI’s journey toward accessibility. Take a moment to learn more about the organizations outlined below that are doing important work to promote accessibility in the outdoors.

At Canyonlands Field Institute, we envision a world where all people have the right to enjoy all aspects of life. There is an abundance of evidence highlighting that time in the outdoors, in its variety of forms, from taking a walk through a metro park to hiking up to Corona Arch, provides an assortment of physical, mental, and emotional benefits, as well as can foster a sense of belonging.

However, many people with disabilities aren’t able to experience outdoor education or recreation, because of the plethora of barriers they face when trying to access natural spaces. The causes are complex and layered, but primary barriers include the inaccessibility of built environments, such as signage, trails, bathrooms, campsites, picnic, and rest areas, limited informative resources, and the affordability of adaptive equipment. But this doesn’t have to be the case. 

Throwback photo of students enjoying nature

How can outdoor organizations work to promote accessibility in its various forms?

“When we target support where it is needed most – when we create the circumstances that allow those who have been left behind to participate and contribute fully – everyone wins.”

Angela Glover Blackwell

There are many ways to build accessible and inclusive environments within outdoor education. Developing targeted solutions to meet the needs of people with disabilities helps the outdoor educational community grow. Equity-based targeted solutions have tremendous benefits and create what many advocates, like Cory Collins, call a “curb-cut effect.”

Everyone deserves to feel welcome at Professor Valley Field Camp

Canyonlands Field Institute is on a journey of developing our own targeted solutions to make Professor Valley Field Camp more accessible to people with disabilities. We are not on this journey alone, and want to highlight organizations who provided much needed insight for CFI. We cannot do this important work without the efforts of individual outdoorspeople with disabilities and the organizations that represent them. We are grateful to have a community within the outdoor sector guiding the way through transformative work, creating natural spaces that are accessible and inviting for all.

Read more about the infrastructural changes we are making in Part Two: Professor Valley, Place of Accessibility

Storyteller Highlight

The Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Women’s Adaptive Cycling Team, formed in 2019, was built with the vision to get more women involved in the growing sport of adaptive cycling. Female athletes were identified and provided the coaching and equipment to train and compete as a team on a national and global level.

National Ability Center makes recreation and outdoor adventures accessible to people of all abilities 365 days a year and across the state of Utah by harnessing the power or specialized equipment, techniques, and teaching methods.

Author Syren Nagakyrie

The Disabled Hiker’s Guide by Syren Nagakyrie is the first book of its kind to consider the diverse needs of people with disabilities in the outdoors. The book removes one of the barriers to access – a lack of information – by utilizing a rating system and detailed trail information designed for the disability community.

The Adaptive Sports Center, enhances the quality of life of people with disabilities through exceptional outdoor adventure activities. ASC programs are inclusive to families and friends, and empowers participants in their daily lives, as well as has a positive enduring effect on self-efficacy, health, independence and overall well-being from their base in Crested Butte, CO. 

Vasu Sojitra “ninjasticks” through the woods to center intersectionality in the outdoors. Vasu continues to challenge the biases that go with being a Disabled person of color through his work. This includes being the first adaptive athlete for The North Face, a founding member for The Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E Initiative, the co-founder of Inclusive Outdoors Project, and a Disability Access Strategist for The Avarna Group, In Solidarity Project and independently. 

The Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park in Castile, NY is a first-of-its-kind experience in nature designed for visitors on the autism spectrum and with a range of abilities. The ANT is enjoyable for all abilities and ages. 

We will leave you with two questions to think about about your own outdoor experience:

What are your access needs?

What information, services, or accommodations do you need, or expect to encounter before you engage in outdoor spaces?

Read part two of this Coyote’s Corner Mini-Series: “Professor Valley, a place of …. Accessibility” to learn more about the infrastructure developments taking place at Professor Valley Field Camp.

Author Spotlight: Sara Hinck

sara hinck bio photo

Growing up in the Bay Area of Northern California, the outdoors were an integral part of Sara’s upbringing, and through her personal experience she has seen the transformative and educational power of engaging with nature. While looking to interweave her passion for the outdoors, health equity, youth development, and service, she found herself being called back to Moab. Sara has been serving as the DEI Marketing & Fundraising Coordinator AmeriCorps Vista with CFI since January ’22. Her vision is to aid in developing more accessible pathways for diverse populations to find belonging and connectivity in natural spaces within the Colorado Plateau on their own terms.