Friday, June 13, 2014

The Therapeutic Recreation Journal

As an ex-academic I have developed a sneaking regard for The Academic Paper. Many thanks to Christina Bullivant at Parks NSW for drawing my attention to Hiking Excursions for Persons with Disabilities: Experiences of Interdependence

This 2009, Canadian paper looks at the actual experience of being a rider and, as the title suggests, explores the interdependence that emerges between the disabled passenger and the hard working sherpas.

I was particularly interested to read the two bits I have put in the picture here about "Not a wheelbarrow" and "Giving up control"

Both of these I know to be an issue worth discussing. The control issue almost stopped me from taking my first ever TrailRider trek in Canada. My fear was precisely this - that I would have to surrender control.

The wheelbarrow issue, especially given that my shorthand verbal picture always refers to the wheelbarrow tyre, is one that troubles some disability advocates who worry that the rider is dehumanised by becoming "baggage" in the TrailRider. The research seems to me to dispel that quite specifically because the experience of being out there outweighs any misgivings.

One page from the paper - the one that really caught my eye. Click to read the paper.

14 comments:

  1. This paper brings up a lot of feelings for me - about asking too much of the sherpas and the potential risk to their well-being.
    I always worry when we ask people to be sherpas that they'll be injured, or be resentful of the all the hard work.
    But at the end of all TrailRider hikes I've participated in, I've been witness to a spectacular sense of shared elation, an equal euphoria, and a profound sense of achievement between the rider and the sherpas.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is indeed a knife-edge (perhaps that makes it sound too sharp and delicate)

    How amazing it is to see this written about. Also to see the word "sherpa" in use in 2009!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can only imagine what it must be like for you both, in particular you Dave. Reading the article above gives it a perspective that I hadn't considered before but makes perfect sense that control and lack of independence would be issues to think about.
    Keep riding those trails!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment Chris. I don't like using the word "journey" but it has been a remarkable one. This article opens up so many things to consider

      Delete
  4. Thanks for sharing, Dave. Interesting, indeed. - Kelly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is interesting indeed. Good to see you here

      Delete
  5. Excellent insights around an important understanding between people! - Bernie

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love reading the article and the comments. It's amazing. We encourage the "sherpas" to try riding in the TrailRider as part of the training or other opportunities - like our recent 2nd Annual Community Walk-About. Bringing awareness of how it feels, what the sensations are and see from the rider's point of view and being able to be a part of a team contributing to the experience. We have decided to make our Walk-About an annual event to bring the TrailRiders into our community allowing others to participate who might not have done so. Even with non-verbal riders we see from the first ride almost how much more relaxed they are especially when out in nature. We notice with riders how much more community building it creates with the volunteers, who sometimes don't know the riders, become familiar and meeting/greeting happens with them in different areas of our community. We would love to see a TrailRider in every community. What the Walk-About did was bring awareness to many who volunteered that day. Being part of a team represented by individuals, businesses, support agencies and care-providers had them participate with pride and got them thinking about who they would love to take out into the trails. Each team has since been challenged to bring their team into the trails at least once throughout our season. Love what you're doing David. Here are pictures http://prmos.org/index.html. If you can feel the enthusiasm and joy from just looking - you've got it. Now off to the trails we go :) Always - CC and the PRMOS Team, Powell River, BC, Canada

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great, as ever to hear from you.

      My favourite quote from this paper matches what you have said in your comment:

      "The TrailRider® based hiking program presented, not a scenario of dependence based on incompetence or helplessness, but a shared commitment to a common interest in hiking. It did, however, take some reflection for the participants to come to this conclusion, given the social backdrop against which disability is constructed and portrayed."

      Delete
  7. This was a really interesting paper that draws out so much of what we have discussed during our conversations at Parks Victoria and Rural Access. The Sherpa and Rider relationship that is created when we enter into a trail rider experience together is a really complex and fascinating one. It requires the two parties (sherpas and rider) to immediately assume a level of trust and respect, as if the Trail Rider has merged or created one entity of three individual beings....truly unique.
    I love being out there and wish it happened a little more often, so as a Sherpa I can say whole heartedly that the extra energy exerted during a hike with the trail rider just makes it all the more intense and fulfilling. Thanks for the post David, a real good one

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kriss. There was a quote from this paper that I put in my reply to PRMOS just above here which seemed to me to sum it up.

      I am urging my wheelie friend Kate to head to Halls Gap and experience the SVP.

      Delete
  8. This is a very interesting article. I have been a Sherpa for a number of park visitors with a disability using the TrailRider chair in park situations and in community events. I have noticed that some people in wheelchairs who are accustomed to operating their wheelchair independently do find it initially difficult being pushed/pulled in a TrailRider. Having to rely on others for their mobility and giving up their much cherished remaining independence for a period is challenging. For those who do not self-propel their wheelchair, using a TrailRider did not seem to be an issue. Building confidence and trust in the Sherpas when in the TrailRider was both challenging and rewarding for most chair users, irrespective of how independent they were. Their anxiety quickly disappeared a hundred metres along a spectacular park trail as they realised that they were not going to be tipped out of the chair.
    I trained with and was a support crew team member for a Parks Victoria team in the 2013 Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker event. This event went through five of our parks and teams were required to complete the 100 kilometre challenging course under 48hours. One of our team members had quadriplegia and used a TrailRider chair in the event. During the months of training preparation and during the event, Bruce was an active member of the team and contributed to the in many ways – he certainly was not just a passenger! He provided valuable input in the design of Sherpa harnesses for the steep trail sections and greatly assisted with sourcing equipment for the event. He provided much needed psychological support in urging his tired team mates (sherpas) on during the gruelling sections of the event. He also inspired many other Oxfam teams along the way who were contemplating withdrawing from the event. During the night sections of the walk he helped guide his team mates along the narrow bushy trail sections by holding a flashlight on a pole. In many ways he was regarded as the team leader! If you wish to watch the video on the Oxfam team go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTpgYvCYv1s
    John Kenwright
    Community Activation Coordinator
    Parks Victoria


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John - how great to read your comment. As an aside to other readers I must add that it is John Kenwrght's energy and passion and methodical approach that has enable the TrailRider to become what it is in Australia today.

      The Oxfam experience, which I watched from the sidelines, emphasised so many vital points that you have commented on. The word that summed this up for me was the one used to describe Bruce's role - "passenger" at the outset - "pilot" by the end.

      There is something especially gratifying in reading about something that we know so well in this considered and serious format. I look forward to reading your paper.

      Delete

iPad, iPhone beware! Many people comment and lose their work. To avoid this use the Anonymous option which is safe. Tell me who you are though!

Thank you for taking the time to comment. You can remain anonymous if you prefer (just select Anonymous from the bottom of the 'Comment As' list)

If you don't like the idea of joining something else out there to keep in touch with TrailRider Tales consider registering your email with this blog to be kept informed when there are new posts or replies to your comment.