Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Guest Post from John Kenwright - his non-TrailRider days

The Lasher Sport BT beach wheelchair
will soon to be available for visitors
with paraplegia who come to Wilsons
Promontory NP
Hi everyone

David Stratton has asked me to write a few words about some of the other park programs that I manage in addition to the TrailRider program. In summary, as part of the Healthy Parks Healthy People branch at Parks Victoria, I work on projects that enable park visitors with disabilities to engage with nature and get active in our parks. The Healthy Parks Healthy People approach that Parks Victoria uses captures the fundamental links between our health and wellbeing and the health of ecosystems. This approach is also supported by strong research about the human need for connection to nature. 
A trained volunteer from the Walk in
the Park Program assisting a blind
visitor in the Great Otway NP

One of the community partnership programs that I manage is called the Walk in the Park program. This is a bushwalking program provided in selected parks for blind and vision impaired visitors. The program recruits community volunteers and trains them as park companions to assist blind and vision impaired visitors to explore our many spectacular park trails. The park companions assist the program participants with park orientation, reading of interpretive signs, describe the natural surroundings and provide opportunities for participants to connect with nature using their other senses. The program also provides social opportunities for the program participants who in many cases experience social isolation due to their disability. The Walk in the Park program is a partnership between Blind Sports Victoria and Parks Victoria




A family enjoying the beach at Wilsons
Promontory NP using a Parks Victoria
Hippocampe beach wheelchair
One of the other programs that I manage is the provision of park equipment that greatly assists visitors with different disabilities to explore coastal park beaches. Accessing beaches can be very difficult for visitors with mobility limitations and so Parks Victoria now provides beach wheelchairs of various designs for child and adult visitors to borrow. One new model that we recently trialled in partnership with the Spinal Unit at the Austin Hospital is the Lasher Sport BT beach chair. This lightweight wheelchair is well suited for visitors with paraplegia who wish to access the beach independently and will soon be available at Wilsons Promontory National Park. 
A young visitor using the Parks
Victoria electric Stairclimber in
Fairy Cave, Buchan Caves Reserve

Another new experience for visitors is better access to Fairy Cave at Buchan Caves Reserve. Parks Victoria recently introduced an electric Stairclimber for visitor use. The provision of this equipment now makes it possible for children and light-weight adults with disabilities to explore sections of this spectacular cave for the first time. 

As the environment is inextricably linked to our quality of life and our health the projects that I am involved with vary considerably but they all have the shared aim of improving park access and the park experience for visitors with disabilities. Nature, health and wellbeing are part of the same equation. 

For further information on accessibility and inclusion in parks managed by Parks Victoria go to http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for the work you do, John - all with such calm, good-natured, hard working, gracious determination.
    I feel so immensely lucky to live in a state like Victoria that has people like you working for a government department like Parks Vic nurturing not only our stunningly beautiful national parks, but also nurturing people living with all kinds of disabilities. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world.

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  3. Wow. Amazing. Fairy Cave looks incredible. Good work Sir.

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  4. I like "Sir". A title that few in Australia use - except Tony Abbott - but that gets used in the subcontinent in a completely different way to show respect. Very appropriate for our John

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