Winter Brings Opportunities for Inclusive Recreation
‘Tis the start of the season for winter sports here in western Massachusetts – and thanks to a wide array of local resources, opportunities for recreation are available to all. Taking advantage of community resources and the local landscape, organizations from all across the state have worked to create a large network of recreational opportunities that are truly accessible to all – both indoors and out.
Western MA families can take advantage of opportunities to participate in active recreational activities within groups with diverse abilities, and can learn about and/or utilize adaptive technology through special events held by local organizations and athletic leagues.
Participation in recreational opportunities that are truly inclusive to all is a great way for families to experience diversity and to learn from the skills and life experiences of others; additionally, inclusive recreational environments help to provide opportunities for folks of varying abilities to enjoy recreational activities together.
Massachusetts’ Department of Conservation and Recreation offers a Universal Access Program in the state’s parks, making activities like canoeing, fishing, camping, and even ice skating accessible to all visitors. During the winter months, the DCR offers adaptive ice skating to western Massachusetts families at Fitzpatrick Arena in Holyoke once monthly through March. Open to individuals with disabilities and their families and/or friends, these events offer free access to adaptive technology (including sleds and walkers) and instruction for people of all abilities, but families need to register in advance.
Further opportunities for ability-inclusive outdoor adventures are provided by All Out Adventures, a Northampton-based organization providing year-round outdoor recreational opportunities for people of all abilities. Offering a monthly calendar that highlights a variety of different activities (including indoor skating, as well as a variety of types of skiing and snowshoeing once the snow comes), All-Out Adventures events are truly open to all ages, as well as folks with any kind of ability-based differences, no matter their roots – participants with physical, cognitive, psychiatric, age-related, or any other form of disability can easily be supported. Participants taking advantage of All Out Adventures’ adaptive technology are welcome to bring friends and/or families members to participate alongside them.
The Center for Human Development (CHD) offers year-round opportunities for both indoor and outdoor adaptive recreation to people of all skills level and age groups, as well as their friends and/or family members for certain activities. Offering both indoor and outdoor adaptive sports and activities, CHD’s wide array of programs includes indoor activities like basketball, bowling, and soccer and seasonal activities like cycling and skiing – all designed for participants of varying abilities. Many of CHD’s programs are specifically for participants who use wheelchairs and/or walkers for mobility (such as wheelchair basketball and sled hockey), while other programs are open to those of all abilities (like bowling and paralympic sport goalball). Check the organization’s events calendar to find weekly and monthly opportunities! Families are also invited to join CHD by volunteering to help with the organization’s programs – an opportunity that brings with it valuable opportunities for experiential learning and the chance to support important community programs.
Families in search of lower-impact opportunities to participate in inclusive activities can look to the offerings of Whole Children, a Hadley organization designed to help support children and teens with special needs but offering inclusive classes of all kinds to participants of any and all abilities. Whole Children’s programs all incorporate the teaching and practice of social skills, and focus on helping participants find their own individual strengths. Offerings include everything from dance, kung fu, and gymnastics, to cooking, chorus, and graphic novel appreciation. Whole Children’s winter session begins on January 11, 2016!
In addition to participating in local opportunities for inclusive recreation, families can explore the world of adaptive technology by watching a local sled hockey game. The Western Mass Knights is based at Westfield’s Amelia Park Arena, and plays games in Newington, Connecticut – call the arena to inquire about the team’s game schedule and watch from the stands to learn about the fascinating ways in which hockey has been adapted to fit the needs of all players.
Further support in pursuing inclusive recreational opportunities in western Massachusetts can be found on Everyone Outdoors, a blog written to promote opportunities for exploring the state’s parks and other outdoor gems. And in the warmer months, embark on an adventure on one of the state’s many accessible paths and trails! Be sure to check out their list of places to go in Massachusetts, which includes Fort River Trail in Hadley, Summit House on Mt. Holyoke, and Mount Tom, Holyoke.
[Photo credits: Skiing, MA DCR; Basketball & Ice Hockey, CHD]