Since 2017, the RAD Recreation Adapted Society has been giving people with mobility restrictions a chance to enjoy the outdoors on their own terms. Thanks to support from the City of Langford, it is about to get even easier to access those services.
Founded by accessibility advocate and consultant Tanelle Bolt, who is paraplegic, RAD rents out specialized equipment designed to make activities like golf, mountain biking, cycling, surfing, or even enjoying the beach possible for people who otherwise couldn’t even dream of moving anywhere but smooth pavement without the help of special facilities and helpers.
“Having access to recreation is a human right as stated in (Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and there is little to no support for independent access,” Bolt said.
Her non-profit is unique because it allows people to enjoy accessible outdoor recreation with full independence, rather than having to go to a specialized facility, therefore restricting where and when you get to have fun.
RAD simply provides the equipment, often with Bolt personally delivering it wherever in B.C. you are, or putting it on a Helijet helicopter when they have extra cargo space and are going in the right direction – the rest is up to the client.
It is also providing a service no one else is, Bolt said. Beyond the basic rehabilitation people receive after suffering a traumatic injury, she said, such as teaching them how to use a basic wheelchair, the only way to try something like a paragolfer – a device which helps people stand upright so they can golf conventionally – would be to purchase one for around $25,000.
“I ended up in a $17,000 sit-ski that I am afraid of and no longer ride. It should be like going to rent hockey skates to go play on the rink. You should be able to rent a sledge or a mountain trike (off-road wheelchair) the same way.”
RAD’s first-ever gear shed is set to open at Langford Lake in the spring, providing a physical location where accessible gear is available for rent. Bolt hopes it will reduce the amount of travel required to get gear to clients.
The shed will also provide an opportunity for researchers to collect data on the effectiveness of accessible equipment and the positive impact it has on users. The hope there is to spark much-needed investment in the field and the expansion of RAD, which Bolt envisions becoming a franchise with gear sheds in multiple locations.
Langford Mayor Stew Young is happy to see the gear shed getting closer to opening, noting it is the result of several years of work with Bolt.
“It’s going to be a great thing for our community, and the work Tanelle has done being a voice for accessibility has been great,” he said. “We are trying to be the sports capital for everyone, so everyone has an opportunity to participate, and that means making sure there is accessibility.”
For Bolt however, seeing the smile on clients’ faces when they get to use gear that’s right for them is enough to make all the work worthwhile.
“The first time I was on a handcycle for recreation, taking an extra handcycle out of my girlfriend’s underground parking in Vancouver, and we rode 13 kilometres that day, it was outstanding, and that is what I want to give people,” she said. “I want to give them their freedom back, give them freedom and independence that they maybe never had, and I want to make sure they are still included with their groups of friends in places they feel comfortable.”
To make a donation to support RAD’s work, learn more about the gear they offer, or to contact Bolt about consulting work on accessible design, visit radsociety.ca.
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