The Wheely Big Bushwalk: a fun day out for people in wheelchairs, friends, family and others!

Story by SBS news 6.30pm report on 3rd Dec 2016:

Events for International Day of People with Disability are so often indoors, focused on concrete infrastructure, lifts and ramps. And yet, the emotional, physical and mental benefits of spending time in natural places are relevant to everyone regardless of age, race or ability.

That’s why this year National Parks Association of NSW celebrated ability on International Day of People with Disability by spending time outdoors, in Sydney’s beautiful native bushland.

Last Saturday 3rd December, people from all over Sydney met at the Narrabeen Lagoon to attend the Wheely Big Bushwalk event and tackle the 8.4km lagoon circuit track.

Kevin Evans, CEO of the National Parks Association of NSW said the event was a tremendous success with over 50 people turning out to participate.

“Sydney has some truly amazing natural areas. We are excited to provide people of all abilities with an opportunity to explore these sensational places,” said Kevin Evans.

“The Narrabeen Lagoon track is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through positive action. The Northern Beaches council have revolutionised access in the Sydney region by providing a fulfilling way for more of their community explore natural places.”

Participants started the track at 10.45am, and returned back to the base station between 2-3 hours later.

Helen Smith, one of the event organisers, and herself a wheelchair user, commented on the reaction of participants upon completing the circuit.

“Everyone’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. They all arrived back with huge smiles on their faces, asking us when we would be running the next one!”, said Helen.

The Narrabeen Lagoon circuit is particularly meaningful to Helen as it was the first bushwalk she went on since becoming wheelchair user back in 2015. At the time, she was still in hospital, and just desperate to escape that sterile environment, she explains.

“I loved that feeling of getting outdoors again, and rediscovering the natural world from a new perspective. I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to help other people discover this amazing track too”, said Helen.

National Parks Association of NSW is stepping up as leaders in access to natural places and are working with Wildwalks to provide better bushwalking track note information.

“Access to natural places has traditionally been solved with concrete infrastructure, meaning that many users are limited to extremely short tracks when they are capable of tackling so much more”, explains Matt McClelland, owner of Wildwalks.

“We are developing a new way of looking at accessibility: a framework that improves access through better information”, Matt said.

“We believe that much of the existing infrastructure (tracks, trails, buildings, toilets) in NSW is already accessible to many people, we just need to figure out how to communicate it effectively”, concludes Matt.

The Wheely Big Bushwalk was funded by Family and Community Services and Northern Beaches Council, and supported by a range of local disability, conservation and recreation groups around Sydney.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *