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It all depends on how you face the challenges of your disability. Life is an adventure and even with limited mobility you can create a rich, experiential life for yourself or someone in your family who has a disability. What if you knew that persons with visual impairments, autism, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and hemiplegia could have a blast whitewater rafting all year long?
Before you conjure up startling TV or Internet images of rafters battling brutal rapids, one after another, sometimes getting thrown out of the raft and floating helplessly down a wild, rock-filled river, there are a few objective (and encouraging) things you should know.
Stretches of rivers are rated on their safety, technical difficulty, and skill level required to successfully navigate in a raft. It’s called the International Scale of River Difficulty. There are six classes, starting with Class I—rated Easy—which means the waves are small, the passages are clear, and there are no serious obstacles. Class II is Medium, which means the rapids are moderately difficult with clear passages, and that stretch of river requires experience, plus a suitable outfit and boat. And Class VI?
Neither you nor anyone else, for that matter, should be rafting a Class VI stretch of river, which is deemed “unraftable”. What does this mean for a person with limited mobility? Start at Class I and work your way up, but only if river rafting floats your boat. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) That said, don’t just make a reservation with a rafting company and head for the river. Use logic.
Research Whitewater Rafting Companies
Since you’ve already learned that people with disabilities are spending amazing days exploring rivers and basking in nature, it’s safe to assume that there are rafting companies and organizations that specialize in rafting trips for individuals with limited mobility. If you’re out West, you might want to contact Disabled Sports USA Far West. You can tell by the number of wheelchair vans parked near the facility in the summertime that many people with disabilities find their bliss in a rubber boat. The rafting trips are open to anyone who can pass a basic float test with a life-jacket on. If you or your family member can do that, get in the raft and get ready for the ride of your life.
The organization focuses on Class I through III river stretches. You can begin with a Class I excursion to gain experience, and then work your way up to Class III. Their web site (www.dsusafw.org) also features other adaptive sports that might give you that adrenalin rush. The smooth trips are suitable for rafters with severe disabilities and/or 13 years or younger. Apparently they reserve the bumpy rides for rafters 14 years old and up.
If you don’t live west of the Mississippi, check the Web for East Coast companies and organizations that offer river rafting for people with disabilities.
The Most Important Things to Know About Rafting
- It’s as safe as most any other sport you’ll undertake, and specialized rafting companies make absolutely sure of it.
- The consumption of alcohol and drugs before or while on a river trip is unwise, to say the least.
- Follow all safety precautions outlined by your rafting guide. Wear your helmet and personal flotation device at all times.
- Be prepared to get wet! Part of rafting’s thrill is having cool river water splashing your body on a hot, summer day.
When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.
If you’ve always dreamed of whitewater rafting but haven’t taken the plunge, there’s no time like the present to experience the excitement of life still to come!