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The Kid Should See This

How do you make whitewater rafting accessible?

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Outdoor adventurer Eric Thompson has always made outdoor recreation the center of his life, even after he was paralyzed from the chest down. “I wasn’t gonna let it stop me. You know, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s not impossible. It’s just harder.”

Today he is an advocate for accessible recreation and the founder of Access On The Go, “a nonprofit adaptability business to help increase disability access to national parks around the country.”

cycling
In this video from PBS’ America Outdoors, the West Virginia-based class V river rafting guide shares his story, including the “customizations to adaptive river rafting that keep him on the water he loves.” Host Baratunde Thurston explains:

“The original raft was designed like an inflatable roll cage, to keep someone completely out of the water in the event it tips over… Eric’s crucial modification was the addition of a high back seat, which keeps him upright and lets him steer and paddle using only his arm muscles.”

prepping the raft
whitewater rafting
And Thompson continues to champion the expansion of this access for everyone:

“The largest minority in the United States are people with disabilities, both in West Virginia and across the US. And so all the activities we do here, be it biking and climbing and boating and caving… you know, any of those activities, with a little bit of hard work and bubble gum and duct tape, there’s an ability to make an adaptive version of it, that allows people of all abilities to enjoy the same thing.”

accessible raft on the river
Watch these related videos next:
The Rolling Dance Chair, an omnidirectional, hands-free wheelchair
• Why Do Rivers Curve?
• Clear Kayak + Crystal Clear Water + Manatees
• Llangollen Canal, a 4.5-minute boat tour of the engineering marvel
• What’s it like to fly a 1902 Wright Brothers Glider in Kitty Hawk?

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