Diversity in Outdoor Adventure Recreation

Diversity in Outdoor Adventure Programs:
A Summary and Critique

Jamie Grey

Adventure Recreation 2033
Thayer Raines
April 9, 2001

People with disabilities in the past have commonly been limited to experiencing outdoor programs that were segregated to only include the disabled. According to Sugerman (1996), this has historically been the only solution for overcoming "environmental barriers such as transportation, architecture, economics, and public attitudes" (p. 44). Diversity within an adventure program can present new challenges for the participants as well as opportunities for growth.
Sugerman displays how most people don\'t want to participate in programs designed specifically for the disabled, but they are interested in programs that integrate people both with and without disabilities. Activities such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and camping provide the right scenario for a diverse group of individuals to overcome their fears and to conquer a goal.
The Wilderness inquiry is an example of a modern program that integrates its participants for outdoor adventures. Their Mission Statement goes as follows: "Through the medium of outdoor adventures, Wilderness Inquiry provides opportunities that integrate people in experiences that inspire personal growth and enhance awareness of the natural environment. The underlying purpose of Wilderness Inquiry is to provide positive experiences that reduce stereotypes and empower people to push their perceived limitations" (www.wildernessinquiry.com). They offer adventurous activities such as Kayaking in Lake Superior or Dog sledding in the Superior National Forest of Minnesota. Most of the participants get involved because of the high adventure type of activities that are offered. The people that choose to participate commonly show that they want to push their boundaries and they are often trying an activity for the first time. This type of integrated environment provides a great learning experience for the disabled participants as well as for the other participants involved.
Instead of finding the weaknesses in the disabled participants, the groups find teamwork, cooperation and a greater sense of trust in each other. These programs help to break down social barriers between participants. By the end of an activity, the group as a whole creates a bond from the time spent together, the lessons learned, and the obstacles overcome.
Another organization displayed by Sugerman was Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation (MASR). "Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation (MASR) is a non - profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for persons with disabilities to actively participate in recreation, sports and leisure programs of their choice" (http://www.agate.net/pelle/). MASR also educates other community recreation providers on how to effectively include disabled participants into their programs.
Sugerman shows that MASR sponsors a canoeing clinic in conjunction with Unity College and the American Canoe Association. The program is available to offer the disabled a chance to learn the techniques of canoe and sea kayak paddling. During these clinics, kayak and canoe instructors from local businesses attend to learn more about integrating the disabled into their courses (Sugerman).
For any organization involved in adventure activities, integrating the programs can provide many positive results by exploring new challenges and over coming barriers. According to Sugerman, a diverse group will allow the participants to recognize each other as individuals and not as a label. Also, activities set in the outdoors present the perfect opportunity for people to overcome stereotypes and barriers. Allowing diversity in adventure recreation programs offers new experiences to people and can help expand existing businesses.
After reading this article in Parks and Recreation, Sugerman\'s argument for integrating adventure recreation programs with disabled individuals sounds reasonable and well supported by examples of organizations that have already worked with integrating their programs and have found success. The disabled that participated in the programs consistently expressed feelings of accomplishment, and success preceding the activity. The instructors from other local businesses that attend these integrated adventure programs learn how to work with disabled individuals, and pass the information on to other instructors. This type of diversity in an outdoor adventure program has a positive influence on the participants, and offers an opportunity for educators to learn more about integrating other programs.
This type of integration can be included in almost any type of adventure recreation program. Disabled individuals can benefit from this type of experience. This information provided will be very useful for current adventure providers as well as those in the