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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Recreation Sports

Billiards | Bowling | Camping | Flying | Gardening | Golf | Hand Cycling


This is a great game for wheelchair users. The rules and regulations are basically the same as in the stand-up game; individuals with upper body limitations must stay seated (one bun on the chair at all times) during play and are allowed to use adaptive devices for shooting control. Modified pool cues or a roller attachment at the end of a cue stick allow players with limited hand use to enjoy the sport and be competitive with the best players.

Some wheelchair players competequite well against nondisabled players. Contact the National Wheelchair Pool Players Association, 703-817-1215.

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Wheelchair bowling, like basketball, emerged as part of social and physical rehab programs for disabled World War II vets. The sport is easy to learn and does not require enormous strength. It is played just as the stand-up version, with the exception of special push tools and ball-drop ramps for bowlers with limited arm mobility. Special snap handle balls are available for those who can't get a good grip on the ball. Can you do well against nondisabled bowlers? Ask George Holscher, a para from Virginia Beach, or Shawn Beam from Fort Worth. They both rolled perfect 300s in 2012.

To find out about leagues and adaptive gear, contact the American Wheelchair Bowling Association: 713-849-9052.

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Chair Bowler's Perfect Game
"I know I said I can't feel my knees, but let me tell you, they were weak." So says George Holscher as he rolled the last ball in the 10th frame for the first 300 of his bowling career.

For George and his team, it was just another Monday night of bowling league, November 26, 2012, at Indian River Lanes in Virginia Beach, VA. Little did he know how special this night was going to be for him and all those who watched as the 12th ball rolled down the lanes and George rolled into wheelchair bowling history. He became only the second person in the American Wheelchair Bowling Association's 50+ year history to throw a perfect game. Shawn Beam of Fort Worth, TX was the first, in May of 2012.

"When you're on a streak like that, the whole house gets quiet," Holscher says. "Everyone else stops bowling. It gets tense." With a deep breath to steady his nerves, he let the last throw leave his fingers. "The 60 feet to the pins seemed like 60 miles. Everyone just went crazy. It was amazing."

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Some people's idea of roughing it is being far enough from home that WiFi will no longer work. While "rough" is a relative term, there is more to camping than getting out of the city service area. It's a way to be close to nature, to simplify, to cut the electronic umbilical cords and conveniences we take for granted. Getting away might mean car or motorhome camping within a designated site. It might mean getting off the beaten path and deep into the woods. Wheeling into the wilderness isn't easy for people who are paralyzed, but it's not impossible with a bit of preparation and determination.

Where to go? State and national parks are a good place to start. As mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, these parks have accessible accommodations, bathrooms and level ground -- usually.

Progress toward accessibility continues but you can find many camp areas that are already inclusive. Be prepared and be creative. To get started, check with your state's outdoor recreation or state parks agency. You may need to make reservations.

What to bring? There may be no way to avoid the necessities of mobility, medications and hygiene. But go lightly -- you don't need the handheld satellite TV or the Swiss Army microwave. Remember, the idea is to escape the mundane and the routine.

Resources: U.S. National Parks are visited by more than 275 million visitors every year. Includes 43,162 miles of shoreline.

Residents of the United States with disabilities can obtain a free Access Pass, a lifetime entrance pass to over 2,000 national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas and wildlife refuges. The Pass also provides a 50 percent discount on fees for camping, swimming, parking, boat launching and tours.

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By its very nature flight is restrictive -- by gravity, of course, and by licensing agencies and cost, but not necessarily by paralysis. If a person has normal health and has either quick reflexes or a suitable alternative control, most likely he or she can fly. Flying does not require great strength although good headwork is a must. Hundreds of paraplegics, quadriplegics and amputees have successfully flown over the years, even as commercial pilots, having proven their abilities to the FAA and other licensing authorities throughout the world.

A good information resource is the International Wheelchair Aviators, which began in 1972 as a monthly "fly to lunch" group of four paraplegic aviators from Southern California. IWA has information and resources on adaptive flying. IWA: 817-229-4634.

Freedom's Wings International, a New Jersey organization, has a fleet of adapted motorless sailplanes. Gliders are towed into the sky by a regular airplane and then released for a quiet ride back to the airport. When conditions permit, sailplane pilots ride the natural thermal currents to stay aloft for hours. People with disabilities can come along either as passengers or by joining the flight training program. FWI: toll-free 1-800-382-1197.

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Digging in the dirt, planting seeds and growing flowers or food is pleasurable and rewarding. Gardening provides exercise and mental stimulation.

Many people claim it's also therapeutic -- there's an organization called the American Horticultural Therapy Association that promotes physical and mental health through gardens and plants. Gardening can relieve tension. With its clear cause-and-effect nature, it can foster a sense of expectation, of accomplishment, self-reliance and responsibility. Moreover, with some adaptations (raised beds and special tools, for example), gardening can be barrier-free and fully inclusive.

The Paralysis Resource Center library carries several books on accessible gardening.

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Such a simple game. Maddeningly simple. Simply maddening. Hit the ball down the grassy fairway, get it on the green, and sink it in the hole. Easier to say than do, but that's part of the fun of it. The game is quite adaptable to the seated player. Custom clubs and special carts, some with single-passenger swivel seats and tires that won't damage the greens, open the game to players who have limited leg function.

Golf is growing in popularity among disabled players, not only because of equipment innovation but also because of the changes in law. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires all public accommodations, including golf courses, to provide goods and services to people with disabilities on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. Public entities, such as states and local governments, must make golf courses and other facilities accessible to people with disabilities and all new golf course facilities must be accessible.

The ADA also requires removal of architectural barriers in existing facilities when "readily achievable," or when it can be done without much difficulty or expense for that facility. Before you show up at a golf club expecting an equal basis experience, check ahead. You may need to work with the management and perhaps enlist the help of organizations such as the United States Golf Association, 908-234-2300; or American Disabled Golfers Association, 772-335-3820.

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Hand Cycling
Hand cycling really took off once the technology came of age with sophisticated three-wheel, multi-geared cycles. Hand cranking has become quite popular across the country and abroad, and for good reason. It's fun, fast and family oriented. It's great for fitness, too. A rider can move the three-wheelers along at a steady 20 mph pace, enough to keep up with nondisabled bike riders. Many riders have hand-powered over the thin air of Colorado's highest mountain passes, or even around the world.

Hand cycling has emerged as an elite competitive sport, too; it's included in the Paralympics. The handcycle is used in triathlons for the cycling portion of the competition and in cycling events like century rides. There are several variations on the hand-power theme: Some cycles clamp on to a standard manual wheelchair, with a chair-driven front wheel to more or less pull the chair along. Clamp-ons are best for cruising around the neighborhood. Serious road travel or competition requires a trike: they are lighter and deliver more power to the drive wheel, have greater stability at speed, and offer much less wind resistance. The big wheelchair companies Invacare and Sunrise Medical offer handcycle lines.

For information about bikes see Freedom RyderVarna Handcycles or Bike-On.com.

The United States Hand Cycling Federation (USHF) is the official governing body for recreational and competitive hand cycling in America. USHF, 720-239-1360.

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The Adaptive Sports Center (ASC)A non-profit organization located in Colorado that provides year-round recreation activities for people with disabilities and their families.

Achilles Track Club Achilles is a worldwide organization, represented in sixty countries. Our mission is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics, promote personal achievement, enhance self esteem, and lower barriers.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Golf for People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Hunting for People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Sailing for People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Mindfullness (PDF)

American Association of AdaptedSportWorks to enhance the health, independence and self-sufficiency of youths with physical disabilities by facilitating adapted sports programs in local communities, in cooperation with schools, parks and recreation, YMCA/YWCAs, hospitals, parents and other groups.

Blaze Sports501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that advances the lives of youth and adults with physical disability through sport and healthy lifestyles. BlazeSports provides sports training, competitions, summer camps and other sports and recreational opportunities for youth and adults with spinal cord injury, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, visual impairment or blindness as well as other physical disabilities.

Challenged AmericaThe Challenged America program is dedicated to introduce sailing as a therapeutic and rehabilitative enhancing activity to individuals with disabilities, their loved ones, and professionals in healthcare and rehabilitation.

Disabled Sports USAOffers nationwide sports rehabilitation programs to anyone with a permanent physical disability. Activities include winter skiing, water sports, summer and winter competitions, fitness and special sports events. DSUSA, as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is the governing body for winter sports for all athletes with disabilities, and for summer sports for amputee athletes. Nationwide chapter network of sports and rec programs.

The Handicapped Scuba AssociationPromotes the physical and social well being of people with disabilities through the exhilarating sport of scuba diving.

Hand CyclingWhether for fitness, serious competition, or pure recreation, here's a sport that can be enjoyed by many and provide quite the "ride" at the same time.

National Wheelchair Basketball AssociationBasketball is perhaps the oldest organized sport for athletes in wheelchairs. The game is fast and fun, and played in dozens of cities across the U.S.

The National Center on AccessibilityNSCD provides recreation for children and adults with disabilities. In addition to recreational downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, NSCD provides year-round competition training to ski racers with disabilities. Summer recreation opportunities include biking, hiking, in-line skating, sailing, therapeutic horseback riding, white water rafting, baseball, fishing, rock climbing for the blind, and camping.

Piers Park Sailing CenterA non-profit community sailing center that uses Boston Harbor and the seas beyond to provide year-round recreational, educational, and personal growth opportunities for people of all ages and abilities!

Quad RugbyFormerly known as murderball, Quad Rugby is a game for quads who can push a chair. Fast, rough and very competitive.

The United States Tennis AssociationTennis has been adapted for the wheelchair player: the ball can bounce two times. This allows chair-players to give standup players a run for the their money. The sport is growing fast and is very competitive at the elite level. Click on "community tennis."

World T.E.A.M. SportsUnites people with and without disabilities through unique athletic events taking place all over the world.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.