Waves or Woods?

By Nicholas Goodman, MiCAFE Network Specialist at Elder Law of Michigan

As Michigan summers are never as long as we’d like, many people take advantage of the beautiful weather to explore the state. For people who use wheelchairs, however, spontaneous excursions are not always feasible due to inaccessible terrain or buildings. Here are some resources for exploring nature in Michigan.

Michigan is famous for its beaches and forests and some are accessible for people who use wheelchairs. Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO) is an organization that serves wounded veterans and others with disabilities. With the goal of allowing disabled people to hunt and spend time in the woods, MiOFO provides assistance with necessary permits, ActionTrack wheelchairs (which can handle forest terrain), and accessible blinds built by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The DNR also provides listing on their Accessible Recreation page which includes:

  • Beaches
  • Cabins/Lodges
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hunting, and
  • Trails

If you prefer to see options for accessible trails on a map of Michigan, check out the website available from TrailLink. The map is made possible by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, whose mission is to “create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines, connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.”

Some wheelchair users have created their own platforms to share information about accessible locations. The family of Johnny Agar created a site specific to Michigan called Johnny’s Pass which allows users to contribute their experience with the accessibility of somewhere they have visited. In her own words, Johnny’s mom explains, “We are excited that at the click of a button, the mobility-challenged will have all the accessible information they need right at their fingertips. We want to be able to open up the world so that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy it.”

For those who prefer waves over woods, certain beaches on the Great Lakes are accessible as well. Lori’s Voice donates medical equipment to those who cannot afford it, but also special wheelchairs which can be used on sand. Holland State Park is one location you can borrow a wheelchair and get your feet wet.

Although not from Michigan, a blogger named Cory Lee shared his experience in Muskegon as a wheelchair user. Muskegon State Park rents manual wheelchairs made for the beach, but also an ActionTrack wheelchair which is electric and can handle rougher terrain.

I hope these resources provide some inspiration and opportunities for you to get out and enjoy the (short-lived) Michigan summer. What’s your favorite place to explore in Michigan?

Nicholas Goodman is a Network Specialist for MiCAFE. He has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since October 2013. As a Network Specialist, Nick assists Michigan seniors with benefit applications and serves as an advocate for the health and safety of seniors.