Activity Adaptations & Adaptive Equipment
Adaptive Athletics Organizations & Resources
These organizations are the best in the business of adaptive athletics and equipment. For anyone considering adaptive outdoor recreation activities, this is where to start. Information, training, and more is available on a variety of activities.
Outdoor Gear & Equipment
Several companies support inclusion and accessibility in the outdoors by developing and selling adaptive gear and equipment. These retailers help eliminate the barriers that can impact participation and performance. Please see individual activities on this page for specifics.
Access & Ramps
Outdoor activities can often take place in areas where uneven terrain and elevated or lowered surfaces can pose mobility or transfer challenges. Access mats, ramps, and lifts can aid in addressing these challenges. Providing individuals with improved access to these environments helps strengthen inclusive practices and further promote occupational participation for all.
EZ-ACCESS: Ramps & lifts
Sportaid: Outdoor Mobility Equipment
Paddling & Surfing
Paddling & surfing offer a diverse range of customizable adaptations to best promote independence on an individual basis. Typical adaptations include equipment or mechanisms for self-propelling, providing additional trunk and core support, and transferring into a kayak, canoe, or onto a board. Other areas of support include increasing the stability of the vessel with outriggers, having adequate transferring benches and ramps, ensuring terrain access (see Access & Ramps), cushioning and/or positioning consideration, and arm/wrist/hand adaptations among other unique circumstances.
Stoke for Life: Adaptive Watersports
Climbing grants individuals with a variety of levels of independence and support based on a per-person basis. Climbing requires equipment for all who participate, and thus adaptive equipment may not be necessary. Some potential adaptions include adaptive/full-body harnesses, assisted brake devices, custom shoes, hand grips, and pulley systems.
Several companies offer a variety of walking/trekking poles which can be used therapeutically or recreationally. Poles can reduce the direct impact on joints and muscles of the lower limbs by redistributing body weight carried by the legs. Poles are particularly useful when transversing steep descents, where harsher impacts and faster momentum can disrupt balance or cause lower limb pain. Nordic walking and the use of poles can also support postural stability, stride length, bilateral movement, and gait stability.
Swimming promotes motor coordination, strength, independence, and joy. Individuals with varying ability levels can benefit from learning to swim. Organizations aimed at adaptive swimming programs detail techniques for teaching water safety, utilizing personal flotation devices, and promoting independence in the water. Aquatic therapy is also practiced by both OTs and PTs, making those with experience in these practice areas ideal for connecting with at a community level. Additional considerations to how the water can be accessed should be made.
USA Swimming: Disability Committee
Sunsational Swim School: Adaptive Swimming Techniques
SeaOtter Swim: Adaptive Program
The adaptive archery world is largely supported by the development of the USA Archery Adaptive Archery Manual. This manual was developed in partnership between USA Archery and Move United. This resource is valuable for those looking to learn more about incorporating archers of all abilities into existing archery programs. Typical accommodations are made for range set up, equipment, fitting, and shooting.
Archery 360: Ways to Modify Your Gear
Horseback riding provides individuals with an opportunity to engage with animals as they develop their physical, cognitive, and emotional skills. Coordination, balance, strength, flexibility, and posture are all physical skills involved and developed with horseback riding. Riders also develop a bond with their horses and learn the importance of animal care. Hippotherapy, or the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic treatment, is utilized by OTs, PTs, and SLPs. Adaptations to horseback riding often include mounting assistance, individualized instruction, and additional trunk support. Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) is widely regarded as the premier credentialing organization for accrediting centers and certifying instructors.
National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy: Common Questions About Adaptive Riding
Camping remains an integral aspect of outdoor recreation and enjoyment in nature. The U.S. Forest Service has developed Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines (FSORAG) that may be used by other entities to define best practices for recreation areas, including campsites, picnic tables, fire rings, grills, benches, tent platforms, and other essential aspects to developed campsites. The U.S. Access Board, responsible for advancing full access and inclusion for all in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), has also developed guidelines for camping facilities in their 2013 amendment to ABA Standards. See the ADA Regulations & Accessibility Guidelines page for more information about the FSORAG and U.S. Access Board. Additional consideration and insight into accessible camping is provided below.
Rifling & Fishing
Rifling and fishing adaptations often include equipment for mounting, handling, trigger activation, casting, and reeling. Several companies offer this equipment with options based on varying ability levels. Fishing Has No Boundaries, a non-profit organization, aims to promote recreational fishing opportunities for anglers of all abilities and benefit the inclusive fishing community through advocacy, research, and community partnership.
Transportation & Parking
Individuals may require accessible transportation to and from outdoor recreation programs, camps, or even within the various activities at these programs. At an individual level, if personal transportation isn’t possible, often community-based transportation services are available to accommodate a variety of individual needs. Individuals requiring transportation services can benefit from reaching out within their regions of travel for more information. At a program level, organizations and companies can benefit from appropriate planning, foresight, and accommodations. Outdoor recreation and camp programs should provide information about transportation and parking for participants so they may be prepared. This includes if personal accommodations are needed, if any community-partnering transportation services are available, how many accessible parking spaces are available, and any other descriptive information that could aid in individuals understanding what experience they can expect.
Camp Transportation Page Examples:
Camp Awakening: Transportation Explanation (with FREE wheelchair-accessible bus transfer)
The Nature Place: Transportation Explanation
Community-based accessible transportation services: