Accessing the outdoors with disabilities – Lucy finds out more

Two recent articles have caught our eye. Firstly, a British Medical Journal article reported that exercise is more effective than drug treatment among stroke patients; and, secondly, a report in the Independent that questioned the priorities of GPs in promoting exercise despite fresh air being hailed as a “wonder drug”.

These articles highlight the benefits of exercising and spending time outdoors, yet all too often the simple logistical challenges of real life seem to get in the way, and the reality is those challenges are commonly all the greater for those living with disabilities.

Times, however, are changing. One striking example is that of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) who, in a bid to ensure that outdoor activities should be inclusive for all, last month held their inaugural Disability Symposium at the Calvert Trust in the Lake District. Eager to learn more, Lucy went along for the weekend.

The symposium was attended by a variety of professionals, ranging from outdoor activity instructors to support workers. Whilst challenging ideas of disability, the weekend gave practical tips and a greater understanding of the opportunities for working with disabled people in the outdoors. Lucy’s highlights included:

  • A workshop on Coaching Disabled Climbers, which provided some useful tips for disability sports training, encouraging us to coach the athlete not the disability
  • A session entitled “Making sense of climbing and hill-walking for people with complex multi-sensory impairments” looked at how accessing the outdoors does not have to be just about adrenaline-fuelled adventure – it can be as simple as you make it
  • A presentation on “Autism: it’s not like you think” gave a fascinating insight into the world of those with autistic spectrum disorders and how to support them

Lucy also particularly enjoyed an inspirational evening presentation by Jamie Andrews on his story of becoming a quadruple amputee and his incredible achievements in the outdoors since (not least climbing Mount Kilimanjaro!). So lots of inspiration, food for thought, and good ideas to take back to clinical practice; Lucy is looking forward to incorporating what she has learnt into rehabilitation with her patients.

For more inspiration on accessing the great outdoors with disabilities, you can visit the following sites:

Photo from The BMC website (