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Adaptive Equipment Making Adventure Accessible for All

6 min read

Bailey Letson

Bailey Letson

A group of travelers in the jungle smile for the camera while using adaptive wheelchairs.

Movement is a strong source of happiness. Whether it is just going to the park or traveling to another country, it gives us energy and freedom. Since I can remember, my dad used to take me to the forest for walks, that eventually became hikes, that somehow shaped a part of who I am today, mainly due to the connection that I developed with nature.

I was very lucky to have a dad that cared to show me around the forest and the mountains of my hometown. But not everyone has the same luck, and it could get even trickier if you have a disability. The good news is that all around the world amazing engineers have developed different solutions when it comes to adaptive equipment. These products offer possibilities for people with disabilities to traverse the great outdoors.

The possibilities that adaptive equipment may bring to a group of travelers with and without disabilities are endless. I mean, even Wheel the World was born in part thanks to an  amazing piece of adaptive equipment – the Joëlette.

The Joëlette in use during our first Patagonia trip

This all-terrain wheelchair developed by the French brand Joëlette and Co was the one we used on our first trip ever to Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia. Without it we could not have hiked the W trail. This high quality hiking wheelchair is part of different accessible travel experiences that we offer. In  Machu Picchu, for example, it’s used to navigate the uneven terrain,  in Riviera Maya we use it to access a pristine underground cave. It is important to mention that Joëlette’s main model requires the aid of someone in the front and rear to move around, which makes it a great group activity.

Recently Joëlette went one step further and launched a version of their product, designed for kids, how cool is that?! It’s called the Joëlette Kid. They designed the perfect product for families that have small children with reduced mobility. It allows them to share the outdoors with a very light and trustworthy all-terrain wheelchair. Being able to do these types of activities is a game changer for many families.

The Joëlette Kid ready to go in the WTW office

As a mountain bike enthusiast I was blown away the first time I saw adapted mountain bikes. They are actually “handbikes”, for people with spinal cord injuries that make it possible for them to ride along fun trails or roads, using their arms to propel themselves. There are many different options on the market depending on the type of terrain you want to ride. For example, there are many road options from Invacare, and just as any conventional bike, you can find different frames, settings, components and materials. They are very reliable, and we use them in activities like cycling the Haleakala Volcano in Maui, or the handbike tour we offer in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. You can check out all of the different adaptive bicycles we use in activities around the world here.

Handbiking on Easter Island

But, not all adaptive equipment is related to mountains or trails, a lot of people are more into leisure activities like spending a day at the beach. For activities like this one, it can be a challenge to move around the sand as conventional wheelchairs with slim tires get stuck and it’s impossible to get them into the water, you will just sink! To avoid trouble and enjoy a day at the beach, there are great hybrid or amphibious wheelchairs available. Due to their thick tires, it’s easier to move on sand and access the sea with the help of a companion.

Some of the accessible travel experiences that we offer use an adaptive hybrid beach wheelchair, like a day at the beach on a trip to Costa Rica. But beaches are not the only place with sand, visiting a desert has a special thing about it, landscapes are very different to what many of us are used to and sunsets are unique. Last year we found out the Hippocampe wheelchair was a great product to explore the desert in Qatar.

Exploring the desert in Qatar with the Hippocampe

An accessible travel platform like Wheel the World needs to have something to fit everyone’s travel interests. That’s why we also offer travel experiences to discover cities. Who doesn’t like to feel like a local when visiting a city? Some cities can be a bit challenging when walking/rolling around them, but there are super functional options like Stricker’s Lomo 360 that will make facing cobblestone or uneven sidewalks much more comfortable. This is a product that we offer as a compliment on accessible city tours like the one we have in Rio de Janeiro. What type of accessible equipment do you use to explore your city? We are always looking to learn from our community, let us know in the comments.

We know that owning adaptive equipment is not possible for everyone, it requires storage space and can be expensive. That’s why we provide it for many of our accessible travel experiences so that you can explore the world without limits.

Using the Lomo 360 while exploring Rio

We will continue to expand Wheel the World’s footprint of adaptive equipment in different destinations around the world. Having adaptive equipment available is something that the travel industry and our community need to push together. Next time you are looking to do a tour that requires adaptive equipment, contact us here and let us know, perhaps we can help.

At the end of the day all of us like to explore and discover places, it’s part of human nature. That’s why we need to make the travel industry a more accessible one and not leave anyone behind, that is what’s at the core of Wheel the World’s purpose. We still have a long journey to go, but by working together – with the community and industry – we can make it happen.

For me the great outdoors is the place I most enjoy. Just like my father used to take me to new places around the mountains of my hometown, we would love to do so with you and your loved ones, so tell me:

Where should we go together next?

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Bailey Letson

Bailey Letson

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