This story appears in the Spring 2015 edition of Our Big Backyard, a quarterly magazine about parks and nature. Read more stories, plan an outing with a field guide, and find out more about fun nature events and classes.
A Metro Nature in Neighborhoods grant is helping make Georgena Moran’s dream come true. Moran, project coordinator for Access Recreation, is creating an online map of 24 regional trails for people with disabilities. The maps, available at accesstrails.org, come with photos and videos.
Metro last year awarded a $25,000 grant to Access Recreation and Independent Living Resources, a Portland nonprofit that provides support services to people with disabilities. The money paid for equipment and a webmaster and photographer/videographer.
Q. Where did you get the idea to create trail maps for people with disabilities?
A. I was looking for a backcountry trail to hike as a power chair user. It was hard to find trail information for people of all abilities. As I looked into possibilities, I found that local agencies were unable to promote (Americans with Disabilities Act) access, citing legal problems, mostly liability. I brought federal, state and local park agencies together to answer: How do we provide information? An opportunity to experience a new trail never before accessible to a person with a disability is amazing.
Q. Why are these maps important?
A. A major obstacle is there are so many different people with different types of disabilities. A trail is useable in a different manner from person to person. By 2012, we had developed guidelines that trail agencies could use. Imagine all the trails out there – 2 percent are ADA accessible. Sometimes it's because of a minor obstacle. If you can see what the obstacle might be, you can plan for it.
Fourteen agencies picked their prime trails, and I'm going to share them with the world. We are creating something that’s so innovative. We’re hoping the nation and the world will recognize how to be more inclusive and to use some of these techniques, because they are so simple and cost very little with no liability. By the end of mapping the 24th trail in June 2016, this product is going to be exceptional.
Q. What impact did the grant have on your project?
A. It helped us buy the crucial equipment, an iPad, and helped me create a new invention for my wheelchair. It attaches to the seat of the chair, extending over my lap, so I can drive with my right hand and take pictures with my left. It makes for a steady shot, which is difficult. It's all about fun and love for the project, thus the sheer amount of hours we are putting into it. The more people, we touch the better.