By Diana Paiz Engle: For More Info, Go Here…
That’s all it took. Flat on my back, head raised slightly, core muscles straining as I rode a sled 20 miles an hour down the summer luge track at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex inside Muskegon State Park in West Michigan.
Nine seconds to travel 300 feet is fun for just about anyone. Speaking for myself, as someone with a disability, it was more than fun – it was a thrilling personal first.
The truth is that people with physical disabilities don’t often have opportunities to experience speed independently. People who use wheelchairs encounter a lack of both adaptive equipment and barrier-free environments.
People who are blind, as I am, face challenges that are not physical, but obstacles of people’s misconceptions.
My first summer luge experience took place after last week’s meeting of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Accessibility Advisory Council, whose members, appointed by the DNR director, represent disability communities, recreation organizations and industry, and other state government departments.
I was there as a member of the DNR Accessibility Team, an internal team that serves as a liaison between the department and the council. The council had gathered at Muskegon State Park to hear from park supervisor Greg Sherburn and Jim Rudicil, executive director of the winter sports complex, about existing accessibility features and future improvement plans.
Now in its 10th year, the summer luge is the world’s first universally accessible wheel luge track. It includes three different ways for people to transfer from a wheelchair or other mobility device to a sled at the top of the track.
“We want to meet the needs of all customers,” Rudicil said. “It’s an important part of our mission. We embrace the philosophy of universal accessibility and work to solve obstacles.”