Making Your Vessel Accessible for the Disabled

Making Your Vessel Accessible for the Disabled
By Urban Miyares, Co-Founder, Challenged America Program

“Urban – My wife now has MS and uses a wheelchair. How can I make our 30 foot sailboat more wheelchair friendly so she can continue to be active as crew and enjoy being on the water? Jim L.”

Over the years we’ve received many such requests, from both sail and power boat owners wanting to make their vessels more accessible and accommodating for themselves and others with disabilities. As a matter of fact, just in the past couple of weeks I’ve had 3 such requests – which prompted me to write this blog.

Making Your Vessel Accessible for the Disabled
If you have a physical, mobility or sensory challenge (whether permanent or temporary) or diagnosed with a hidden medical condition, you’ll immediately discover how unfriendly most boats are. Their design is not accommodating to the disabled. However you can make your sail or power boat more welcoming and comfortable to crew members and passengers with impairments.
Following is but a beginning outline to help guide you in making your vessel more accessible to those with physical challenges. Continue reading

From The Helm

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that 2011 will be everything you hope for it to be. We, here at Challenged America, are hoping for a BIG 2011. We have made some New Year’s resolutions:

First (and foremost) to put as many people with disabilities on the water as possible. Last year children with a variety of disabilities including autism, birth defects, blindness, hearing impaired came to Challenged America and experienced sailing for the first time. Adults with a variety of disabilities came and sailed in groups from Sharp Rehab, Braille Institute, City of San Diego Therapeutic Recreation Center. A group of disabled veterans from Sun Valley Adaptive Sports’ “Higher Ground” program came and experienced the joys and freedom of sailing for the first time. The Veterans Administration brought its Summer Sports Clinic to San Diego and we had the privilege of hosting the sailing venue. By our count, the special groups brought 177 children, veterans, and adults with disabilities to our docks in 2010. After adding our regular Thursday and Saturday Martin sailing to the mix, we probably added another 300 sailing experiences. Oh, and let’s not forget the Summer Beer Can races which averaged 6 to 8 people sailing once a week for the series of 10 weeks. And lastly, our own B’Quest II, sailed by both Dennis Conner and Lyle Lundberg throughout the year, took an estimated 21 sailors with disabilities racing on the big boat. Added together we can estimate in excess of 600 children, veterans and adults with disabilities sailing in 2010. Our goal for 2011 is to bring that number to 1,000 or more.

Secondly, it is my intent to bring the US Sailing Racing Rules of Sailing and the appropriate race committee signals to our monthly Martin 16 regattas, and to find the time to occasionally hold a clinic so that we can all continue our Rules education.

Thirdly is to involve as many of you as possible in our fundraising efforts, not just for special events but throughout the year since without fundraising we won’t have the money required to achieve these goals.

The last goal is simple: to see more of all of you here throughout 2011.

Fair Winds, Happy sailing and a very Happy 2011 to you all!

Carolyn Sherman

Program Director