Having a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying the fresh air and sunshine during the warm months. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of summer!
Enjoy being in water
Swimming or floating is a great way to enjoy a sense of freedom that those living with disability may not get to experience on land. Luckily, in Australia there are plenty of ways to enjoy water when the weather warms up. Accessible Beaches has a directory of beaches that have matting for wheelchairs, accessible amenities, beach wheelchairs and other accessibility features.
For indoor swimming, many public pools are equipped to cater for people with special needs. This includes access ramps, a ‘wet wheelchair’, hoists that lift you in and out of the water, floatation belts and accessible toilets. Some also run special needs adult and children’s classes. Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, for example, runs a class with a qualified instructor for people with disability.
Visit a park for some stimulating fun
Gone are the days when an accessible park was simply one with a single wheelchair swing. Now there are a growing number of thoughtfully designed play spaces that are designed to encourage physical, social and cognitive play, for children of all abilities.
Livvi’s Place, for instance, is a growing network of inclusive play spaces in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Each playground incorporates sensory play, soft mat flooring, graduated challenges, visual cues, audio stimulation and accessible play equipment.
Get up and close with an animal or two
Animals show human beings unconditional love, accept people for who they are, and provide opportunities to interact in a non-verbal way, such as stroking their fur or giving them cuddles.
If you don’t have a pet at home, one way to experience an animal is to visit a petting zoo or farm. These places offer a friendly and supervised environment for people of all ages to interact with different animals such as chicks, lambs, baby goats and rabbits. Many farms also allow you to have a go at feeding an animal!
Another experience that can be lots of fun is horse riding. The Riding for the Disabled Association (Victoria and NSW), Healing Hooves in Queensland and plenty of other groups offer safe experiences for people of all abilities. These session can help build create joy and promote emotional wellbeing.
Stay cool with a fun indoor activity
If the weather is too hot to be outside, stay indoors by visiting a museum, exhibition or art gallery. This can be a great way to learn more about the world, be it science and technology, animals, a certain period of history or a famous artist.
If you prefer to stay at home, try getting creative with an art project. Making something amazing with paint or clay can be a wonderful sensory experience that lets your imagination run wild. Or try your hand in the kitchen: cooking a tasty meal or baking a cake is a great way to learn how to follow instructions while also engaging your senses.
Try a day program and learn a new skill
Joining a day program is a great way to have fun while trying different activities and even learning a new skill or two. Most programs offer activities like cooking, arts and crafts, exercise classes, volunteering and fun outings.
Home Caring’s Life Choices Day Centre in south-west Sydney, for example, helps people develop new hobbies in a friendly and inclusive group setting. A team of qualified support workers are on hand to give plenty of support so everyone has a chance to enjoy themselves as they build capacity for daily living.
Try a new sport
Playing a sport you enjoy is a fun way to not only get some exercise, but practice teamwork and build up your self-esteem.
Everyone in Australia should be able to find a sport they enjoy, no matter their age or ability. From mountain biking and kayaking to lawn bowls, plenty of sports have been adapted so that people with impairment are able to take part. For some ideas on what to try, visit Disability Sports Australia’s website. It also has plenty of great video resources for people with disability who want to exercise at home.
Get out and explore nature
There’s nothing like getting out in nature to lift your spirits! In a recent study, researchers asked two groups of people to walk for 90 minutes in a natural setting and an urban one. After comparing their brain activity, they found that those who walked in nature had lower activity levels in their prefrontal cortex: the part of the brain that is active when you focus on negative emotions.
Australia has plenty of wheelchair accessible bushwalks in including well-known trails such as the Three Sisters walk in the Blue Mountains, Margaret Lester Forest Walk in Melbourne and the Toohey Ridge Track in Brisbane. For something closer to home, try going for a short stroll in your local park, doing some gardening, or having your afternoon tea on the balcony where you can hear the birds sing.