Getting Outdoors!

As the weather gets warmer, our state gets more and more beautiful. As a fellow Wyomingite, I'm sure many of you may be itching to spend some time with Mother Nature. However that may be more difficult for a people with TBI and stroke due to mobility changes. In our online meeting this month, we discussed ways people with various ability levels can still get out and reap the benefits of the great outdoors. 

Speaking of benefits, we all know from experience that a walk in the sunshine is good for the soul. However, Stanford University recently published an article that found people who took a walk in a nature area versus a highly trafficked urban area, had decreased activity in regions of the brain that are associated with mental health disorders such as depression. Therefore, we have scientific evidence that supports something that we kind of knew all along. :) 

For some, getting out may seem a bit daunting... and that's ok! Outlined are a few steps to make this more attainable. 
  1.  Start small - If you're not used to being outdoors, it's probably not the best idea to plan a trip to hike a 14er in Colorado. You could start by sitting out in your backyard for a few minutes everyday and wait for nature to inspire you to push for more. It could also help by making you more comfortable with getting in and out of your home.
  2. Do what you enjoy - It's always great to try new things but if it's something that you know you do not enjoy... it kind of defeats the purpose of getting outside. On the other hand, remember getting out may be difficult, scary, or even embarrassing at first so don't give up on something after one go of it. 
  3. You don't have to do it alone - We all find that we are more confident when we have support while exploring a new activity. Experiencing nature is not an exception here. Find a friend or a few friends to tag along with you. They can keep you motivated and provide a helping hand if you need one. 
  4. Set goals - Give yourself something to work towards. These goals could be to hike a favorite trail with your family or to go on a fishing trip. To stay extra motivated, keep your goals visible. Put up pictures of what you are working towards on your fridge or even on the bathroom mirror so they can't be "out of sight and out of mind". 
  5. Stay flexible - Outdoor activities for people with disabilities requires planning and flexibility. You may find that the place you researched does not quite live up to the description. So don't get down on yourself if you have try again on another day. 
Here are some ideas for outdoor activities that are accessible to people with various abilities levels
  1. Camping - Instead of having just one to two hours in nature, camping is a great way to get a more immersive experience. Yes, this one will require extensive planning but if this is something you are interested in doing more of, the planning will pay off. Just note that you may have to reserve your spot ahead to make sure you get a handicap spot
  2. Hiking - Hiking is becoming more and more accessible especially with the National Park Service putting initiatives in place to make all National Parks handicap accessible by 2020. To lean more about that, go to If you are looking for other trails, do an online search prior to hiking to get a sense of what the trail will be like. The site is an excellent resource for finding novice trails with detailed descriptions so you know what you are getting into. But if you are looking specifically for a handicap trail,'s 'Explore by Activity' feature will provide you a list of wheelchair accessible trails in your area. This feature can also be used to find other outdoor activities in your area such as bird-watching, geocaching, fishing, etc.
  3. Fishing - Fishing can be even more tricky for people with fine motor movement issues. However, there is a wide range of adaptive equipment that can make fishing easier. Check out this site to get an idea of the equipment that is available.
Ideas from the group
  1. Star-Gazing - If you still want to get out but the hot summer sun really isn't your style, try star-gazing. It's amazing that a short drive in any direction can land you in a perfect star-gazing spot.  
For those of you that may need adaptive equipment, check-out local outdoor sports stores to see what is available. But if you would like to try before you buy, there are some non-profit organizations such as Teton Adaptive Sports that offer outdoor experiences for people with all skill and accessibility levels. Check them out here:

1. Stanford University. (2016, April 09). Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature. Retrieved from 

How to be an Effective Advocate

  1. Try not to be intimidated by authority; learn to question responses with which you do not agree.
  2. Try to resolve the dispute informally first. Why spend more time than you need to? Most of the time, if you address your concerns directly with a person who can do something about it, your complaint will be resolved.
  3. Do your research! Be informed. Find out what the authority is for the agency's decision. Ask the worker what regulation her/his decision is based on. Public agencies must follow written regulations and procedures. Members of the public have a right to see these regulations. Insist on checking the rule book yourself. Perhaps you can find it online.
  4. Use your imagination to come up with solutions to problems
  5. Take full advantage of all appeal rights. Request decisions in writing and inquire specifically about methods of appealing unfavorable decisions. Be aware that deadlines exist for filing appeals. Be sure to read the small print carefully in any official notices received. 
  6. Always get the name of any person within an agency with who you deal. Keep accurate notes of dates, content of conversations, and the identity of the worker who gave you the information. If questions arise later, this is your proof that the conversation you remembered did, in fact, take place.  
  7. When possible, establish and nurture contacts within the agency with people you find helpful. Try to deal with or get helpful information from workers with who you have established a cooperative, friendly relationship. They can be of great assistance. 
  8. Utilize other existing advocacy resources in your community. Locate other organizations advocating for low income, elderly, and people with disabilities. Establish contacts with other advocates  in your community, and explore the possibility of setting up training together. when you are 'stone-walled' or confused as to what to do next, call a more experienced advocate for advice.
  9. Use all available methods of increasing your legitimacy as an advocate.
  10. Remember that it takes to develop highly skilled advocacy approaches. Even the best advocates don't always win; losing may be as much of a reflection on the target system as on the advocate. Evaluate your activities.  Give yourself credit for good, effective approaches, and outline area of your advocacy skills in which you would like to heighten your skills. Remember that change is a long, slow process, but that all contributions to progressive change in our systems and human services are important. 
If you are interested in becoming an advocate but unsure of where to start, check out our sample Informal Advocacy Plan