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Your enjoyment of the great outdoors should only be limited by how much you want to be out in it, not by accessibility issues.
That’s why developments in adaptive kayak launches, which take into consideration the input of those with disabilities, are such a useful and — dare we say — cool move forward.
Board Safe’s Adaptive Kayak Launch
If you’ve ever kayaked, you know it can be a bit of a process getting into the water. First, you have to get the hefty kayak out there, then get your own body in it while the boat wobbles in the water. At the same time, you’re trying not to lose your paddle. Now imagine how hard that would be if you didn’t have full use of your legs.
Board Safe Docks, a manufacturer of adaptive kayak launches, has made these specially adapted docks. They allow those in wheelchairs or who have other physical handicaps, disabilities, or mobility limitations to get in and out of a water-level kayak easily — as long as they have good upper body strength.
Check out the company’s informational video below.
Kayakers with different levels of mobility will use this adaptive kayak launch in different ways. For example, more mobile kayakers can benefit from the easy launch channel with brackets that sit below the kayak and keep it stable as you get in.
Less mobile kayakers will have extra options that allow them to get in and out of a kayak more easily. They may use a slide-out bench with transition steps and a plank that slides over the kayak and helps the users lower themselves into the vessel.
Handrails and overhead straps offer additional support if needed. Canoes and some other boats work with the multi-purpose dock too.
In this video from Board Safe, you can watch adaptive paddler Ken, who uses an electric wheelchair, go from his vehicle into the water and then back out of the water. He does everything completely by himself. He uses a string to tow his kayak to the adaptive launch. After that, he is able to maneuver his chair and then his body onto the kayak thanks to the ramp, sitting steps, and bar and straps over the kayak water launch area.
Adapting Kayaks For Accessibility
The U.S. Access Board breaks down what makes different waterway adaptations work on its site and lists American Disabilities Act requirements that help make boating and other watersports more accessible.
In addition to adaptive launches like the one from Board Safe, there are other ways to make a kayak or canoe easier to use for people with arthritis and those who have lost mobility in their legs temporarily or permanently. These include mounting raised kayak paddles, adding stabilizing outriggers or using kayak carts to roll boats gently down to the water.
Kayaks may also be adapted for those who suffer from other issues, such as vision impairment, loss of arm and shoulder mobility and spine injuries. Some issues require simple fixes, like the placement of tape to help blind people with hand placement on their paddle. Others may require more work, such as special seating inside the kayak for paraplegics.
Where Can You Find One?
BoardSafe isn’t the only maker of adaptive kayak launches. EZ Dock also provides access options; it has an EZ Launch ADA kayak and canoe system with similar features to BoardSafe. AccuDock sells similar ADA-compliant options as well. The company Mod-U-Dock offers a lift that can lower a partially paralyzed kayaker down into their vessel. For the most part, you have to custom order these products online through their makers.
Communities like Brockport, New York, have started installing these on public waterways and making them free to use for anyone that wishes. EZ Dock placed one at Lake Cunningham in Omaha, Nebraska. Board Safe installed one at Leaser Lake in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
Have you seen accessible kayak and boat launches in your area? Check out your local or state waterways sites for lists and maps of ADA kayak launches, like this one for Michigan.
What do you think are the best ways for making kayaking accessible to all?