Georgia is rolling out all-terrain wheelchairs to state parks – The Hill

The story at a glance

  • South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota all offer chairs for people with physical limitations.

  • Advocates and people with disabilities welcomed the launch of the chairs in Georgia.

  • The chairs can tackle tough terrain, including swamps and fallen trees.

Georgia is the latest state to introduce all-terrain wheelchairs to its public parks.

The initiative is part of a partnership between the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Aimee Copeland Foundation. Chairs are free to those who qualify and are now available at 11 state parks, historic sites and one wildlife center.

Similar programs have been introduced in South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota.

The chairs can overcome anything from fallen trees to swamps to steep slopes and provide increased access to public spaces that have long been out of reach for people with limited mobility. About 3 million Americans currently use wheelchairs.

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“Our mission is to provide outdoor opportunities to every citizen and visitor to Georgia,” said Jeff Cown, director of Georgia Parks and Historic Sites, in a statement. “I am proud to partner with the Aimee Copeland Foundation to provide access for visitors with mobility or reduced mobility.”

The foundation was started by Georgia native and outdoor enthusiast Copeland, who, after being diagnosed with a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection, suffered amputations of both hands, a foot and a large part of a leg.

The foundation strives to provide better access to the outdoors for people with physical challenges.

“All Terrain Georgia is the pride and joy of the Aimee Copeland Foundation,” Copeland said in a statement. “It has been a long time coming and we are honored to offer this life changing program to the community.”

The chairs made their debut at Panola Mountain State Park on November 4, while all visitors with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries and lower limb amputations can now explore the parks , provided they are accompanied by another “buddy”. ” always.

Those with physical limitations hail the programs as “life-changing.”

“I’m finally going to be able to hike these trails for the first time in my life,” travel blogger Cory Lee told The Washington Post. Lee, originally from Georgia, has never explored a state park 20 minutes from his home, despite having visited more than 40 countries. “The trails are off limits in my regular wheelchair.”

Copeland hopes to expand its programs to North Carolina next, but aims to transform accessibility nationwide, the attorney told the Post.