All-Terrain Wheelchairs Offer Greater Trail Access
Several Texas State Parks are rolling out the GRIT Freedom Chair, an all-terrain wheelchair that can handle rougher terrain than traditional wheelchairs. Currently, 10 state parks have the chairs or will have them soon.
The chairs were created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology students using inexpensive bike parts that can be easily purchased (and replaced) from local bike shops. The chairs come with knee straps, helmets and optional tip bars that provide additional balance and safety for users.
Devin Hemker with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s state parks facilities management team is championing the chair project. As an intern, she reinvigorated the agency initiative, and is now, as a full-time employee, tackling the details of purchasing, distributing and using the chairs.
“If you are planning to visit a park to use a GRIT wheelchair we advise making a reservation ahead of time,” Hemker says. “The chairs are first-come, first-served, but it’s easy to reserve by calling the park you’re planning to visit. Once you arrive you can sign a waiver and can check it out for day use for free.”
The chairs enable people of different abilities to make use of state park trails.
“We want people of all abilities to experience the trails,” says Chris Meza, TPWD accessibility program specialist. “Paving the environment is not our goal. Adaptive equipment is a way to include and welcome people with disabilities into spaces they may have historically not been able to access.”
Chris Meza | TPWD