Wheelchair users will now be able to explore Georgia State Parks with complimentary all-terrain wheelchairs.
The new fleet of wheelchairs is part of a collaboration between the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Aimee Copeland Foundation, started by Aimee Copeland, a social worker who in 2012 lost both hands, one foot and middle finger. part of a leg due to a rare, flesh-eating bacterial infection. The association works to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, particularly through outdoor recreation.
“All Terrain Georgia is the pride and joy of the Aimee Copeland Foundation,” Copeland said in a Georgia Department of Natural Resources press release. “It has been a long time coming and we are honored to offer this life changing program to the community.”
All-terrain wheelchairs allow wheelchair users to navigate more difficult terrain than they could in an everyday wheelchair, according to the release. Chairs will be free with reservations at 11 Georgia state parks and historic sites.
The new wheelchairs were unveiled at Panola Mountain State Park, southeast of Atlanta, on November 4. Users will need to reserve wheelchairs in advance and also have a designated ‘buddy’ with them at all times.
Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Director Jeff Cown stressed the importance of providing outdoor access for everyone in Georgia.
“Our mission is to provide outdoor opportunities to every citizen and visitor to Georgia,” Cown said in the statement. “I am proud to partner with the Aimee Copeland Foundation to provide access for visitors with mobility or reduced mobility.”
Georgia is following in the footsteps of Minnesota and Michigan, which have also introduced free all-terrain power wheelchairs to their state parks.
Cory Lee, the author of a blog focused on wheelchair travel, told CNN he was excited to explore Georgia state parks using the new chairs.
“It will open up a whole new world for me and for other wheelchair users,” he said.
He added that many Georgia state parks he visited “lacks accessibility.”
“Some of them only have one accessible trail,” he said. “Now there will be so many other trails I can do. Really looking forward to hitting these trails soon.
Lee added that state parks should always focus on adding more wheelchair accessible routes if possible. Getting out of your daily wheelchair and into the all-terrain wheelchair can be difficult.
Still, all-terrain wheelchairs “really are a phenomenal resource,” he said.