DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

Getting Close to Nature by Hiking with Muscular Dystrophy

Mark Irishsea

Life change when Muscular Dystrophy progressed

Greetings, my name is Mark, and I live in California.  I was born with a form of muscular dystrophy called Rigid Spine Syndrome. I was fortunate that the slow progression of my disease still allowed me to be very active while growing up. Being able to travel to different countries and many parts of the United States helped give me a better sense of the world. In 1996, my disease had progressed to where I needed to start using a wheelchair and breathe on a ventilator. I went from living the high life to living with my parents and being dependent on others to help take care of me. Yet, this life change brought me closer to my family and friends.

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Photography

Photography is something I’ve enjoyed for many years. I bought my first camera at the age of nine when we were living in England. Because I have very weak arms, I put together a wheelchair camera tripod which holds the camera for me. It’s one of the best way for me to express myself, plus, a way to showcase the beauty of nature that I can share with others.

Sharing Park and Trail reviews

Being a nature lover, hiking on a trail is how I maintain an overall sense of peace and happiness, and I’m fortunate that there are hundreds of trails in the San Francisco Bay Area, some of which are wheelchair accessible. One day I could be hiking amongst majestic redwoods while on another day I could be hiking a trail that overlooks the ocean, giving me a chance to spot whales. But, in all my years of hiking, I’ve rarely seen another fellow wheelchair user on a trail. One reason for this may be that at the time there wasn’t much available information about accessible trails. That’s why back in 2010 I started my “Adventures from a Wheelchair” blog so that I could share videos and reviews of parks and trails I had visited.

Making Parks More Accessible

During my adventures, I noticed that some parks weren’t that accessible, like a soap dispenser in a restroom being out of reach for someone in a wheelchair. From speaking to those in charge of parks I learned that most of the time they were unaware of any accessibility issues. That’s why in 2015 I started volunteering for Santa Clara County Parks as an ADA (Americans with Disability Act) consultant.

What I'm Grateful For

I also like to find trails that aren’t listed as wheelchair accessible, usually because they don’t meet ADA Standards. Some of these dirt trails are rugged and challenging but it brings out that inner adventurer inside me. Having the ability and freedom to venture out for a hike, watch an ocean sunset, or even cruise around in a shopping mall, is something I’m very grateful for.

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