Alta Live: Disabled Hikers Blaze New Trails

A disability doesn’t diminish one’s love for the outdoors—and a new wave of disabled hikers is advocating for increased access, consideration, and accommodation.

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Syren Nagakyrie is the founder of Disabled Hikers, a nonprofit that promotes access to outdoor spaces for disabled people through advocacy and thorough hiking guides. “We’re really grounded in principles of disability justice, which centers intersectionality and leadership by the most impacted,” Nagakyrie, who has disabilities and chronic illnesses, told Alta Live. As a child fascinated by the outdoors, Nagakyrie gravitated toward hiking, but when it came to navigating the outdoors as a disabled person, they had few tools or peers to look to. “I really had to just figure it all out on my own,” they said. Today, the hiking guides they have created go beyond the basics of wheelchair accessibility and address specific access needs for different disabilities.

The outdoor community often creates as many obstacles for disabled people as the terrain: “There is very much still this misconception among the larger outdoor community, particularly people who are outdoor recreationalists…who don’t have experience with disabled folks.” But physical changes like stable, firm paths and public water and benches can allow more people to spend time in natural spaces, which can shake up our approach to accessibility in the outdoors, Nagakyrie said. “We need those physical, tangible improvements so more people can feel welcome in outdoor spaces, and as more people become welcome and start having these experiences, then our perception will start to shift,” they said, “but at the same time, we have to do that foundational work of shifting our perception so that more people feel welcome.”

Check out these links to some of the topics Nagakyrie and Spotswood brought up.

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