CRIS Adaptive Adventures is a non-profit society working out of Kelowna to make sure that those with a disability can enjoy the wonder and connection of the outdoors. They offer adaptive hiking, cycling, kayaking, as well as snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. As the name says, it’s not just about adaptive, it’s about adventure. Sometimes a disability takes so much from us, that it’s easy to think adventure is gone, too. It doesn’t have to be.
My name is Mary Statham, and I’m both a participant and a volunteer with CRIS, as well as a member of the board of directors. A lot of my personal story is available on the CRIS website, along with regular blog posts as I take part in activities. I had a stroke when I was 30, and I’ve got a multitude of medical problems that follow me around like groupies gone bad. One of those problems happens to be that I’m legally blind. Some of the others, the truly crippling ones in my life, are epilepsy and anxiety.
CRIS is a unique program, and I’m passionate about it. The benefits in my own life have been enormous and long-lasting. It bothers me, then, to come up against the idea of ‘not disabled enough’. I’ve had people say this about themselves, doctors say it about patients, and I’ve occasionally thought it about myself. How much is enough?
Disability comes in so many shapes and sizes that to divide it into such black and white terms is both ridiculous and impossible. For instance, I don’t ‘look’ particularly blind until you see me walk into a pole that was just outside my field of vision. I don’t look epileptic or anxious, but these are disabilities in my own life. Lupus doesn’t show on the skin, neither do pain or panic or fatigue. Saying that someone has a disability is not the same as saying that person is disabled. CRIS supports ability by recognizing and adapting for disability.
What this means is that if a person would have trouble doing any of the activities that CRIS does without assistance, that person can be a participant. Nobody but CRIS makes that call. Doctors don’t get to decide. Friends don’t get to decide. Even my own niggling little doubts don’t get to decide. It’s easier that way, really. My husband has Cerebral Palsy, and he has never considered himself ‘disabled’. He went kayaking with me for the first time in April using a modified paddle that allowed him to paddle with his good hand. Rock climbing is on the way as a new CRIS adventure, and he’s looking forward to that almost as much as I am. He’s finally coming to understand that it’s not about his definitions of himself so much as about the simple facts of ability and its limits.
So if you’re considering becoming a participant, think about the range of things we do, and which ones you’d enjoy. Think about what holds you back, and ease off on the word ‘disabled’ just a bit. It’s an unpleasant word, and it’s okay to give it a miss. Consider whether you could do these things with some help. I’ve been afraid to hike because of my epilepsy. It’s pretty well-controlled but I do still have breakthrough seizures. That fear would be enough to stop me from hiking without the support of CRIS. Some of us can only walk so far, and then need a lift in the Trail-Rider. That works just fine. We all need the outdoors. It unlocks closed doors in our hearts and minds and lets fresh air in. Don’t be intimidated by how much we do, and don’t be limited by how you define yourself. Simply think in terms of what you can and cannot do. CRIS will find ways to make what you cannot do possible.