Ole Miss Outdoors becomes more inclusive for people with disabilities

Posted on Sep 30 2015 - 10:50pm by Morgan Walker

Ole Miss Outdoors is coordinating with Student Disability Services to provide more inclusive and adaptive recreation experiences for participants with disabilities in order to make the program more accessible. The multi-faceted organization was originally created in order to expose more students and community members to the outdoors.

Ole Miss Outdoors Assistant Director Shannon Richardson said the group’s primary short-term goal is to discover methods to make the program more accessible to those who might have varying disabilities or need some type of assistance. Richardson’s said the primary focus for OMOD is water sports such as kayaking and canoeing.

“We’re beginning the conversation of getting some training in that area to really improve our program,” Richardson said.

The American Canoe Association, offers an adaptive paddling program that allows organizations to seamlessly incorporate individuals with physical disabilities into outdoor recreational activities. The implementation of this program will allow people of all abilities to participate in water sports in a safe and comfortable manner and with the same performance as all other participants, Richardson said.

Richardson said she is looking forward to incorporating these initiatives into the OMOD program.“We want to make sure we’re being inclusive,” Richardson said. “Our focus is providing more programs that allow us to be more inclusive.”

OMOD, located in room 110 on the bottom floor of the Turner Center, offers a myriad of opportunities for students and community members to soak up all nature has to offer. The organization offers everything from adventure trips and ropes courses, to outdoor equipment rentals and access to hiking trails.

The OMOD program has taken adventure trips all over North America such as trekking the Rio Grande, kayaking through the Florida Keys and dog sledding through the snow-covered mountains of Canada. The trips allow participants to travel and experience the outdoors at a reduced cost.

Accompanied by trip leaders, certified in wilderness first aid, participants can expect to engage in activities ranging from white water rafting to rock climbing and bouldering.

James Gledhill, OMOD trip leader, said that this organization strives to provide an alternative atmosphere that focuses on allowing participants to get out of their comfort zone and explore the outdoors.

“At OMOD, we all have a common passion, we want to share the outdoors and just get people outside,” Gledhill said. “The fact that we have something like this on campus for students who want to participate in the outdoors is pretty cool, because you get to do things you normally wouldn’t do and see places you normally wouldn’t see.”

According to Richardson, the program encompasses more than just teaching people how to pitch a tent.

“Our intent is to help people get out and live. It’s as simple as that,” Richardson said. “We want to take folks that normally don’t find their way into the back-country wilderness and help them be able to experience that in a safe, fun environment.”

Richardson is pleased with the current state of the program; however, she is eager and looking forward to expanding their facilities and improving the program. The University is contributing to this expansion through the development of a new campus recreation center on the south side of campus, which is expected to be completed in 2018.

This new center will provide OMOD with a larger opportunity for growth, offering a larger space for in-house training clinics, backcountry kitchen classrooms and an indoor rock climbing wall. According to Richardson, this new facility will help aid OMOD’s efforts in exposing the Ole Miss community to outdoor recreation.

“That’s the number one thing people ask is when the climbing wall is coming,” Richardson said. “That’s something they can do on a daily basis, because it’s readily available, and it’s something to connect back to the outdoor program without actually taking a trip.”

Senior psychology major Andrew Whitehorse likes the fact that no one is excluded from participating.

“It’s nice that anyone can participate,” Whitehurst said. “A lot of students go on OMOD trips, and it’s nice to hear what they have to say because a lot of them don’t have these kinds of opportunities. Who would have thought that going camping would lead to learning a new culture?”