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An elevated wooden walkway winds through a cypress grove
Congaree National Park
iStock / ericfoltz
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Enhancing Accessibility at Congaree National Park

By Sophia Grande

Congaree National Park has taken significant strides in improving accessibility for visitors with disabilities, thanks to the support of a ParkVentures grant from the National Park Foundation (NPF). The grant enabled the park to implement various accessibility initiatives, expanding opportunities for visitors to explore some of Congaree’s recreational offerings.

The grant supported the hiring of Wilderness Accessibility Intern Amanda Hardin through a partnering youth conservation organization. Hardin played a pivotal role in enhancing accessibility. The project focused on expanding both land and water-based activities for individuals with disabilities.

The initiative encompassed a wide range of efforts aimed at making the park more inclusive. Hardin engaged in community outreach and established partnerships with local disability-focused organizations. She collaborated with park management to identify and address potential barriers to access, laying the groundwork for new programs catering directly to audiences with disabilities.

All-terrain wheelchair (NPS Photo)

A significant accomplishment for the park was the development of an all-terrain wheelchair program. Hardin prepared standardized language for wheelchair use, designed forms for wheelchair check-outs, and tested the equipment on various trails. This initiative allowed visitors with mobility challenges to explore the park’s trails and aided in improving the visitor experience.

Recognizing the importance of water-based exploration, the project also focused on making paddling equipment more accessible. The park acquired adaptive paddling gear and established processes and procedures to ensure the safe and comfortable use of the equipment. The park, known for its stunning waterways, opened up new vistas to all visitors.

From top left to bottom right: back of hand adaptation, wrist slide adaptation, wrist slide adaptation demonstrated, and paddle pivot adaptation (NPS/Hardin)

With the completion of the project, Amanda’s contributions extended beyond physical equipment and facilities. She created an audio description movie of the park, compiled an accessibility master document as a comprehensive resource, and updated the park’s accessibility information on their website.

Hardin and her supervisor not only implemented previously stalled projects but also paved the way for new opportunities. As Congaree National Park embraces these accessibility changes, visitors can look forward to a more inclusive and enriching experience.

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