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Drexel University Accessibility Adventure Day 2010

"A disability doesn't have to rob your life," said Kathryn Elokdah, a team leader in the Therapeutic Recreation department at Moss-Rehab/Albert Einstein Medical Center.

The Accessibility Adventure Day event, sponsored by an AΩA Medical Student Service Project Award, certainly proved her point. The event was held on August 29th, at French Creek State Park, located 35 miles west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Approximately 70 participants with disabilities and their friends, attendants, and family members had a chance to get outside and be active. Participants enjoyed everything from swimming to fishing to hiking and even kayaking. The event pulled together Drexel University medical students with rehabilitation specialists, park rangers, and local volunteers. Seven medical students served to organize the event, beginning with participant recruitment, and continuing right through as lifeguards and registration officials on event day.

Phil McGrath, with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, is an active accessibility advocate who is confined to a wheelchair. He led several groups on one-hour interpretive nature hikes on a fully-accessible trail.

The AΩA Grant provided free transportation to the state park from Philadelphia. This provided a means for many people to make this event the very first time they had visited a state park, let alone kayaked across a lake. Participants varied in age, with the youngest being 6 years old, and the eldest in their late 60s. Equally as varied were the participant's disabilities, ranging from spina bifida to amputation injuries suffered in the Vietnam War.

Two participants, Mark Collier, Hamilton, N.J., and Dave Emig, Philadelphia, both in wheelchairs, actively ski, hunt, fish, canoe, and hand-cycle.

However, Collier commented, "Many people with disabilities may not think parks are accessible." He added, "This event got people out."

Accessibility Adventure was a valuable learning experience for all the Drexel medical students involved. It was a strong lesson of the leadership strategies in getting multiplies organizations to work together for a common goal. In this regard, this will equip students with the tools to make an integrated, positive impact on the community in which they will practice beyond the clinical setting. Furthermore, this event allowed the students to witness the needs and desires of their future patients framed by living an active lifestyle, regardless of physical limitations. Jason Lange, a third year medical student, has been invited to present the project to the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on People with Disabilities.

Updated on May 26, 2011.