Physical Therapy Takes on New Meaning with Adaptive Kayak Launches
Hanna Park is one of three recreational sites in Jacksonville with a new adaptive kayak launch to serve the disabled community. As part of the City of Jacksonville’s Adaptive Recreation Program, the Disabled Services Division and Brooks Rehabilitation have partnered to provide individuals with disabilities an opportunity to enjoy the waterways.
Alice Krauss manages the Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program at Brooks Rehabilitation Center where she works with patients as an Occupational Therapist. The recreation program offers individuals with disabilities the chance to participate in sports at Jacksonville parks, compete against local and national athletes and improve their quality of life and athletic ability through a wide range of recreational activities basketball, tennis, rugby, flag football, archery, soccer, scuba, volleyball and kayaking are among the sports and activities offered.
Monthly kayak clinics are held at the new adaptive kayak launch in Hanna Park for the physical therapy center’s patients. The next clinic will be held from 9 am to noon Aug. 14 at 500 Wonderwood Drive in Atlantic Beach.
Krauss was tasked by the Jacksonville Waterways Commission to assess the accessibility of 11 of the city’s kayak launches. She submitted a report, which opened up the conversation of fitting one or more launch sites to serve the disabled community. She reached out to the city’s outfitter Dennis Thompson who is staffed at Hanna Park. Thompson completed the certification process to install equipment for people with physical disabilities.
“He said come out to Hanna Park where I am and let’s see what we can do. We started it out there because he was an adaptive kayak instructor,” says Krauss. Similar launch sites will be built at Mandarin Park and Bethesda Park in Jacksonville based on her report. “He is really tuned in to the disability world and wants to bring paddling to them. He met my standard for content expert and passion for people and enabling them to do things that they otherwise couldn’t do.”
According to Krauss, kayaking is beneficial for many of the center’s patients because being on the water offers a sense of freedom that they are unable to experience with many of the other activities. Many patients are able to go out on the water by themselves because of the adaptations to the kayaks that help with issues like grip and balance. “Even though they might be weak and not able to push a wheelchair but out of the water with the physics of the adaptations they can do the motion that enables them to propel or assist in the propulsion of the kayak. It’s amazing. You just can’t anticipate what an experience will be for someone,” she says.
“That’s what I’ve learned about this program, even as an occupational therapist, I think that I have some understanding of their limitations and their experience with disability because that’s what I’m all about is people’s individual stories and the impact of their disability and the impact of this program. Going out on the kayak, leaving their wheelchair, leaving their cane, leaving their walker, once they sit down in that kayak, they are just someone without a disability and they are just able to enjoy being out there on the water.”