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“When you have a disability, you spend your life living in a concrete box. It’s great to get out into nature and relax and recharge.”

Louisa Bridgman, of North Vancouver, took her first British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society (BCMOS) TrailRider hike in 2011 – and has been a regular accessible hikes participant ever since.

Born with cerebral palsy, she gets about by powerchair, which gets bogged down on rolled gravel or grass, let alone a dusty trail. For Louisa, the program is about getting out of the urban environment, which, she says, improves the lives of people with disabilities while also changing the attitudes of society.

“But it’s also challenging the box society has put us, because they don’t realize people with disabilities are capable of doing stuff.

“This program changes people's lives. Activities like this help people with disabilities reach their full potential. Not everything is possible, but anything is possible. . .”

We operate more than 100 accessible hikes in the Vancouver area each year. A Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) report in 2017 confirmed our observations that these are transformative for people with disabilities.

The VCHRI examined the BCMOS hiking program to determine if people with disabilities enjoy the same benefits of getting into nature as anyone else – “from decreased stress levels to improved health and relaxation.”

It found that the feel-good benefits of being in nature were the same for people that rode in a Trailrider as those hiking on foot – in other words, it’s not about the exercise, it’s about the experience.

Their report, published online, states:


  • Of the 18 participants who were interviewed for the study, 14 said they felt they would have socialized less and met fewer new people had it not been for the TrailRider program.
  • One of the study participants, Barbara, says: “Even if you only meet somebody for an hour, for that hour, you are laughing and you’re communicating and you’re learning and you’re seeing things you haven’t seen before. That’s great.” 
  • First-time volunteer, Nathan, says he participated in the program because “It’s enjoyable for me to see other people happy—I feel like it’s my ability to give back.”

Participants have told us for years that our outdoor leisure program overcomes social isolation (loneliness having recently been connected to negative health outcomes) and leaves them feeling refreshed and connected. This is the first time such empirical observations have been established in a scientific setting.

Can you make a donation so we can continue offering outdoor recreation opportunities for people with physical disabilities?