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Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways & Trails, sponsors many training programs including this one on accessible water trails.

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Florida sponsors adaptive paddling workshops

Photo of kayaks and people in wheelchairs

On-the-water training included assisting a disabled person
into a kayak - Photo by Doug Alderson

Manatees rolled over in a flurry of ripples and splashes. Tails flipped into the air and an occasional whiskered snout broke the surface. As the kayak floated past, a young manatee broke away from the group and swam closer. It raised its head above the water and curiously eyed the paddler before returning to its pod.

Such memorable scenes can be the highlight of any paddling journey, but why should such magical experiences leave out people who might have disabilities? In an effort to make paddling sports more accessible, OGT has sponsored two adaptive paddling workshops in the past year.

Funded by the federal Recreational Trails Program, the workshops focused on how various types of launch facilities would function for someone in a wheelchair, assisted and unassisted rescues of a paddler who cannot use their legs, and the best ways to assist paddlers with disabilities into and out of kayaks and canoes. Also, types of natural hazards, direction of open water exposures in relation to potential winds (fetch), currents, tides and other paddling conditions were discussed-something that would benefit all types of paddlers.

Mike Passo, a kayak outfitter from Washington State who also happens to use a wheelchair when on land, was the workshop leader. He was assisted by other Universal Trails Assessment Process master trainers Tip Ray and Patti Longmuir. The workshops are designed for both government managers, who plan and design kayak and canoe access points, and outfitters and guides, who bring paddlers into our waterways. OGT will likely offer the next adaptive paddling workshop in the fall. If interested, contact Alexandra (Alex) Weiss at OGT,

For more information on the Accessible Trails workshops from American Trails, please visit

Visit for more on Florida trails. The Trail Explorer website is at For more information .

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