Newstead resident David Stratton thought his disability would bring an end to his outdoor adventures.
He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis about 20 years ago, aged 44, and has been in a wheelchair for the past 10 years.
When they first met, Dr Stratton’s wife and carer Ros Hart said he was extremely physically active.
“Hiking through the woods and the forests and up mountains was Dave’s great passion and joy – he taught me that great passion and joy too,” she said.
A trip to Canada, in 2009, showed Dr Stratton he need not despair at the idea of never joining his wife on a hike again.
“We met the TrailRider in Vancouver and went up Cypress Mountain,” he said.
A TrailRider is an all-terrain chair with a single wheel, which allows people with limited mobility access to tracks and trails inaccessible to a standard wheelchair.
Dr Stratton said using a TrailRider was a team-building exercise - it requires the assistance of at least two able-bodied people to operate.
“Everyone feels a sense of triumph, not just the person in the TrailRider,” he said.
Ms Hart said her husband was initially terrified by it, but fell in love with the device in “about 90 seconds.”
“I was back in wild places – on a rough trail going over rocks, through creeks, and picking blueberries off the bushes,” Dr Stratton said.
“That’s where I wept, because I couldn’t imagine it could ever happen again and it was happening.”
About a year later, he and Ms Hart visited the rangers at the Grampians with a photograph of the TrailRider and explained its possibilities.
“They really wanted to support people with disabilities to get into Victoria’s national parks,” Ms Hart said.
Parks Victoria now promotes the use of TrailRiders as part of their Healthy Parks Healthy People strategy.
The chairs are available for use at Wilsons Promontory National Park, Cape Conran Coastal Park, and the Grampians and Point Nepean National Parks.
TrailRiders can be borrowed free-of-charge and bookings can be made in advance at information centres.
Dr Stratton said Australians had further improved the device by adding a motor, which helps with steep climbs. He said the closest Trailrider to Bendigo was at the Daylesford Visitor Centre.
“I would love to get one at the Bendigo Visitor Centre,” he said.
The state government is calling for people to contribute to the development of the Victorian State Disability Plan 2017–2020.
The community consultation phase ends on July 6. For further information, see the state disability plan website, call 1300 880 043 or TTY 133 677.