The Missouri Department of Conservation has created a new motorized wheelchair program. Thanks to donations from organizations around the state, MDC now provides action track wheelchairs for outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing.
The Department received donations for 10 action track wheelchairs from Midway USA, National Rifle Association, Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and others. Recently, a crew of veterans from Kansas City donated four more track wheelchairs, making a total of 14 chairs in the state.
For individuals with disabilities, enjoying outdoor activities can be challenging or impossible. These wheelchairs are equipped with rubber tracks that go through mud and can tilt to go over rough terrain in the woods. They can only be used at MDC events or events they are partnered with.
“There are some misconceptions about them,” said Kyle Lairmore, MDC Outreach Education Chief from the Ozark Unit.
Lairmore explained that not just anyone can call into their local conservation office and borrow a chair for the weekend. They must be used at MDC events where the staff can monitor them at all times. Lairmore mentioned that there are liability issues and safety precautions that they have to watch out for while the wheelchairs are being used. MDC hasn’t released much information about the chairs because they are still trying to find the best way to get a clear message across to the public.
If someone is interested in using an action track chair, they must sign-up or plan to attend an MDC event such as a managed hunt or fishing program. They can even be used at managed turkey or deer hunts put on by other groups around the state that partner with MDC. At no cost, an individual can contact the organizer of the event and request an action track wheelchair. MDC will make sure they have one available to use at the event.
Information about the chairs can be accessed through the MDC website, or by contacting your regional office.
At events such as the Day at the Range Outdoor Adventure Fair at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center in southwest Missouri, MDC makes sure they have chairs available for use. This event is open to all individuals with disabilities and their family and friends.
“You get to see the smile on their face and to see them do something they haven’t done in a long time,” Lairmore said.
Mike Brooks, Outdoor Education Center manager at the shooting range, explained that people with disabilities can use the chairs to enjoy the outdoors and even take them on nature hikes. He said the shooting range holds several events where the action track chairs are used.
“It’s a powerful thing to witness,” Brooks said.