By Derek Schlennstedt

 It’s now easier than ever before to explore and discover the many walking trails that the Dandenong Ranges has to offer.
A new all-terrain wheelchair, aptly called the TrailRider has been introduced to Grant’s Picnic Ground and lets residents and visitors of all abilities view and traverse the iconic region.
The TrailRider is built to handle more rugged terrain, giving visitors with physical constraints the opportunity to go on rougher tracks and experience steeper and longer trails, which on a regular wheelchair would not be possible.
John Kenwright, Access and Inclusion Coordinator at Parks Victoria said that Grants Picnic Ground in the Dandenong Ranges was the perfect location for its iconic and versatile birdlife as well as the many trails which branch off from there.
“Sherbrooke forest is such a beautiful area with the lyrebirds, tall mountain ash trees and so for people with disabilities to be able to share that and see that is very important,” Mr Kenwright said.
“The program offers physical assistance with visitors with mobility limitations to use our trail rider chairs to get out in parks where they normally couldn’t get out to due to mobility limitations.”
The TrailRider acts as a motorised wheelchair with a single wheel that requires a minimum of two operators or “sherpas.”
The “sherpas” assist the rider by pushing and pulling the wheelchair over rough terrain.
The innovative Wheelchair weighs only 23kg and most importantly gives those with mobility limitations the chance to access the great outdoors in a way that wasn’t possible beforehand.
With a cushioned seat and a relaxed seating position, the TrailRider even gives riders a particularly comfortable ride.
“The program offers physical assistance with visitors with mobility limitations to use our trail rider chairs to get out in parks where they normally couldn’t get out to due to mobility limitations.” Mr Kenwright said.
“The Parks Victoria philosophy is to provide parks access for all and visitors with disabilities should be able to access nature like everybody else. “
On Saturday 10 February, a training session was held for the Sherpa Volunteers at Grant’s.
Speaking to the Mail, Karen Fankhauser, a wheelchair user was the first to be given the opportunity to sit in the new chair and she told the mail that not only was it comfortable but gave her the freedom to experience nature.
“Freedom … It means I can actually experience bushwalking and that’s something you can’t do in a normal chair,” Ms Fankhauser said.
“For someone with limited mobility or no mobility it’s an amazing experience … instead of just watching from a viewing platform you get to be within the park itself.”
The TrailRider located at Grants Picnic Ground can be booked by calling (03) 9755 2888.

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