Woman wearing gray hat and sweater is riding a four wheel mobility electric scooter on a city street. Sunset back light.

Get Outside: Tips for Accessible Outdoor Activities

As the weather warms and the days lengthen, there are many different ways to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s the season of picnics, concerts, park days, and fun in the sun.  And whether you are attending an event, exploring a new area, or simply reading a book in your own yard, there are positive perks to your physical and mental health by spending time outside. In fact, fresh air can help strengthen your immune system, increase oxygen, lower stress, lead to better sleep, and enhance overall happiness. Socializing and spending time with others at outdoor events or gatherings also boosts your emotional and social health and can limit isolation.

For those living with disabilities, finding accessible activities and outdoor spaces to spend time enjoying nature and creating new experiences doesn’t need to be a barrier. A little research and planning can ensure a smooth and joyful outing in the fresh air.

Outdoor adventures and activities

There are probably more opportunities for adventure just beyond your front door than you realize. And as society slowly catches up with the needs of those living with disabilities, there are more and more adaptive and accessible activities than ever before. Try some of these ideas for a day of fun in the sun.

  • Picnic in the park Most local and State parks have paved walkways that are accessible to wheelchair users, access to picnic tables and/or pavilions, and often have grills to rent or use for free. Planning a day to gather with friends and family at a nearby park is the perfect way to spend a day outside, enjoying nature and your loved ones. Call the park office ahead of time to ensure that there are paved walkways to all of the areas that you want to access, to ask about accessible bathrooms, and to determine if a rental fee is required to use grilling areas.
  • Adaptive outdoor sports. Outdoor yoga, bocce ball, golf, horseshoes, fishing, water sports, basketball… there are a wide variety of outdoor sports that can be modified to fit the needs and abilities of those living with a disability. Check your local area to find sports centers and organizations that offer recreational sports programs and call to ask if they have any adaptive opportunities, classes, or equipment.
  • Concerts and festivals Check local listings for outdoor concerts and various street festivals in your area. Many areas even have free concerts in the park in the spring and summer! Once you have found an event that you are interested in, email or call the venue or event coordinators to ask about accessibility. Parks often have paved pathways, and many festivals are held on blocked off streets or courtyards. If purchasing tickets for an outdoor concert or festival, call the box office to discuss ADA seating and access options. Ticketed programs are required to offer accessible accommodations to their patrons.
  • Take your hobbies outside If you love reading, drawing, painting, writing, or long chats with your loved ones, opt to do those things outdoors! Whether in your own yard, on a porch or balcony, or in a public place, enjoying your favorite things outside adds an extra layer of joy. If you don’t have a comfortable outdoor area at home, find a pleasing spot at a pretty park, community garden, nearby college campus, or even a local restaurant or coffee shop with outdoor seating. A beautiful outdoor setting is the perfect place to enjoy your hobbies in the sunshine.
  • Water activities Many local pools have accessible pool lifts or flat-ground splash pads. If you live near a body of water, check with boating and water activity organizations to see if they offer accessible activities like adaptive kayaking or boating. If your local lake or river doesn’t offer programs, plan an afternoon to have a picnic or cup of coffee with a friend waterside and take in the view.
  • Adaptive gardening Creating an accessible gardening station at your home is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors while using your green thumb. Set up a card table on a flat surface where you can sit and transfer flowers, vegetables, and plants into pots to place around your yard. Or install raised garden beds to easily plant flowers or produce at a comfortable height.
  • A leisurely stroll Either with friends or solo, taking a long walk outside on a nice day is a free and easy refreshing outdoor activity. Stroll around your neighborhood or town or on a local walking trail. If you live in an area with limited curb cuts, check local parks for paved walkways or accessible nature trails.

Searching local Facebook events and checking websites for local and State parks and your town’s Visitor Center or Chamber of Commerce are great ways to find outdoor events near you!

Preparing for a day out

Spending time outside requires certain areas of preparation, including checking the weather, choosing appropriate clothing, and packing water and/or snacks. There are a few additional items on the list of preparation for those living with disabilities. When planning an outing, be sure to consider these things:

  • Medication schedule If you will be out and about during the time that you need to take certain medications, don’t forget to pack them with you. If medications require temperature control, bring a small cooler.
  • Sun and heat sensitivity If you will be in a sunny area with limited shade, bring an umbrella or hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water. Be sure to choose a day with mild or comfortable temperatures for longer outings.
  • Allow for rest If you experience fatigue or muscle weakness and are planning a longer excursion, plan for rest as well. That could mean ensuring that there are areas to sit and rest or bringing a folding chair, walker, or wheelchair.
  • Pack the essentials If you are going somewhere that doesn’t sell food or beverages, be sure to pack snacks and plenty of water.
  • Layer clothing Choose clothes that can be layered to easily add or remove as the weather heats up or cools off.
  • Utilize travel products Even if you are only going a few miles from home, accessible travel products like soft pouch water bottle holders, portable phone chargers, adjustable umbrellas with clamps, and rechargeable mini fans can keep you comfortable on your outing. Check out accessible travel products and tips

With a little planning and preparation, there is no limit to the ways that you can enjoy the great outdoors. So, get outside and have fun!


Next Steps and Useful Resources

  • Read more about accessible State parks and outdoor recreation for everyone here.
  • Read more about how adaptive sports offer benefits for all ages here.
  • Read more about accessible travel products and tips here.
  • Stay up-to-date on Quest content! Subscribe to Quest Magazine and Newsletter.

Disclaimer: No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.