Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – Accessible Outdoor Experience

Karin Willison riding in a tank wheelchair on the beach.

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a wonderful, accessible wheelchair travel destination. During the Accessible Outdoor Experience, I got to ride in a tank wheelchair on the beach. This was the first time in years I was able to leave a bike path or boardwalk and actually go in the sand. Thanks, Action Track Chairs! I also had the chance to explore the woods in my own wheelchair thanks to accessible trails at the Douglas Education Center. The Dunes will soon have their own Freedom Trax system so all visitors can enjoy the beach. I’ll definitely visit more often once they do!

The two wheelchair tank systems are like apples and oranges; each has advantages and disadvantages. The Action Track chair gets points for sheer power and ability to handle the most rugged terrain, but there are two very important places it can’t go: your home and your vehicle. Even the more compact model is a few inches wider than typical power wheelchairs, and wouldn’t fit through the doors in my house. The Freedom Trax gives up a bit of ruggedness, but gains considerable versatility. It’s a device you can use to roll down old streets with broken sidewalks, zoom through the grass with your 4-legged friend at the dog park, stop by the beach for a leisurely afternoon, then roll home and through your front door.

Zully JF Alvarado tests the Freedom Trax on the beach. Photo used with permission.

Zully JF Alvarado tests the Freedom Trax on the beach. Photo used with permission.

I’ve encouraged Freedom Trax to market a model with a fully featured power seating base for those of us who can’t push a manual wheelchair and therefore don’t benefit from the current design. I think this will happen, but most importantly I’m glad to see innovation finally happening in the power wheelchair sector. It’s been almost 25 years since I got my first power wheelchair, and while seating and positioning options have improved immensely, wheelchairs themselves have not progressed much. In some ways, my current wheelchair has less power and stability than my first one. We desperately need fresh ideas in the mobility industry, and both Freedom Trax and Action Track Chairs are leading the movement for change.

More info on tank wheelchairs:

Action Track Chair — this is the wheelchair I was using. It will go ANYWHERE and is quite large.
Freedom Trax — this new and innovative device can attach to any manual wheelchair and fits through doors. It works well on beaches and trails!

Interested in visiting the Dunes? It’s a great place! Here’s another blog post about accessibility at the park.

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