OK, I’ll admit wheelchair vans and canoes really don’t have a lot in common. But if you read my bio, you’ll see that I’m nuts about paddling. So when I ran across a website that ties wheelchair vans and canoes together, albeit indirectly, I jumped at the chance to bring my work and hobby together.
Chosen Valley Creating Ability is a company committed to opening up the sport of paddling to everyone. Founders Kevin and Karen Carr have developed a unique Universal Paddling Seat that provides as much or as little support as a paddler needs. Originating as a joint venture with Peter Axelson and Beneficial Designs, the seat has grown from a canoe-specific design to a fully-customizable back support with multiple base options for use in various types of watercraft and exercise equipment. Chosen Valley also offers fully modified kayaks for sale, which include the seat and custom-fit outriggers for stability.
The Carrs have noticed that people’s disabilities virtually vanish when they’re on the water. As one paddler commented, “I spend my entire day looking up at people. When I’m in the kayak, everyone’s on the same level.” I think that’s pretty neat–water and paddling serving as an “equalizer.” Building the seat and helping people has been very rewarding for Kevin. “But,” he says, “It’s not about me at all. It’s really life changing . . . seeing people’s faces the first time they’re on the water, paddling their own boat under the own power–that’s the best part about this.”
As we were talking, it occurred to me that Kevin’s philosophy is very similar to ours here at BraunAbility. And I think Karl Beck put it in words best in this article:
“After all, what we do is simply a very clever and sophisticated use of steel and hydraulics. It’s just mechanical equipment. Yet, when you put it in the hands of a human being, this hardware becomes more than the sum of its parts. Just like a brush only delivers an artist’s paint, and an instrument only delivers sound, our equipment is only the tool for our customers to achieve mobility. What they do with this mobility is what is important.”
Karl was writing about our wheelchair vans, but he just as easily could have been describing one of Kevin’s kayaks.
Here’s a great video showing the seat’s range of adjustments:
So what do you think? Most of our Entervans and Rampvans have a roof rack–all you need to do is strap a kayak on top and head to your local lake or river. There are even some slick roof racks that would assist you in putting the boat on your wheelchair vehicle–check out a video of Thule’s “Hullavator” here. I’d love it if one of our customers sent in a picture of their ramp van with a kayak or two on top. How about it?
To my mind, paddling is the best way to “escape,” whether it’s a few hours or a few days at a time. With the help of Chosen Valley Creating Ability, I highly recommend you give it a try. And if you happen to live anywhere near me in Culver, Indiana, get in touch and I’ll head out paddling with you!