Hamish Willis, Chair of Pendle Forest Orienteers reports on a recent orienteering project he's been working on.
Gillian Rowan-Wilde and I have recently been running a project with ‘Bridging the Gap’ in Bury to encourage people with disabilities to try orienteering. Gillian and I have for a long time been working with children in special schools running orienteering sessions. From this experience, we know that people with a wide range of disabilities including very disabled people can derive some benefit from orienteering.
We were introduced to the ‘Bridging the Gap’ project by one of my contacts at Bury Council, I already run two Nordic Walking sessions under their ‘I will if you will’ project and I am always looking for new opportunities. The problem with this type of project is the marketing and it is finding the people to come to the sessions. By working with Bury Council and Alan Slater in particular we were able to get some help with the marketing. In the end, it came down to me sending out emails to groups whose contact details Alan had given me plus using some of the contacts I had made through Nordic Walking.
We used two parks in Bury for the project, one quite rural and the other nearer the centre of town. In the end, four of the six sessions were held in the park near the centre of town. This was because firstly it was easier for wheelchairs and secondly it was easier for people to get to. One of the lessons we learnt is that many of these people would come on public transport including those in wheelchairs.
We use normal orienteering maps and touch-free Emit controls as they would be easier than normal SI for people to use. Even this had its problems for people in wheelchairs as the touch-free range on the training kit is not as far as we would have liked in some cases.
What we found was firstly the people doing the map reading had no great problems understanding the map once we had spent a few minutes explaining it. In some cases, it was the carer doing the map reading in others it was the person with the disability. In fact, the cares who were pushing people with quite severe disabilities enjoyed coming as it gave them something different to do. Once the control sites were planned we could use them for several weeks and so the planning became easier and the courses were of a yellow standard.
We had two groups of college students with learning difficulties who really enjoyed the sessions and probably benefited the most.
Where do we go from here? We were hoping to signpost people to South East Lancs. Orienteering Club (SELOC) the local club. However, I feel that six sessions weren’t enough to get these people to the next stage. We are looking for further funding to continue the project next year.
Firstly, Steph Yates who is a vlogger (video blogger) for Bury Council. Her vlog can be found at on the ‘Bury Be part of it’ Facebook page.
Steph, said: “I attended an Orienteering session at Clarence Park recently. I’m a Wheelchair user, this activity was quite fun, however, there were a few issues with accessibility. Some areas of the park were quite hilly going up to the Lido and near the Lido Car Park. Therefore, if you were a manual wheelchair user like myself then you would need assistance getting around the park. Also for this activity, you were provided with a wristband, this helps to record the timing of the activity it also flashes when you have found the correct number on the map. If you were a manual wheelchair you would require assistance with repositioning your chair in order to be able to reach the numbered points with your wristband. You were provided with a map that you had to use to guide you around the park. Now I struggle reading maps as due to my Physical Disability Cerebral Palsy. I struggle with something called Spatial Awareness this involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position. People with Cerebral Palsy struggle with this because the struggle to follow direction on changes in position for example on maps.
However, the map I was given for this activity wasn’t a complicated map. I managed to understand it with the support of Lucy my Assistant on the day.
All in all, I would say that Orienteering is a good activity you would just need assistance getting around with a manual wheelchair. Furthermore, I would recommend that you get wrapped up warm in cold weather as this is an outdoor activity. Especially if you are a wheelchair user and have Cerebral Palsy as you are more prone to feeling the cold more due to poor circulation.”
Secondly, Lisa Mundy Lecturer in Foundation Studies who brought one of the groups from Bury College. This group had learning difficulties but were able to go around by themselves.
Lisa, said: “Mundy students from the Pre-Internship course at Bury College enjoyed attending the orienteering sessions at Clarence Park. They were able to navigate and use their initiative to progress through the course displaying great teamwork. They also felt a sense of achievement when finding each numbered target along the way and liked registering their route through the monitor which gave them feedback on their achievements.
Overall a great activity that promoted a range of life skills including communication, navigation and teamwork. Thank you for the opportunity.”