Posted: Jul 17, 2012 at 1:11 PM [Jul 17, 2012]
The Great Lakes Independence Ride was created in 2007 by staff at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living. It was the first inclusive cycling ride that would be truly accessible to all riders, even those with disabilities. In 2007, only fifteen riders made the trip from the west side of Michigan to Ann Arbor, but it was a successful ride and IRIDE began to grow. This year almost sixty riders of all ages and abilities will make the four day trip. The group includes riders on handcycles, tricycles, recumbent, and tandems as well as more traditional bicycles. Being inclusive make it possible for riders with disabilities to participate in a bike tour with able-bodied family and friends – often for the first time.
Riders will leave Saint Joseph, Michigan on the morning of August 2nd and make their way through Paw Paw, Battle Creek and Jackson before finally reaching their final destination of Ann Arbor on August 7th. The ride may be inclusive but it isn’t easy. In the past, riders have encountered soaring temperatures and downpours that last hours. Still, many of the Riders come back each summer to do it again. When I asked him what made him want to participate in such a grueling challenge Bryan Wilkinson, who rode for the first time last year said, “I like the inclusive nature of the IRIDE. It shows everyone that people with disabilities are just as capable as those with disabilities. IRIDE illustrates what people with disabilities can do.”
But the IRide does more then increase the participants’ sense of accomplishment; “I ride a handcycle and I like doing long rides. The problem was that I could do “accessible” rides with my handcycle friends or “mainstream” rides with my family, but there was nothing for everyone,” Glen Ashlock, director of the sports and recreation program at the Ann Arbor CIL said. “Every weekend in Michigan you can do some kind of ride. Ours is the only multi-day one that is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Hopefully other clubs will use ours as an example to learn how to make their rides accessible.”
In addition to increasing disability awareness and encouraging inclusiveness, the IRide plays an important role in raising funds for Disability Network/Michigan and other member Centers for Independent Living (CILs) across the state. Money gathered through sponsorships and donations collected by riders not only helps accommodate riders and volunteers, but supports Michigan’s CILs, which are committed to the success of people living with disabilities.
Encouraging the inclusiveness of recreation programs in the state is a very important goal for the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living and they try to make that a big part of each program they create. So important in fact that the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living has been spending most of 2012 growing and developing recreation programs and spaces that are accessible to everyone. On August 5th 2012, while IRiders are completing the last leg of their four day trip. The Ann Arbor CIL will be hosting a Recreation Open House. Guests will have the opportunity to tour our accessible community garden and fitness area, as well as learn about our arts and writing programs all of which will be open to people of all ages and abilities. The open house will also feature a Theater workshop put on by Diversability Theater and a raffle. Raffle prizes will include homemade quilts made by some of our recreation program participants
After the Open House guests will be invited to bring their own cycles and ride the Final Mile with the IRiders, to show their support and welcome them home. Guests who choose to ride will meet up with IRiders at Research Park Drive and ride the mile loop back to the CIL.