UM Launches Statewide Adaptive Bike, Recreation Initiative

August 16, 2016

DILLON – Montanans living with disabilities will have access to adaptive cycles through a new statewide initiative spearheaded by the University of Montana. The Wheels Across Montana program will host its second state regional Adaptive Bike Clinic from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at the Southwest Family YMCA in Dillon.

UM’s Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities recently received a $75,000 High Impact Innovative Assistive Technology grant from the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation to make the project possible.

Adaptive trikes were delivered to Dillion, Missoula, Billings and Fort Peck, and each community hosted or will host events to deliver adaptive recreation equipment to encourage physical activity among people of all ages with paralysis, disabilities and chronic diseases who face additional health and social barriers due to living in rural areas.

“This grant will offer greater independence to individuals living with paralysis and provide our community with services that truly enhance all our lives,” said Mindy Renfro, principal investigator with UM’s Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities.

In each region two local organizations – one with recreation experience and one with health care experience serving people with disabilities – will partner to store equipment and lead safe, fun and inclusive community programs. Health care partners will promote the programs to patients and clients with disabilities and, when needed, individualize programs to the specific needs of participants. In Dillon, local partners include the Southwestern Family YMCA and Barrett Hospital.

 “Limited funding with great need has limited our store of recreational equipment,” Renfro said. “Most people with disabilities report that the cost of recreational assistive technology is prohibitive to their participation with their families and communities for recreational and outdoor sporting events.”

 The Reeve Foundation grant funding will immediately remove these barriers to many Montanans in four major areas of the state.

“In addition, we know that people living with disabilities experience a much higher prevalence of chronic disease, falls and depression than their peers and that promoting physical activity and social engagement is key to prevention,” Renfro said.

The Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. For more information visit https://www.christopherreeve.org/about-us  or email Rita Gentles, manager of marketing and communications, at rgentles@christopherreeve.org.  

UM’s Rural Institute improves the quality of life for people with disabilities in rural communities, their families and service providers. For more information visit http://ruralinstitute.umt.edu/ or call 406-243-5467. For information specific to the Wheels Across Montana project, call Renfro at 406-243-2841.

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Contact: Mindy Renfro, principal investigator, UM Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities, 406-243-2841, mindy.renfro@umontana.edu.