Kayakers and canoeists with disabilities soon will have better access to Pittsburgh’s rivers.
The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation will be installing an “EZ Launch” system at the Point along with ADA-compliant restrooms and an accessible route to Pittsburgh’s downtown.
The launching area includes rollers that smoothly move boats in and out of the water, along with a transfer bench for wheelchair users. The dock will provide disabled boaters with a safe place to move from wheelchair, to bench, to boat and vice versa.
“It really stabilizes the kayak,” said Marci Mowery, president of the Parks and Forest Foundation, “and allows you to exit and enter it much more safely, especially if you have any choppy water conditions, and it allows you to be more un-self-sufficient in getting yourself into and out of your boat.”
According to the Parks and Forest Foundation, one in five Americans has a disability and with 40 million people visiting state parks each year, that means those parks serve as many as 8 million people with disabilities every year.
Mowery said the project is all about simplifying things for people with disabilities.
“We want to remove any obstacles,” Mowery said. “This is one of those things that we feel would make it easier for people with a disability or with balance challenges to participate in water sports.”
The dock will replace a stop on the Three Rivers Water Trail.
The group is hoping the dock will be up and running by the end of the summer.
The EZ Dock project is part of a Parks and Forest Foundation’s initiative of making Pennsylvania parks more accessible for all citizens and is funded by a $35,000 grant from the Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation.
“All of us, at some point in our lives, may have a disability or may have an impairment,” Mowery said. “Maybe we break our leg or we have arthritis when we get older or we slow down — there’s always something that could happen to any one of us on any given day.”