Living with SMA poses everyday challenges and obstacles to navigate, but finding wheelchair-friendly activities and hobbies doesn’t have to be one of them. Regardless of a person’s specific needs and physical abilities, there is something out there for everyone. The key is to think outside of the box.
To do this, you must be willing to get creative. Whether you’re the outdoorsy or homebody type, we’ll explore some of the endless possibilities a person living with SMA has when it comes to activities and hobbies.
Ready to discover a new pastime? Let’s dive right in.
1. Go on nature hikes
When you’re a wheelchair user, some hiking trails may not be the safest bet. With bumpy terrains and rocky pathways, it’s important to be on the lookout for where you and your wheelchair are headed. Most states these days, however, have built accessible trails and bike paths with flat dirt or paved routes, making them a smooth and enjoyable experience for all wheelchair users.
Do you know of any trails in your area that cater to these specific needs? Check out TrailLink for a nationwide list.
2. Exercise your green thumb
Who loves the sight and smell of fresh blooms, homegrown vegetables, and spending some one-on-one time cultivating with Mother Nature? Calling all green thumbs to the garden table!
Although this hobby requires some upper body strength and adaptations, it’s still possible to grow a garden in your own backyard. Start by purchasing or, if you know a good craftsman, building your own garden tables that would meet the specifications of your wheelchair.
Next, when placing your tables, allow enough space between each table for you and your wheelchair to navigate through, as you’ll need to tend to your bulbs and blooms.
Lastly, decide what will be the easiest way for you to maintain your garden. There are many adaptive gardening tools and irrigation systems to lessen the daily load. Once you find what is most suitable for your needs, it’s time to dig in and get those hands dirty.
3. Play a sport
Many sports leagues today have adaptive leagues for people who use wheelchairs. For example, Power Soccer USA has both conference and recreational teams across the United States. With this adaptive sport, athletes can either use their own wheelchair or the league’s sports chairs to roll a 13-inch soccer ball across a basketball court. Footguards are attached to the front of the wheelchairs to aid in rolling the ball. Visit Power Soccer USA’s website today to find out if there is a league in your area.
4. Be a tourist in your own city
When was the last time you truly explored your city? When was the last time you looked up at the buildings and skyscrapers, and snapped a photo as a keepsake? Like any seasoned tourist knows, the important thing to do if you choose to scope out your city is to plan ahead.
As fun and adventurous as spontaneity sounds, it’s best to map out your route beforehand. Inaccessible places and spaces are bound to pop up where you least expect them. Cobblestone streets always seem to pave the way when you’ve arrived unprepared. Websites like Yelp and Google Maps can give better ideas as to what to expect with accessibility, parking, and sidewalk travel.
Once you have a wheelchair-friendly plan lined up, it’s time to explore. Take pictures by popular landmarks, or ride public transportation if that isn’t usually your thing. Learn something new about your city and, most importantly, have fun!
5. Become a bookworm
Lose yourself to the lavish lifestyle of Jay Gatsby or dive into a biography of one of your biggest heroes. Becoming a bookworm is a great pastime for anyone of any ability.
For those who can’t hold an actual book, electronic copies of books are your next best bet. From reading through an app on your phone to purchasing an e-reader, accessing and storing books has never been so convenient for people with physical disabilities. With a swipe of a finger, you’re turning pages and immersing yourself in a new story.
A final option for becoming a bookworm is listening to audiobooks. From your phone, computer, or car, audiobooks have never been more easily accessible — especially for those who can’t move their fingers or arms. Plus, hearing a book read by the author themselves can give a better feeling for the way they intended to write it.
Pro tip: Set reading goals for each book, and find someone who will hold you accountable for it. When you do, see if they’re willing to join the challenge!
6. Join a bowling league
Is bowling right up your alley? (There’s a little bowling humor for you.) With a sport such as this, there are different ways to make the game adaptable to meet your needs.
Equipment such as grip handle attachments can assist in gripping the ball. The purpose of these attachments is to create better control for the person who experiences difficulty using the finger holes.
For those who have limited use of their upper bodies, ball ramps can assist in rolling the ball down the lane. These ramps take the place of having to physically hold onto a bowling ball and swing your arm. Be sure to aim the ramp in the right direction, though. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of earning that strike for your team!
Are you willing to get adaptive and creative for your favorite activities and hobbies? At the end of the day, there is something for every person who is living with SMA and has specific needs. Just remember: Ask questions, do the research, and, of course, have fun!
Alyssa Silva was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at six months of age and, fueled by coffee and kindness, has made it her purpose to educate others on life with this disease. In doing so, Alyssa shares honest stories of struggle and strength on her blog alyssaksilva.com and runs a nonprofit organization she founded, Working On Walking, to raise funds and awareness for SMA. In her spare time, she enjoys discovering new coffee shops, singing along with the radio completely out of tune, and laughing with her friends, family, and dogs.