In 1987 NOHVCC Chairman of the Board of Directors Dan Kleen was injured in a diving accident. Before the accident, Dan was an avid motorcyclist (both on and off-highway). After his injuries led to him wrestling with his new status as an incomplete C-6 quadriplegic he was worried he would have to completely abandon the sport that he loves. Luckily, at the time ATVs and later the availability of ROVs (side-by-sides) provided him continued opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy motorized recreation.
Dan says “OHVs are great equalizers as there are not many other sports or recreational activities in which I can fully participate.”
But it is not just those who have a history of participation in powersports who can benefit from the opportunities OHVs provide. Dan knows a lady of 70 plus years of age with limited mobility who now gets to fully enjoy outdoor photography. She found that her motorized wheelchair restricted her ability to access the places she likes to visit to capture nature and wildlife with her camera. She now uses an ROV to help her get her shots!
Dan and others with physical limitations can use hand controls in their ROVs like those that physically-challenged individuals utilize in road-going passenger vehicles. ATVs often feature automatic transmissions and power steering which make it easier for some with limitations to ride.
Like with most things these days Dan suggests that those who are interested in adapted vehicles start with searches on google and youtube. “There are a lot of people who have figured out how to adapt these vehicles for use by those with limitations. Simply getting a taste of what is out there is a great place to start.” For more in-depth information those interested should reach out to local OHV clubs and associations, powersports dealers, state spinal cord injury associations and Easter Seals to find others in similar situations.
Dan says “another good thing is for those with interest to visit a local powersports dealership and look at the vehicles that are available. One can get a good idea of which vehicles they may be able to get in and out of and operate. Everyone is different, so there are different options that may make it possible for those with a diverse range of limitations to operate these vehicles. For example, there are harnesses, hand controls, spinner knobs for steering wheels and other products on the market which can be utilized to help get a lot of people recreating.”
Finally, Dan himself can offer guidance and can be reached at email@example.com.
Dan emphasized that there is always more to learn, and more products becoming available. “I have been in a chair for 32 years and I am still trying to figure out things that will make it easier for me to ride in and operate OHVs.”
There are countless challenges faced by numerous individuals, including some of which may not be visible – but many can be overcome with respect to OHV recreation. Even if operation of these vehicles is not possible – ROVs or full-sized four-wheel drive vehicles may offer a great opportunity to get outdoors as a passenger.
Dan shared that he doesn’t take rides for granted, instead he views them as a gift he has been given as there was a time that he didn’t believe he would be able to get outdoors ever again. He recounted a story that means a lot to him. “I was at a Jamboree and participants were offered the chance to ride a new model ATV that was being premiered at the event. I left my wheelchair in my truck and set out on the ride with a group of riders and industry representatives that I didn’t know. When we stopped for lunch, I rode my ATV up to the picnic table and ate alongside the other riders. After eight hours of riding we returned to the trailhead and a friend brought my chair over so I could dismount. The other riders were stunned as they hadn’t realized that I had any limitations. That was a pretty fun day for me as I was able to keep up with all the riders and I felt 100% engaged in the sport.”
Lastly Dan stressed that people should not be afraid to try. “Sometimes your first, second or even third set-up may not be ideal – but keep trying! It will definitely be worth the challenge if you can get outdoors.”