‘A whole new world’: Georgia debuts all-terrain wheelchairs at its state parks

'A whole new world': Georgia debuts all-terrain wheelchairs at its state parks

(CNN) — Wheelchair users will now be able to explore Georgia's state parks with free all-terrain wheelchairs.

The new fleet of wheelchairs is part of a collaboration between the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Aimee Copeland Foundation, launched by Aimee Copeland, a social worker. She 2012 lost two hands, one foot and most of one leg due to a rare bacterial, flesh-eating infection. The organization works to improve accessibility for disabled people, particularly through outdoor recreation.

“All Terrain Georgia is the pride and joy of the Aimee Copeland Foundation,” said Copeland in a news release from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “It's been a long time coming, and we're honored to offer this life-changing program to the community.”

According to the release, the all-terrain wheelchairs allow wheelchair users to navigate more difficult terrain than they might be able to in an everyday wheelchair. The chairs will be free with reservations at 11 state parks and historic sites in Georgia.

The new wheelchairs were unveiled at Panola Mountain State Park, southeast of Atlanta, on November 4. Users must reserve the wheelchairs in advance and have a designated “buddy” with them at all times.

Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Director Jeff Cown emphasized the importance of providing access to the outdoors for everyone in Georgia.

“Our mission is to provide outdoor opportunities for every Georgia citizen and visitor,” said Cown in the release. “I am proud to partner with the Aimee Copeland Foundation to offer access to visitors with mobility or physical disabilities.”

Georgia follows in the footsteps of Minnesota and Michigan, which have also introduced free all-terrain, electric-powered wheelchairs at their state parks.

Cory Lee, a blog writer, focused on traveling as a wheelchair user, told CNN that he's excited to explore Georgia's state parks using the new chairs.

“It'll open up a whole new world for other wheelchair users and for me,” he said.

He added that many of the Georgia state parks he has visited are “lacking in accessibility.”

“Some of them only have one accessible trail,” he said. “Now, there will be so many other trails that I can do. I'm looking forward to getting out on those trails soon.”

Lee added that state parks should still focus on adding more wheelchair-accessible routes if possible. Getting out of his everyday wheelchair and into the all-terrain wheelchair can be challenging.

Still, the all-terrain wheelchairs “are a phenomenal resource,” he said.

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