Sunday, September 6, 2020

WA Hikers and Climbers (Facebook Group): The Power of Numbers

For several months, my husband has been a member of the Facebook group, "Washington Hikers and Climbers."  For several months, he has been encouraging me to join this group, extolling the outstanding photography and positivity.  For several months, I have ignored his suggestion, because the large majority of the group's posts are not appropriate to the specific needs of wheelchair hikers. 

However, I am now a convert and, perhaps, an evangelist for the group.  For starters, the group proves the power of numbers.  The group is huge -- currently over 150,000 members.  This means that if even only a small fraction of the people have an answer, the number of answers will still be numerous.  In addition, by definition, these are the people who know Washington's trails.  They are the ones using the trail systems, checking the online trail resources, and building/maintaining the state's trails.  Although they may not note all of the details necessary for a successful wheelchair hike, they have the exposure to trails that allows them to notice and take note of accessible trails.  Also, even though the vast majority of group members do not hike with wheelchairs,  they may know people who do, or they themselves may be temporarily in need of an accessible trail for some reason.  Finally, the pictures are amazing!

The problem with numbers is, of course, a problem of too much information -- in this case, an overabundance of posts with pretty pictures.  That is not a bad problem to have, and it is one that can be easily solved.  Access the group from your Facebook account, and click on the ellipsis (...) in the top right corner.  Click on "Unfollow Group," and you will stop receiving posts from this group in your feed (don't worry;  you still belong to the group).

The group has built an amazing set of topic filters, so you can search for the posts that are applicable to you.  Simply click on "Accessible Hike" on the right of the page (you'll need to scroll down a bit or do a "find" to get there)), and you'll be shown the posts that match this topic.   There are currently over 50 posts in the "Accessible Hike" category.  As with the WTA keyword filter, this filter may show all posts mentioning the accessibility of a hike (good or bad), rather than definite accessible hikes, but it is an excellent starting point. 

A brief search show that 2-3 times each year, someone asks about accessible trails.  A couple of weeks ago, one of the group's members posted a query as to wheelchair-accessible trails.  That post generated nearly 300 comments.  Although the comments don't always address the specific needs of a wheelchair hiker, they are one more source from which to garner ideas for accessible trails.  

A huge shout-out to the group's administrators and moderators for the inclusion of accessible hikes as a category in their topics.  A huge shout-out to the group's members for their notes and comments about accessible hikes.  My plan is to compile the recent suggestions for wheelchair-accessible hikes in an anonymous and de-personalized format, and then to post the list here.  I encourage WA wheelchair hikers to join this group (and maybe there are similar groups for other areas?).  Stay tuned ...

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