New 'toon in Bewdley removes accessibility barriers

September 2011 News
Fishing trips on Rice Lake offer a chance to escape daily challenges of life with cerebral palsy for a young Keene woman. 

Vicky Hillyer, daughter of FishAbility Sports Club founders Debbie and Keith Hillyer, has cerebral palsy, a condition that can affect the brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning and hearing. FishAbility Sports Club was founded in June 2008 as a fishing club out of Bewdley for children, youth and adults with any disability. Last Saturday, Aug. 27, the club celebrated the donation of a 20-foot pontoon boat called Ability I, which was launched on Rice Lake from the Bewdley Waterfront Park.

Vicky Hillyer said the boat means a lot to the club members.

"It is fantastic. It opens so many doors for so many of us. For myself I can't get into a usual boat because the are so deep on the sides. This one I can just step in, no problem. I am actually barrier-free for a little while," said Ms. Hillyer. She enjoys fishing with the club.

"I love fishing because it is an opportunity for me to get away from things and not worry about my next appointment, next surgery or whatever it may be. I can just focus on fishing for a little and escape a little bit," she said.

Katie Hartford said she likes to meet friends and fish with the club. Born with spina bifida, Ms. Hartford uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around. She has been fishing with the club for two years and looked forward to trying out the new boat.

"It is amazing. I love it," she said. Ms. Hartford was wheeled onto the boat through a door, which swung open and was level with the dock. Debbie Hillyer said the boat has some special features, which allows people with mobility issues to board easily. The boat has removable seats to allow space for wheelchairs, she said. There is also a privacy area for boaters to change clothes, if necessary, said Ms. Hillyer.

Club member Jodie St. John said the new boat is good for people with disabilities.


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