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IOL Adventure For All Group -  conference report

IOL Adventure For All Group - conference report

Report, photos and video

Adventure For All conference

As soon as I arrived at the IOL Adventure For All conference, I could feel the energy in the room. Outdoor professionals, with a real passion for providing inclusive outdoor activities for people with disabilities, coming together to learn from each other.

With people attending from all over the UK, some from specialist centres, others from mainstream (but inclusive) outdoor centres and others attending as individuals, it was great to see so many different people there, eager to learn. It was also useful this year to visit one of the specialist providers in inclusive outdoor activities, Calvert Trust Lakes.

Outdoor sector conferences often revolve around coffee and biscuit breaks which are a great chance for networking, and this event was no exception, but there were plenty of structured sessions throughout the weekend too.

We spent a good couple of hours in the climbing wall looking at hoists and adaptive harnesses. How to select the right harness for a climber and how best to fit them. It was great to see so many people getting hands-on, having a play with the kit. It was also really interesting to observe the level of detail that some people got into. I’ve delivered many climbing disability awareness training courses over the years, but it’s the adventure for all conference where you see people discussing the minutiae of where to place a particular strap or karabiner. Its these little details, that can really make a difference in ensuring somebody is comfortable, enabling them to enjoy and succeed in the activity.

We also got into the hydrotherapy pool in the evening. It provided a nice opportunity to ‘warm up’ and go for a swim, but the real purpose was to discuss water safety when working with people with disabilities. We had various people tipping out of boats, wearing various flotation devices, seeing how they ‘actually float!’ We also discussed the safety issues around strapping people into boats. Clearly there are risks with this, but it is often essential if some people are to access the activity (particularly those people with more complex physical impairments). What the workshop showed was how crucial it was to ensure that the right safety measures are in place and that the staff are appropriately trained and they know what they’re doing.

Moving and handling was another useful area of discussion during the conference. This is such an important issue for our specialist field. Not only is it about how we protect the participant whilst accessing the activities, it is also about supporting and protecting staff in what is an incredibly physically demanding job.

During the conference, we looked at hoisting techniques, how we used simple, non technical equipment such as lifting slings, we talked about guiding blind or visually impaired people and how to safely support wheelchair users on steep or rough terrain. We certainly managed to pack a lot in to an hour and a half session!

The weekend was purposefully delivered ‘informally’. No one is the ‘expert at everything’; all the presentations were delivered in a very collaborative way, drawing on the knowledge and experience of everyone in the room. This is what makes the AFA conference so special.

Whether people were new to the outdoor sector, or ‘old timers’, everyone was there to learn, but it proved to be more than that; people also got an increased drive and inspiration (apologies for using this overused word!), to go on and develop and improve their own practices. This was great to see - after all, the aim was to support the whole outdoor sector to become more inclusive.

Next year, we go south to Avon Tyrrell in Hampshire on 1st December. Look out for more information and bookings details in the autumn of 2023. We hope to see you there!

Nick Liley
Secretary to the IOL AFA group,
                                       Centre Director at the Bendrigg Trust

We'd like to share some photos of the Conference - below.

There is a video from the Conference available to view here on YouTube

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