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Accessible Geocaching

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Hello All...


I'm relatively new to Geocaching and started it in the hopes it would get me and my husband (both of us are dedicated couch potatoes) out of the house and some much needed and long delayed exercise.


My husband is blind. He really is more or less along for the ride when it comes to caching. When he is with me, we do one star caches, as it is incredibly difficult to trek through wilderness and do sighted guide over rocks, under low lying tree branches, etc.


Unfortunately, a lot of one star caches really aren't one star at all. He got to the point of staying home and saying "forget it" as it's too difficult and stressful for him to be out there trying to navigate.


I recently placed a one star cache and made it handicapped accessible--no strenuous hiking, close to the main trail, easy to locate. It got me thinking about how geocaching could be made accessible for people with handicaps. I came up with four main categories of handicap: vision, hearing, cognitive, and mobility.


For my part, of course, and for most Geocachers, accessibility is not much of an issue, we can go pretty much anywhere. But for individuals who do have some kind of impairment, what can make geocaching easier so they are still able to participate?


I work with the visually impaired and blind population (yes, in this PC world, the blind still wish to be called the blind) and I have some ideas about how caching can be made easier for those individuals, although the GPS itself is inaccessible and they will definitely need a sighted person to use that and get coordinates.


My questions are:


1. What ideas have people out there got for making the sport accessible to individuals with vision, hearing, cognitive, or mobility impairments?


2. Can it be done? Can the sport be made accessible?


3. Should there be some way of noting on the cache descriptions that the cache is accessible to a person who has one of the impairments mentioned?


I'd like to think that 1 star caches/terrain ratings would mean the cache is easy enough to get to, but know from experience that it is not the case. What ideas do others have?



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Susan, we try to encourage people to use the rating system linked off the cache submission page, such that a single star for terrain difficulty should in theory be a wheel chair accesable cache.


Unfortunately not all use that link to rate their cache. There are also degrees of wheelchair accesability - some caches may have paved trails leading to them, but the last few feet may be off trail and problematic. Some wheelchair bound geocachers can negociate those last few feet, some can't.


There are a few that make it a point to describe their cache as accessable. I did that to a recent urban cache of mine but recently discovered that finders had moved it up to eye level from its earlier level a few feet off the ground. No problem for them, but problematic for those in a wheelchair.


Not sure what to tell you about a vision impairment. I know of one cache that is hidden behind a braille sign, but it would take a great deal of imagination to come up with a cache that can be found by the blind but not be too obvious to those who are not blind.


As far as the blind, like your hubby, going along with you I would think that a one star for terrain difficulty, if done correctly, should suffice.


A hearing impairment shouldn't be too much of an impairment to hunting geocaches, I would think. As far as cognitive impairments, I guess it would be a matter of degree. Some cache locations are listed as child friendly to contrast those not suitable for children. Perhaps that would be an adequate guide?


You may want to consider e-mailing cache owners ahead of time to ask them specifics about accessability of their cache. I know I'd hate to travel to a cache site only to find I couldn't quite get to it. Been there, done that! icon_frown.gif



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I agree with Erik. I wish more people would rate their caches correctly. I recently did a 1/1 cache that involved a 1/4 mile bushwack down a steep hillside, two stream crossings (no bridge), crossing a boulder field and climbing over numerous downed trees. It was no problem for me, but my wife recently hurt her back and was not enjoying the walk, as bending to get under tree limbs and climb over logs was very painful.


I wrote an e-mail to the owner suggesting that he change the rating, but received no response and the rating is still 1/1. I do this anytime I find a cache that is rated as 1 star for terrain, but is not hancicap accessable. I'll usually say something about in the log as well.

Most of the time my comments are ignored.


Like Erik said, if you have doubts, contact the cache owner and ask them if the cache is handicap accessable. If they say it isn't, then ask them to change the rating.


Not being familiar with the issues that come with being blind, I really can't make suggestions. You probably are most qualified to do that. Perhaps you can place a few caches that cater to the blind and/or wheelchair bound.

I know there are geocachers out there with all kinds of handicaps and there are also geocachers who have placed caches specifically for them.


Check this recent thread for some more info.


[This message was edited by BrianSnat on June 04, 2003 at 05:42 AM.]

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It would be nice to have a device that beeps, then place it on the cache when YOU find it and let him try. ?????


On ratings, I used the link, and today reduced the rating on 2 caches based on feedback in peoples' logs. Perhaps clayjars rating page is a good place to start, but I think you need to adjust ratings over time.



Not all those that wander are lost. But in my case... icon_biggrin.gif

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In terms of vision impairment...


Most blind people are not totally blind; in fact, only a very small portion of the blind population is totally blind.


To make caching easier for vision impaired folks, some of the following could be implemented:


Placing the cache in a container that has a good contrast to the environment. Even if the cache is covered with ground cover and well hidden, leaving just a little portion of the contrasting color showing could help someone spot the cache.


Selecting a trail that does not traverse major natural obstacles--rock climbing, lots of roots and uneven ground, water, slippery spots. Or at least giving fair warning in the cache description.


Using a trail with bright trail markers or leaving a piece of conservation tape nearby to give the person a visual focus.


Obviously these cannot all occur with every cache. These are just some immediate ideas I've had.


As for wheelchair users or cane users, the elderly, or children, a good wide path is a must. Placing the cache at a comfortable level--be it on the ground or just a couple of feet off the ground can make all the difference. Particularly with people who have trouble bending, placing the cache up a bit may be just what they need to participate.


I agree that hearing impairment probably doesn't need many adaptations. However, I did do a cache where it was mentioned that a rod and gun club was nearby and beware of walking to close to the shooting range (listen to gunshots). Details like that should definitely be included.


For folks with a cognitive impairment, making a clear additional hint could be useful.


These are just some things off the top of my head.


Thanks to all who have participated thus far.



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Perhaps marking the cache page (that the cache is placed for the suitability towards impaired cachers) would cut down on the extremely rude remarks by cachers who feel they are above such things.


I can see the conversations now:

"I have found 400 caches!"

"Yeah, but 2 were for blind people....."



Not all those that wander are lost. But in my case... icon_biggrin.gif

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It is a very difficult thing for the 'able' to know the limitations of those who are not 'able'. Each person who has a disablity of some sort is also more or less able depending on an entire variety of things that come into play including sheer grit.


Since most geocachers can't rate a cache accuratly to save their own life that puts you in the drivers seat. There are others here who would join you in figuring out a workable soltuion to a very difficult problem. Until that day it's up to you to figure out good mapping software. You can determin which caches are park and bags with a high degree of success. While the caches will vary in difficutly and terrain most of them will at least leave you within voice range.



Wherever you go there you are.

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As someone of limited abilities (more limited these last 2 and 1/2 weeks), I've found that a good terrain description on the cache page helps me determine if a cache is something I can feasibly do. When in doubt, e-mail the owner. If you have a state geocaching commmunity like we do in Arizona, then you could ask other geocachers about the terrain of these caches. If you can find out what cachers in your area also have handicap limitations, then you could trade information.

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