Meet the man traveling by wheelchair to advocate for more accessible nature trails

Mackay travellings on the Olympic Discovery Trail near his home in Washington .
Image: Courtesy of Ian Mackay

Ian Mackay considers himself a cyclist and a birder a nature buff who gets lost on lush roads near his Washington state home for hours every day.

But if popular opinion had its way, many people wouldn’t expect Mackay to be able to pursue this passion. They may even assume he couldn’t genuinely enjoy the outdoors independently.

That’s because his “cycle” is his power wheelchair, and Mackay is a quadriplegic man.

Using a power wheelchair in nature does have its challenges, and Mackay is the first to admit that. But those challenges don’t inherently stem from Mackay’s disability. He says they’re usually an expression of the results of nature trails that are relatively inaccessible to those on wheels a problem bicyclists and parents with strollers all grapple with, too.

Mackay is advocating for this to change and he’s use somewhat radical means.

The outdoors enthusiast simply embarked on a 10 -day journey, which started on Aug. 13, that will take him more than 300 miles. Beginning in Victoria, British Columbia, and ending in Portland, Oregon, the road will span the entire length of his home state.

As Mackay puts it, he’s “rolling across Washington” to bring awareness to the need for accessible trails and bike tracks. And he’s dubbed the journey Ian’s Ride.

The need for most accessible trails

On June 4, 2008, Mackay was in a bicycling accident at age 26 while traveling a nature trail. He was riding home from college on a familiar route in Santa Cruz, California but what wasn’t familiar was unexpected patches of sand on the turns of his regularly traveled trail stimulated him slide out and lose control. Mackay ran headfirst into a tree.

“I crashed and I violated I broke my neck, ” Mackay , now 34, tells Mashable .

The helmet he was wearing most likely saved his life. But Mackay sustained a spinal cord injury in the accident. The outdoors enthusiast can now shrug his shoulders, but that’s the maximum mobility his body is capable of below the neck.

Mackay travelings theOlympic Discovery Trail in Washington state.

Image: Courtesy of Ian Mackay

Mackay’s passion for nature predates his paralysis. He started to appreciate roads in his 20 s, but says he only rekindled his love for the outdoors about two years ago with the help of assistive technology.

Mackay knows he is relatively lucky that accessible trails are abundant near his Washington home. Yet, that access isn’t guaranteed in all places even in other regions throughout Washington.

“Me and my other paralyzed friends that live in the greater Washington area many of us don’t have the luxury of having access to beautiful trails or easy to access routes, ” he says. “Much of the time, we are stuck on the sides of roads and roads and we don’t want to be at risk on the shoulder riding next to big rigs.”

In planning Ian’s Ride, there was one key topic facing Mackay: In a ride advocating for more accessible roads, how was he going to ensure his route was actually accessible? Much of the journey, after all, is uncharted territory for the outdoor adventurer.

“We are stuck on the sides of roads and roads and we don’t want to be at risk on the shoulder riding next to big rigs.”

Mackay says that’s where Washington Bikes, a statewide organization that advocates for more accessible roads in the nation, stepped up and had an indelible impact. Historically, the organization hasn’t focused on people with disabilities, but instead cyclists and parents with strollers who also frequent roads. But Mackay’s accessibility requires, he says, perfectly align with those of other nature travelers on wheels.

The organization helped connect Mackay to the cycling community in “the worlds largest” Washington region. After Mackay put together a proposed plan of his road, he posted it on his blog and the cycling community took action.

“I got a tremendous amount of emails from cyclists with pictures of roads I wanted to travel and advice like, ‘There’s very little sidewalk. You might want to reconsider, ‘” he says. “With all of this input, I was able to revise and now I have the best scenario possible.”

The route for Ian’s Ride.

Image: Politenes of Ian MackAy

Though he says the bicycling community has given him a “much more polished, viable road, ” the majority of his trip will be on roads and shoulders of small highways. It’s what’s most accessible, Mackay says and an indicator that the work he’s doing is essential.

“Anywhere I can get on a track or road, I’m going to be on a track or road, ” Mackay says. “But even me being visible on these roads and roads only highlights what I need more.”

Mackay isn’t going on the journey alone. His mama, Teena, is his “main roadie.” She will be driving the route, providing general caregiving to Mackay during his trek. Mackay will also travel with at the least two cyclists the entire day, additionally meeting up with other friends along the way who want to be a part of his journey.

Ian and his mother, Teena.

Image: Politenes of Ian Mackay

For the first few days, Mackay plans to go about 40 miles per day. But his power wheelchair, which can travelling up to 7 miles an hour, merely goes 25 or 30 miles on a single charge of the battery, presenting an obvious problem. To curb the need to charge, Mackay is bringing a second chair to swap mid-day.

“I’ve done 30 -mile days, but I’ve never done a 40 -mile day, ” Mackay says. “It’s going to be a first for me, but I’m ready for it.”

Technology helping to facilitate independence

Since his accident, Mackay says he has grappled with the desire for greater independence especially when it comes to exploring nature. For the first several years after his accident, he shied away from the outdoors, feeling unable to take advantage of the trails and routes he once frequented due to his disability.

Technology gave him the confidence to reconnect with nature, and it’s a key element of Ian’s Ride.

“The more roads out there, the very best for everyone.”

To drive his power wheelchair, Mackay use a sip and puffed a straw-like device that is sensitive to air pressure, letting him to send directional signals to his wheelchair. And while that technology lets Mackay to navigate independently, what really has given him the confidence to explore the outdoors is something people without disabilities use daily a smartphone.

Mackay gives credit for being able to independently and fearlessly explore nature to Switch Control, specific features released on Apple’s iOS 7 in autumn 2013. The feature allows Mackay to navigate his iPhone with a simple switch placed near his mouth, utilizing flicks of his lips to replace finger gestures other users typically rely on.

“Before Switch Control came out, I was very reliant on someone using the phone for me or navigating a GPS for me, ” he says.

Now, Mackay can be the main navigator in his everyday outings and on Ian’s Ride. Over the 300 -mile journey, he will control the GPS and be the point person for all his squad. And he’ll do it completely hands-free.

Mackay says the importance of technology to people with disabilities while out in nature can not only be life-changing, but also life-saving. And it has been for him.

In summer 2015, Mackay crashed his wheelchair while out on a trail, totally tip-off over. The trail was not well-trafficked, and his mouth could not reach the switching needed to activate his telephone to alert assist. He couldn’t even use the “Hey Siri” option on his iPhone a command that automatically activates hands-free navigation for iPhone users because there was not enough service.

Mackay, however, had a back-up alternative a tracking app that proved to be essential. When he was gone for a prolonged period without contact, his family knew to activate the app and find him.

“Having that confidence and knowing I can reach my help has allowed me to spend hours out there as long as I have someone on call, ” he says. “I now have that feeling of independence again.”

The beginning of accessibility advocacy

Mackay admits that the push for most accessible trails is going to take more than one human on a 10 -day mission. He says it’s going to take communities getting more invested in their own trails and accessibility at large.

“To push for accessible roads, we first need to get more activity and traffic on the ones we already have.”

“All of our communities have great places in nature that are underused, ” Mackay says. “To push for accessible roads, we first need to get more activity and traffic on the ones we already have. That gets the conversation started.”

But he also recognizes that sometimes advocacy works best through policy. He encourages people around the U.S. to talk to local and state government officials to express a wishing for more all-inclusive roads even if they don’t inevitably need them themselves.

“You know, I enjoy traveling, ” Mackay says. “The more people can get out in their communities and proponent for this, the very best it is for me and the very best it is for them.”

Even with complex planning and inevitable challenges along the way, Mackay is hopeful his ride will make a tangible impact. And he hopes that impact is felt not only in the Washington disability rights community, but for all people who could benefit from outdoor accessibility nationwide.

“We’re all in it together be it the cyclists, the mommies with strollers, the joggers. We’re all together out there, ” he says. “The more trails out there, the very best for everyone.”

To support Mackay throughout his ride, you can visit his blog or donate here. All funds raised, Mackay says, will go toward lodge and other accommodations during his trip. Any additional fund will be given to Washington Bikes to assistance the organization in stimulating roads most accessible in the state of Washington.

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Body positive coloring volume uses art to challenge weight-based stigma

Image: Brittnay Herbert/ Mashable

Ashleigh Shackelford stands with unapologetic confidence, holding up a sign declaring, “Your body is not wrong. Society is.” Her image is solely outlined by thick black lines on white paper. Her fierce gaze dares you to pick up a pencil and begin to color her in.

But coloring the image of the body positive activist entails confronting the roundness of her face and the curves of her frame. It means get comfortable with her body a body society will ceaselessly label as less-than.

As your pink pencil gently traces the curves of her skirt, you realise her body is anything but incorrect. And that revelation is exactly the point.

To honor current fat activism trailblazers like Shackelford, artist Allison Tunis created Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book . The volume, published in late July, is what Tunis calls an “educational coloring book” that’s component fat activism, portion art therapy.

It features the black and white images of 23 activists who Tunis calls current “superstars” of the body positive movement and they are all individuals who influenced Tunis on her own journey to self-love.

Image: Brittany HErbert/ Mashable

Tunis was inspired to create the book in December 2015 after feeling compelled to give back to the movement that helped her love her body. She had been working on her own body positive journey for about a year prior, detecting activists who had an indelible impact on her life.

“I started thinking about what I could do to contribute to that motion, because it had induced such a difference in my life, ” she tells Mashable .

“It’s not only a soothing and relaxing meditation through the act of colour, but also a meditation on self.”

Tunis, who has degrees in fine art and art therapy, says landing on the idea of a coloring volume simply induced sense, given her background. And combating the fat-based hate in society with the healing qualities of art is something Tunis knew she could help facilitate for the community.

“The fat activism and body positivity movements are so welcoming and so inclusive that I knew if I did this project, I’d have a ready-made audience, ” she says.

Though Tunis says the act of coloring in itself is meditative and relaxing, the type of therapy encouraged by Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book operates deeper.

“It forces-out you to think about the different bodies and what your relationship is with them, ” she says. “It forces you to work out your own issues with bodies. It’s not only a soothing and relaxing meditation through the act of colour, but also a meditation on self.”

But that’s not only true for people who purchase the colouring volume and started to set crayon to paper. It was also true for Tunis as the illustrator of the book. The process built her confront some of the internalized weight-based hate she had toward her own body.

“As I was depicting these scenes, I realized I was able to see all of the beauty in these people so why wasn’t I able to see it in myself? ” she says.

To create the book, Tunis worked closely with the activists featured, keeping them updated on the progress and get their input on their depictions. She also offered them 25 percent of the profits.

“I’m employing their names and their images and their reputations to sell this volume, ” she says. “They deserve acknowledgment and that means monetary recognition.”

But Tunis devoted the activists a choice. They could either take the earned 25 percentage to support their own livelihoods and run, or donate it to the Canadian Mental Health Association an organization Tunis chose because of the mental health the health effects of dealing with fat hatred and weight-based stigma. She says about half of those featured has been decided to donate their cut of the profits.

Kelvin Davis, model and men’s fashion blogger, featured in “Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book.”

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/ MASHABLE

Over the past month since the book’s release, Tunis says the ready-made audience she foresaw has pulled through, constructing the self-published volume a financial success. Some activists, like burlesque musician Noella DeVille and activist and writer Virgie Tovar, are even buying the books in bulk to sell at their own events, bringing the work to a larger audience.

But the release also pulled in another unexpected audience: children. Tunis says she’s received several notes from mothers saying they are grateful to have an alternative option to the tiny waists and unrealistic proportions that coat the pages of other coloring books.

“People have been saying that they are buying this coloring book not only for themselves, but to color in with their daughters and children, ” she says. “I genuinely think it helps spread a positive notion. You are spreading awareness that all bodies are good bodies to your children.”

“Taking the time to lovingly color images of people who definitely sounds like me is so healing…”

Substantia Jones, a fat positive photographer featured in the book, employs her own art to deconstruct how fat bodies are perceived in society, calling her work “part fat, component feminism, portion ‘fuck you.'” She describes Tunis’ coloring volume as following a similar mantra, challenging the belief of which bodies deserve to be celebrated.

“Utilizing other means of media to bring the message of body love and fat adoption to people particularly young people is nothing short of brilliant, ” Jones tells Mashable . “Wallpapering countries around the world with positive depictions of fat folks is demonstrating effective, and I’m glad to be aboard Allison Tunis’ project.”

Cynthia Ramsay Noel( left ), founder of “Flight of the Fat Girl, ” and Ashleigh Shackelford, body positive activist and writer.

Image: Brittany Herbert/ Mashable

When speaking to Mashable about the impact of the book, Tovar describes the effort as “super radical.” She says even the simple act of coloring can help to normalize a range of bodies, which was part of Tunis’ main goal.

“This coloring volume is a big deal because historically there has been almost no positive, self-directed representations of fat people in any publishing, ” Tovar says. “Coloring is a therapeutic activity that requires day and commitment. Taking the time to lovingly colouring images of people who look like me is so mending because often we are learned how to shy away from looking at our own fat bodies.”

“To every person who has ever seemed in the mirror and hated what they saw. You do not have to feel like this.”

Case analyzes conducted over the past several years found that art therapy supportings emotional well-being and lessens stress in both children and adults. Those who use art therapeutically have been found to build fewer phone calls to mental health providers and use fewer medical and mental health services.

But, even with art’s mending qualities on your side, things sometimes get tough and Tunis knows that first-hand. Even after determining body positivity, she says she still has bad days with her body image. But, she adds, the activists featured in the colouring book help her along the way.

“There’s this whole community of astonishing people who do amazing things and their bodies are a part of that, ” Tunis says. “It’s not that they are amazing in spite of their bodies. They are astounding because they are embracing their bodies. I remember there are people who love them and find them attractive. I don’t have to feel this way.”

And she echoes that notion for anyone who picks up the book through a powerful dedication that prefaces the book: “To every person who has ever appeared in the mirror and detested what they foresee. You do not have to feel like this.”

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9 social good inventions that made an impact in August

Image: MINE KAFON DRONE/ KICKSTARTER; BRYCE VICKMARK/ MIT; SMART DIAPHRAGM/ UCSF; Youtube/ American Chemical Society

Socially conscious discoverers are the true champs of global progress, though they are rarely recognized.

Their innovations and inventions shake up our world, tackling some of the planet’s biggest problems with bold ingenuity. From tiny gadgets that they are able cleanse water in a flash to satellites that are mapping global poverty in an unprecedented way, innovations are constantly inducing steps toward solving massive social problems.

These nine inventions sought to tackle global inequality in August.

1. The attire line meant to help curb Zika virus

Design mockups of the repellant-laced attire line.

Image: Maternova

Designers at Maternova, an innovation hub geared toward the needs of pregnant women, have developed a line of apparel containing insect repellent with intents of protecting expectant mamas from Zika virus. The repellant being implemented in the clothing, the designers told TakePart , protect the wearer from more than 40 types of bugs and will last up to 50 washes.

The designers also say they are hoping the clothing can provide an additional layer of protection to the existing safety precautions pregnant women take to curb the spread of the virus. The project is currently hosted on crowdfunding site Republic, and it raised more than $25,000 throughout the month of August.

2. A minuscule gadget that sterilizes water in minutes

Harnessing the power of UV lights to kill bacteria, this tiny device many have the major power needed to eventually help clean contaminated water in developing nations. A newspaper in Nature Nanotechnology announced the smaller, inexpensive invention in early August.

Researchers told Fast Company the device which is only half the size of a set of stamps can sterilize a bottle of water in 20 minutes, increasing the effectiveness of UV rays in decontamination. In comparing, it usually takes one complete day for UV rays alone to kill bacteria in the same quantity of water.

3. AI helping the Blind community identify objects

Image: Aiploy

Aipoly, a free, downloadable app for iPhone users, helps blind and visually impaired people identify everyday objects promptly. Users simply need to point their telephones at an object or colour, and the app will tell them what it recognise via text on the screen or its Speaking Voice setting.

While similar identification apps and technology exist for helping those with low or no vision to differentiate between currency, Aipoly’s wide catalog of various objects( like differentiate between brands of soda) induces this tech stand out.

The app was announced as a Clearly Vision Prize semi-finalist in August, and the wins will be named later this year.

4. Edible food packaging attained with milk

In a world dominated by plastic packaging, we need sustainable alternatives to house and preserve our food. U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers are developing a new biodegradable cinema made of a milk protein called casein to assist kerb plastic-related waste and it’s even edible.

The film is also an estimated 500 periods better than plastic packaging at keeping food fresh, by keeping oxygen away from food more effectively.

The innovative technology gained mass attention in August, and was officially announced at the 252nd American Chemical Society National Meeting& Exposition late last month.

5. An easy style to monitor energy use in your home

Our tech-loving society uses a lot of energy, but many of us can’t say for certain how much power we use in a given period of time. A single sensor devised by MIT researchers could change that, by monitoring the energy every device in your home uses.

A paper published on Aug. 1 announced the monitor a small, $30 gadget you place on the main power line of your home with a simple zip tie-in. The device can sense patterns in voltage and currents through the wire, detecting whether energy is powering a illuminate, motor or another device and documenting when mass amounts of energy is being used.

The sensor empowers homeowners with information on their energy consumption, hopefully inspiring them to cut back to save money and the planet.

6. A droning that safely removes bombs

Detecting and removing landmines is dangerous and time-intensive, but the Mine Kafon Drone, which was fully funded via Kickstarter in August, is working to change this. It discovers landmines and destroys them entirely, without humen ever immediately interacting with an area of concern.

Here’s how it runs: The drone surveys an area of land and sees landmines with a metal detector, simultaneously mapping the region. Once the mines have been mapped and seen, the drone’s operator falls detonators on top of the landmines with an limb extend from the droning. When the detonators are in place and the area is clear, the operator can blow up the mines from a safe distance use a timer.

The drone is in prototype phase, but inventor Massoud Hassani hopes to start production on the product in the next six months.

7. The diaphragm that detects labor before contractions

A newly developed diaphragm dubbed the Smart Diaphragm senses changes in the cervix, seeing when a woman is about to go into labor before contractions even start.

Contractions are currently the main indicator for medical professionals to know a woman is about to give birth. But in the case of early labors, this is much too late to do anything to significantly prolong a pregnancy or address an underlying health fear, leading to more premature newborns and more chance of health risks for the mother.

Using the Bluetooth-powered Smart Diaphragm, doctors( and expectant moms) can know if a woman is going to give birth up to two weeks before she actually does.

Detecting when a woman is going to give birth could be life-changing and life-saving for women and newborns, especially those living in remote rural areas who usually lack access to last-minute emergency medical care. Though iterations of the inexpensive innovation have been around for years, test trials began in Kenya and South Africa in August.

8. Poverty detection via AI and satellite

A satellite image closeup of the Kiberia Slums in Nairobi, Kenya.

Image: DigitalGlobe/ Getty

Poverty is a systemic global issue, but mapping it to adequately address needs and find trends is not easy work. A new style of mapping poverty via spacecraft and AI, however, could help revolutionize how relief workers distribute aid to different parts of the world, saving the time and fund it takes to conduct on-the-ground surveys of poor regions.

In mid-August, a study published in the publication Science detailed how machine learning and satellite imagery are planning to map poverty in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi. While researchers admit the tech won’t be replacing on-the-ground surveys anytime soon, they believe the method could even initially dramatically improve the results of aid run data and subsistence tangible relief efforts.

9. A bot that helps low-income people fight eviction

Image: JOSHUA BROWDER/ DoNotPAy

Lawyers are notoriously expensive. Robot lawyers, however, are free. And, in some cases, these bots acting as stellar legal aids, helping low-income individuals keep their homes by advising them on eviction threats.

Stanford undergrad Joshua Browder first devised the bot, called DoNotPay, to fight parking tickets for any user with a computer and a fine. But Browder released a new bot in August in partnership with Centrepoint, one of the UK’s largest youth homelessness charities to help those unable to afford legal aid fight evictions.

A user has a simple instant message-like dialogue with the bot, and the virtual lawyer then decides how to best help them on the basis of their answers to questions. The bot then usually crafts a claims letter, filling in the information provided and potentially saving hundreds of dollars in legal fees.

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