It is the end of September. Cold season is fast approaching and with it the probability of snow. For some, this means a traffic hazard, for others, it's the chance to go on a ski trip. The Freizeit-PSO association has created a special offer for persons with disabilities, which will be presented here at REHACARE Trade Fair in Hall 5 at Booth B26 from Wednesday until Saturday.
Trade fair visitors can get information on barrier-free ski travel and professional instruction or just try out sit-skis right in the exhibition hall. REHACARE.com spoke with skiing instructor Stefanie Gampersberger about special equipment and the corresponding offers.
Ms. Gampersberger, what options do people with disabilities have when it comes to skiing?
Stefanie Gampersberger: It obviously depends on the person’s type of disability. Generally speaking, everyone is able to ski – you just need to have the right auxiliary aids and an assistant by your side. We offer skiing lessons for people with visual impairments, cognitive disabilities and physical disabilities like paraplegia.
Does this require special equipment?
Gampersberger: There are a number of custom-made aids, among them mono-skis, bi-skis or outrigger skis. Mono-skis are best suited for people with strong upper body strength and coordination. People with varying disabilities can use bi-skis. They are adapted for people suffering from spastic paraplegia, hemiparesis or traumatic brain injury for example. Even people with very severe physical and so-called intellectual abilities can ski with the support of an assistant. Outrigger skis let you easily ski on slopes with various difficulty ratings; they are intended for amputees, among others. Another option are ski-links that are mounted to the tip of the skis to support people with learning disabilities or dyspraxia. This lets the skiing instructor assist in steering and braking.
How are you different from ski schools for people without any disabilities?
Gampersberger: We differ from conventional ski schools in that we provide individual assistance. That means every student has their own teacher who addresses their individual needs. If a person needs further assistance, we also offer units with two teachers. In addition, we also have helper training courses, so parents can learn how to teach their children to ski.
What's more, we also provide special custom equipment such as different sit-skis, outrigger skis, and ski-links for example. For the one-on-one lessons including the ski gear, special equipment, and lift ticket, Freizeit-PSO approximately charges the same fee able-bodied persons pay for group lessons including lift pass and gear. We fund the additional cost through sponsorships and donations because we believe it is unfair to pay a much higher fee for private lessons, special equipment and increased organizational expenditures as a result of a disability.
How well are these offers accepted?
Gampersberger: Very well, especially in the winter months since we also offer activities for the summer. Our offers are inclusive travel packages because family and friends are also welcome. In early 2005, circa 300 ski packages were booked with us; at the start of this year, we already booked 1,000 trips.
You are an exhibitor at REHACARE. Why is this trade fair important to you and your work?
Gampersberger: The REHACARE trade fair is very important to us because it simply is the largest trade show event for rehabilitation in Germany where we get to meet our target audience. This is already my third time at this trade fair.
What exactly are you presenting at this year's REHACARE?
Gampersberger: Once again, we will feature sit-skis to show interested visitors how this auxiliary aid works. You are welcome to sit on them and try out the different features. To get a feel for our outdoor offers, as always, we also provide a variety of graphic materials and welcome any questions you might have.