Friends of Access Israel and Paratrek have been assembling teams of hikers with and without disabilities to walk Central Park and Rockefeller State Park, both in New York.

The two organizations recently become the largest expedition of people with disabilities to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Starting on Aug. 1, the Friends of Access Israel Universal Expedition will launch its multi-year program in New York. Teams from around the world will participate in hikes of varying difficulty over a 12-day period. The hike/trek will capitalize on team members’ respective physical strengths, mental toughness and diverse abilities, embodying the hike’s hashtag, #AccessibleTogether.

The use of the word “Universal” is meaningful and intentional.

  • “Universal” is the concept of planning in advance to build events, schools, workplaces and technology so they are usable by a wide range of people, regardless of age or disability status. While universal design promotes access for individuals with disabilities, it also benefits everyone.
  • “Universal” has added meaning because the word universal contains the letters “USA” and the word “Israel.”

Future hikes/treks will take place mostly in Israel with some events in America. The goal is to make specific trails in both countries accessible for everyone.

The USA treks (Aug. 1-3 and Aug. 8-11) take place on Sundays and weekdays in Rockefeller State Park in Pleasantville, N.Y. The park is a hiker’s mecca, designed with carriage trails, wetlands, woodlands, meadows, fields and lakes. It also has a wide array of flat and hilly routes.

On Aug. 4, the team will move to New York City’s Central Park for a trek on back roads.

Paratrek is the brainchild of Omer Zur, its founder and CEO. On his post-army trip, he wanted to hike in Turkey with his father, a person with quadriplegia. Zur soon realized that he had to come up with a suitable device that can handle off-road hiking without taking away his father’s independence.

The simple-looking yet highly sophisticated Paratrek trekker can successfully traverse through rough and rocky terrain, steep inclines, narrow paths, as well as over sand, boulders, rock and gravel.

Friends of Access Israel, together with its collaborative partner, Access Israel, strive to globally improve accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities and the elderly via advocacy, education and inclusion.

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