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Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing comprising a large number of interconnected baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.
Despite not using an engine, a paragliders flight can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometers, though flights of one to two hours and covering some tens of kilometers are more the norm. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand meters. Paragliding takes allot of skill and hours of practice, but this does not mean that you can't enjoy the thrill of paragliding even if you have a disability.
Learning to fly
In fact, almost everyone can enjoy paragliding. New technologies and increased attention to the issue during the past ten years mean that people who once thought that paragliding was out of reach are now taking to the skies. People with disabilities can paraglide with a variety of options.
The best way to start, is a tandem paragliding flight with an experienced instructor. Deaf people, blind people, those who use wheelchairs, and people with other physical disabilities have all flown with assistance. In fact, this is how all beginners start. Disabled participants aren’t just passive passengers – they get to help steer and direct the flight. With the right program, many students soon end up making solo flights.
Many people who are wheelchair-bound have found that paragliding is the perfect activity for them, because the canopy is controlled entirely by your arms. For those who use a wheelchair because of an injury, or due to conditions like cerebral palsy, this can be a big thrill.
Instructional Tandem Paragliding
For those who just want to experience flying, Instructional Tandem Paragliding or Tandem Paragliding is unlike anything else you have ever experienced. You need not be qualified to take part in this activity. It is fun and easy and anyone can do it! The only limitation is weight. There is no minimum or maximum age, though children under 18 years old will need their parents’ consent. Any person from 20kg – 120kg can fly, including the disabled, no matter your disability.
For people who have lost the use of their legs, paragliding is therapeutic. On the one hand, it’s a great adrenaline fix. On the other, it gives you a sense of freedom that you don’t feel on the ground. The sky is one place where your legs don’t matter!
There are many Paragliding companies out there who cater for the disabled, some vary slightly in the equipment that they use for the disabled, but most should be able to meet your needs. Just contact one of the companies of your choice to organize a flight.
Instructional Tandem paragliding is considered safe but as with all aviation sports there is risk and all passengers are required to sign a disclaimer before they undertake this activity. prior to your flight, you will normally get a briefing which is safety orientated and will ensure a great take off, flight and landing.
In 1997, a group called Flyability in the UK designed a wheelchair for both everyday use and paragliding. To make the chair flyable, a harness is attached and an extra wheel is added in the front. In 2010, paragliding enthusiasts in the US and engineers at the University of Utah also developed a specialized wheelchair just for paragliding. These new wheelchairs had space for an instructor, meaning that wheelchair users could train to be pilots. As a result, people with spinal injuries were soon flying solo.