Accessible boat launch helps disabled get on the water

Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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CANTON, New York (WWNY) - The feeling of the open water can be freeing, but for kayakers with physical disabilities, it can still have some limitations. However, a new accessible boat launch is helping more people embrace that freeing feeling.

Tom Lazore is a member of the 10th Mountain Division’s Mountain Warriors Sled Hockey Team. Lazore was paralyzed from the waist down in a work accident. He says he loves to paddle up and down the Grasse River in Canton.

“Oh, I love it. I love it. We try and go kayaking a few times a year and then I got a pontoon boat and we go out on the St. Lawrence River with tubes,” he said.

One of the things Lazore found most frustrating when getting on the water was not being able to get in the boat without the help of others.

“It was a pain because I had friends and family pick me up and physically put me in the kayak, where with this one I can do it pretty much by myself,” he said.

Lazore is referring to the adaptive boat launch that was installed this past April at Taylor Beach Park in Canton.

The Taylor Beach launch is the first of its kind in the north country. It’s designed to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The boat launch was Mark McKenna’s idea after he saw that a lot of players on the sled hockey team did not have easy access to get on the water to do summer workouts with paddling.

“A lot of the guys and girls on our team want the independence. They want to be able to do things on their own. They don’t want the help. They just want the freedom as everyone else does to get out and recreate,” said McKenna, coach, 10th Mountain Warriors Team.

McKenna says he would not have been able to get the boat launch installed without the support of the community especially the leaders in Canton and non-profits such as Knights of Columbus.

While there are other accessible boat launches that comply with the ADA, the one at Taylor Beach makes it so those with disabilities can get themselves in a kayak on their own.

The closest one similar to this launch is found in Rochester.

In the meantime, Lazore will continue to paddle on the water free from the limitations of what he can do on land.