Many shops know and execute the basic requirements for being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, like adding a wheelchair ramp if your shop has steps and building the restrooms to be wheelchair-accessible, but there’s so much more you can do. There are simple things you can offer at your shop or range that will make the experience more inclusive to all archers. Below are some ideas archery ranges and shops can implement to show limb-different archers, archers with prosthetics and archers who shoot from a wheelchair that they are welcome in your shop and that archery is for them.
We spoke with Dakota Rogers, head archery coach with NubAbility, and he provided excellent examples of things archery shops and ranges can do.
Rogers noted that one way archery ranges can adapt their archery lanes is to make some of them wider to accommodate wheelchairs. He added that widening the lane will also benefit archers with prosthetic legs. “A lot of them like to shoot from a chair, just because standing on that prosthetic for a long period of time can become kind of painful,” he said. “So, even if they were to take one or two shooting lanes and make them a little wider, just so you could fit a chair or wheelchair in there, I think that would go a long way.”
Rogers suggested that ranges can adjust the height of some of their built-in equipment. “A lot of your archery ranges have either a hanging or ground arrow tube or quiver, usually on one side of the lane,” he said. “I know some shooters who only have one arm. For them, it’s a lot easier if they have an arrow tube on either side, so that they don’t have to reach around their body to grab an arrow.”
At the range in the photo above, you can see they have both an elevated bow hook and a bow stand on the ground. Photo Credit: ATA
Bow hangers or hooks can also be adjusted. “If they would put them just a little lower for those that shoot seated or in a wheelchair, I think that would help out a lot,” Rogers said. The same goes for elevated targets. Some archery ranges set their targets on top of something to elevate them, but that’s not ideal for seated archers. “I’ve watched friends of mine who shoot from wheelchairs; instead of being able to aim straight ahead they actually have to aim up to hit those targets,” he said. “If the ranges wanted to double-stack targets, like the big square Olympic targets, on top of each other, any non-seated person could go shoot at that lane, but also seated people could shoot there without having to jump extra hurdles to be able to hit the target.”
Rogers knows personally how much of a difference this can make. “I’ve been missing a hand since birth,” Rogers said. “I got into archery because I was barred from doing it in school because the gym teacher didn’t know how to teach me. Since then, I’ve gone on to shoot indoor competitions and outdoor ranges. I’ve shot compounds, recurves, and I’ve done longbow field archery, primitive archery with flint arrow points, crossbows, all of that with one hand, really trying to become a student of my craft as a means to show other people that if you think you can’t do it, for whatever reason, there’s going to be someone or something that’s going to allow you into archery. Archery has got to be one of the most welcoming and inclusive sports I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m very thankful to be a part of this community.”
Carry mouth tabs to give archers options. Photo Credit: USA Archery
Another simple change shops can make is to begin stocking mouth-tab releases. This requires little to no change to your retail space; simply designate some shelf space in the release section to these release styles. Some archers might not even realize these types of releases exist. If you provide the floor space for these products, you’ll show the archers who visit your shop that there are so many different products out there and they can be confident that there’s one out there for them.
Rogers also noted that some archers won’t need a mouth-tab release. They can use two wrist releases and offset them from each other instead to create a shoulder release. For most people, it will fit around the shoulder, sit there comfortably and allow them to draw the bow back. Shops could sell two of those releases as a set to help a limb-different person use the releases typically in stock.
For outdoor ranges, it’s important that the ground is stable enough for a wheelchair to pass over. “I understand with it being outdoors you can only do so much, but maybe leveling off the ground even a little bit for those lanes will go such a long way,” Rogers said.
Marisa Futral, hunter education coordinator with Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, noted that outdoor ranges should provide an accessible covered shooting shelter as well as a good, clear, wheelchair-accessible path to at least one target. “It doesn’t have to be made out of concrete, but you need a solid surface, so it can be gravel or something that you can get a wheelchair on and that people aren’t going to stumble over,” Futral said. “I would suggest that outdoor ranges have a tightly packed gravel pathway or concrete pathway to get to the covered shooting shelter and also to get out to the targets to get their arrows.”
Rogers noted that the outdoor range he visits in Tennessee has done a great job of making sure its 3D course is accessible by clearing an entire path through the course that reasonably accommodates wheelchairs. The fact that they took the extra step to make that section of the course accessible is an amazing thing, he said, and other outdoor ranges should consider offering something like that, because it would have a major effect on someone who wants to get into bowhunting but doesn’t know how to navigate it from a wheelchair. It would give them a way to try it out on the course.
Rogers coaches congenital and traumatic amputee youth athletes through NubAbility and explained that these children are so eager and excited to get into archery and bowhunting. “When they get into shooting the 3D target and they get a ‘kill shot’ on the target, watching them just explode with enthusiasm, for me as not only an archery coach but as a hunter, it fills me with more joy than I can even express in words,” Rogers said. “It allows me to take the thing that I love and pass it on to these kids who, if they hadn’t come across the program, would have never gotten the opportunity to experience that.”
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Rodgers has learned so much from his own life experiences in addition to coaching other archers. He advises archery coaches to familiarize themselves with the options for archers of all abilities. Photo Credit: Dakota Rodgers Instagram: @onehanded_woodsman
It’s important for shops to know the options for seated and limb-different archers. If you have an archer asking you questions about modifying equipment, you should be able to direct them to the right equipment for them. You would expect your employees to know what arrows to recommend an archer based on their bow specs, and this knowledge shouldn’t be any different. Visit USA Archery’s adaptive archery resource page to learn more.
“I had a girl come through where I was coaching archery and she had no arms at all,” Rogers said. “She was like, ‘I really want to shoot, but I’m nervous, I don’t know how I’m going to do it.’ So, on the fly I had to figure out how to take a Genesis youth bow and hold it with my feet and draw it with my feet so that I could show her how to do it. It was kind of funny because it was a learning experience for both her and I because as I was figuring it out, she was watching and then she was able to take what I did and make it her own. After about 15 minutes she was putting arrows on the target at 15 yards.” That little bit of time Rogers took to work with the archer and figure out what worked for her made it so that she was able to participate in the sport she was passionate about.
Rogers went on to say that another young archer’s mouth release broke during a coaching session, and with the young archer’s instruction, Rogers was able to take his paracord and fix a new release for him in about five minutes. These simple things could be the difference between someone quitting archery and excelling. You just have to be willing to listen and learn. These archers are ready and waiting for someone to encourage them. “Even as an instructor, you can still learn from the people you’re instructing,” Rogers said. “Getting to learn from these kids has benefited me as a coach more than I’ve benefited them, if I’m being honest.”
The ADA National Network website houses a free, two-and-a-half-hour-long webinar, which is listed as a “self-paced webcourse for discovering the best practices for effectively working and interacting with people who have disabilities.” In addition, watch the video above to learn how to make a mouth tab. Knowing how to coach all archers is vitally important to the sport.
We encourage archery ranges to implement as many of the ideas above into their own archery shops and ranges as they can. These small changes will have such a large impact on the archery community. The ripple effect of positive change will be more than any of us can imagine.
Reach out to Nicole Nash, ATA’s range and retail programs manager, at (507) 233-8146 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.