SEABECK, Wash. – Elizabeth Walker enjoys riding bicycles, but because she lives in New York City she says it’s hard to get away from the bustle of busy streets to enjoy the peace that cycling brings.
When she arrived in Seabeck for a retreat earlier this week, she looked forward to hitting the road. But for Walker, it isn’t as easy as clicking on a helmet and pedaling down the road.
“I’m a deaf-blind person,” she said through a translator using American Sign Language.
Walker was in Kitsap County this week to attend the 32nd annual Seattle Lighthouse Deaf-Blind Retreat. Attendees are legally blind and have some degree of hearing loss or are deaf.
Walker previously attended the retreat, held in Seabeck for as long as anyone can remember, in 1997 and 2008. She said she enjoys coming because she likes the serenity of the country.
“It feels good to exercise and feel the wind blow through my hair,” she said after coming back from a tandem bike ride. Walker is legally blind but has some vision.
While the retreat included a number of activities, many participants were eager to test their adventurous side with the cycling.
People who wanted full control were placed on recumbent trikes that were provided by Outdoors For All Foundation, a Seattle nonprofit dedicated to providing outdoor activities and recreational equipment for people with disabilities.
Riders used the trikes to cruise the gravel parking lot of the Christian Worship Center in Camp Union. Side-by-side trikes were also available for riders who wanted someone to help them navigate turns.
People looking for a little more adventure were placed on the back of tandem bicycles, which were steered by volunteers from Seattle who brought their own bikes to share the tandem experience. Some of them pedaled around nearby Lake Symington.
“It’s a thrill to be able to give them a ride,” Bothell resident Barb Angell said. “We get all kinds of fitness levels and experience levels. We have some riders that come every morning and every afternoon, they can’t get enough of it. And we have some riders who it’s a real challenge for them.”
Angell and her husband, Randall, are members of the Evergreen Tandem Club, which has been involved in the event for two years.
Seattle resident Ben Belisle said his 2 1/2-mile loop around the lake was something he wouldn’t get to do otherwise.
“I’m not really experienced but it is fun to ride on the road,” he said through a translator using American Sign Language. “I’ve ridden some before, but I haven’t ever ridden a tandem.”
During the weeklong retreat, adults participate in various activities like cooking classes, kayaking and paddleboarding. They also attend workshops on relevant legislation and learn about technology and devices that can help them in their daily lives.
The event is organized by Seattle Lighthouse, a nonprofit that provides employment, support and training opportunities for people who are blind, deaf-blind, and blind with other disabilities.
The retreat “has a reputation and it draws a lot of people from all over the world,” said David Miller of Seattle Lighthouse. “It provides an opportunity for deaf-blind people to get together and enjoy a wide variety of activities.”