All abilities events prove that anyone can fly

By: Nick Wake: Marketing Director - iFLY UK

All three iFLY wind tunnels in the UK are basking in the lovely warm feeling that comes with having just hosted their first ever ‘All Abilities’ event, a concept that was born and raised at iFLY Portland in Oregon just over a year ago. The first event took place on March 2, 2016. Since then the format has spread to all tunnels in the United States and now to iFLY Basingstoke, Milton Keynes and Manchester

Meeting the needs of flyers with disabilities

The program is specifically designed to meet the needs of flyers with disabilities and was the brainchild of two iFLY Portland employees, Megan Zielinski and Jamee Homuth. Jamee has a child with special needs herself and has experienced firsthand the difficulty in finding activities that are inclusive of people with disabilities.  Megan had always dreamed of using the tunnel for occupational and physical therapy purposes at some point in her future. Chatting together during work one day, they decided an event like this was not only a shared passion, but also a necessity for their community. With help from their team, they had the entire event planned and ready to go in less than a month. It sold out in less than 24 hours! 

Jamee recalls that first night, “Our first group of flyers was finally suited up and in the tunnel. I remember taking a moment to look at the faces of the parents watching their children fly for the first time.  These parents, strangers before this night, now sat together with tears running down their cheeks, cheering for each other’s kids. That’s when I knew we were on to something really special.” 

Jamison Currie, 21, is diagnosed with Lesch-Nyahn syndrome and is wheelchair bound.  Jamison was in attendance at the very first All Abilities event and has flown at every single one since.  Jamison said, “Flying allows me freedom from my chair and my Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. It allows me to hang out with a bunch of people who see past my wheelchair and see my abilities; they see a person; not a wheelchair. Flying equals freedom!” 

Mantu Joshi brought his whole family in to fly, including his wife who is blind, and his two young daughters, one of which has ADHD.  He admits he wasn’t sure how things would go given the unique needs of his family but was pleasantly surprised at the ease of which they were accommodated. He writes, “When visiting iFLY, each of our family members was encouraged and provided simple adaptations, and all of us bonded together with the exhilaration of flying in the air.  What makes this experience special are the thoughtful staff and the patience of other families who “get it” all around you.”

It is inspiring and moving responses like these that inspired the UK tunnels to follow suit. Responses from the flyers at the recent special events at each location, was just as effusive as the above and the next events are already being planned.

iFLY is delighted to welcome flyers with disabilites, seven days a week, at any time of the year. For more information on specific events within the All Abilities programme email: all-abilities@iflyworld.co.uk