25: Taking Action for Accessibility in National Parks with Ashlyn Southard, OTS

Today’s guest is an occupational therapy masters student who has already made waves by applying her OT lens in a unique way. Inspired by a life full of nature and travel with her family as well as her siblings who have disabilities, Ashlyn Southard recognized the lack of accessibility in the national parks system and wanted to do something about it.

In today’s episode, she’s sharing how she landed a paid internship working at Grand Teton, the resources she created both for families visiting and for staff to be more informed on accessibility, and how therapists can offer support to families specific to their vacations. 

Ashlyn’s passion for bringing more awareness and accessibility into the national parks is something that is so needed. I can’t wait to see what Ashlyn contributes to the nature-based therapy space in the future and hope that her work in the national parks system lives on.

We’ll discuss:

  • The nonprofit process I’m starting to help fund and support children attending nature-based therapy services
  • How Ashlyn’s siblings with intellectual developmental disabilities and her family’s affinity for travel (particularly to national parks) influenced her interest in nature-based therapy
  • How Ashlyn pitched her OT services to the National Park Service and got a job working for the Grand Teton Association
  • How she helped prepare parents for the sensory experiences to expect when visiting the park with their kids as well as learning opportunities she created for kids
  • Barriers that parks and outdoor spaces have when it comes to disabilities and the environment
  • How therapists can support families with children who have special needs that are going on vacation/interacting with nature
  • Ashlyn’s passion for sibling support, and the importance of groups and community in this work 

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Ashlyn on LinkedIn

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