by Daniel Duric, Newport Dispatch
WESTMORE — The New England Ski for Light (NESFL) organization has announced an uplifting two-day tandem bicycle ride, featuring a blind stoker pedaling behind a sighted steersman. Scheduled for June 10 and 11, the ride will traverse the entire 93-mile Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT) in Vermont, stretching from Swanton to St. Johnsbury.
The ride aims to raise awareness about the potential for individuals with disabilities to enjoy Vermont’s stunning outdoor recreational activities. It will also highlight the need for volunteer sighted guides and help raise funds for the all-volunteer non-profit NESFL.
Martha Steele, a native Vermonter and resident of Westmore who is blind, will be the stoker. The sighted steersman will be Ferdinand Lauffer, of Berkshire.
Steele, 71, lost her vision due to Usher syndrome, which causes progressive vision and hearing loss.
Despite having to give up many recreational activities in her 50s due to her vision loss, organizations like NESFL have helped Steele rediscover her love for outdoor activities with the aid of volunteer sighted guides.
As they ride, Lauffer will describe the scenery and habitats that they pass through, while Steele, a passionate birder, will compile a list of bird species that she hears.
“The ride will be such a wonderful sensory experience and physical challenge for me,” says Steele. “I am very grateful to Ferdinand for volunteering to guide me and describe the surrounding environment that I cannot see.”
NESFL pairs sighted guides with blind or visually impaired participants to eliminate the barriers that can prevent individuals from enjoying the outdoors in all seasons.
The ride is sponsored by the Carroll Center for the Blind, Bootleggers Bikes, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and the Governor’s House in Hyde Park.
For more information about the ride, including how to join the riders at any point along the LVRT, and NESFL, visit https://nesfl.org/lamoille-valley-rail-trail-fundraiser/.