It may be hard to imagine a fleet of wheelchair-using pirates. While we might not fare well rolling about on the slippery decks of ships, our pirate ties certainly run deep. It’s virtually impossible to picture a pirate without some form of disability — peg leg, an eye patch, a hook. For pirates, it seems disability is the norm. With such connections, people with disabilities should be naturally well suited for a modern day treasure hunt. Minus the water and the tendency toward illegal activities, geocaching is the 21st century hobby of pirates of all abilities. With cell phones as today’s treasure maps and a social community teeming with support, geocaching is an affordable and exciting recreational adventure.
Since geocaching is an inclusive activity, the disability community itself has begun to join in hiding and finding treasures. Day Al-Mohamed, a fiction author and senior policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Labor, has been geocaching for several years. Al-Mohamed is blind. Her first geocaching experience took place in Breckenridge, Colo., while on vacation with her wife and friends. “What I found most fun was the sense of adventure — of being on a modern day treasure hunt,” she says. Kevin Hosea also found geocaching through connections with friends. Hosea has spina bifida and uses a manual wheelchair for mobility. For a hobby that can take place miles from civilization or in the heart of a bustling city, geocaching is often a social endeavor, even when enjoyed alone. And since the treasure must be “located” first with clues, the lack of a physical disability is not necessarily an advantage.
Geocaching (pronounced “geocashing”) is an outdoor activity enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Treasure hunters use GPS devices and smart phones to find hidden containers, called caches. Online connections allow users to share their experiences and post feedback about their finds. Websites like www.geocaching.com provide the “X” that marks the spot through databases of GPS coordinates where cache owners hide and then post about their treasures. Along with these coordinates, owners estimate the difficulty of finding their caches. Some caches are within plain view while others are hidden. Unlike the great treasure chests of yesteryear, caches are not allowed to be buried. They can, however, be covered with foliage or ground cover. A ratings system describes the terrain around a cache and the degree of difficulty for the find. Together with the coordinates, these ratings create a “waypoint.” Waypoints are especially meaningful to geocachers with disabilities