Accessibility within geocaching: an interview with the Fitness Inclusion Network

Geocaching is a great way to explore one’s community from a different perspective. However, it’s important to remember that not all geocaches are within reach. With the goal of opening up a conversation about inclusion, we reached out to the Fitness Inclusion Network to discuss their work on accessibility within geocaching.

The Fit-IN Network (FitInNetwork) is a collaborative program dedicated to promoting and supporting inclusive recreation in Central New York. The team, with support from the Golisano Center for Special Needs, the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, and SUNY Cortland Department of Adapted Physical Education, has published a variety of open-source educational materials that encourage accessibility in outdoor and active spaces.

Their Fit-IN guidebooks specifically highlight activities for students and young adults with disabilities; in 2016, they published a booklet on Accessible Geocaching that guides readers through a series of accessible geocaches in Syracuse, New York.

We sat down with Peyton Sefick and the Fit-IN team to hear about their adventures in geocaching and the process of writing the Accessible Geocaching booklet.

A hand holds a small geocache with logbook inside.

What inspired you to create the Accessible Geocaching booklet?

The Fitness Inclusion Network has always aimed to create avenues for people with disabilities to access their communities in fun, healthy, and safe ways. We began drafting booklets for anyone to learn from because often those with disabilities feel comfortable but teachers, peers, and friends may need extra help understanding.

What were your goals with the Fit-IN program and the Accessible Geocaching booklet?

The mission of Fit-IN is to develop innovative ways to promote and support inclusive fitness for children, adolescents and adults with disabilities in Central New York and create replicable models for other communities across the globe. The Accessible Geocaching booklet was drafted in hopes to educate people with disabilities about geocaching and inspire them to explore their communities.

A woman sits on a concrete bench and looks at her phone.

In the booklet, you highlight 12 different accessible geocaching locations. How did you select these Fit-IN caches?

Our team spent a summer exploring Central New York and its many beautiful nature trails. A few of our team members, as well as myself, use mobility aids to navigate our community and we made sure to listen to each other when selecting and hiding our caches.

What lasting impacts or family success stories do you continue to see from this program?

My favorite impact happens when explaining to a family that is clearly hungry for more outdoor adventure, what geocaching is and how we have approached it with Fit-IN.

What do you consider to be your biggest success with this program?

Our caches continue to be found to this day, making for adventurous activities to those who go searching. We have heard success stories from families who have found our guidebook and have since continued geocaching and enjoying nature around the state and country.

What other activities in the Fit-IN program are you most proud of?

All of our projects over the years have been special to us and many continue to grow. I am most proud of the partners we have made and our community in and around Syracuse, NY for the growth we have seen since Fit-IN started almost 10 years ago. Some of our other projects include adaptive ballet, inclusive walking clubs, and unified yoga. You can learn more about these projects here: https://bbi.syr.edu/projects/fit-in-network/publications/

A service dog takes a walk on a leash.

We love the inclusion checklist provided in the booklet! Terrain 1 ratings are a way for geocachers to know that a cache is wheelchair-accessible. What else can geocachers do to be more inclusive when going to hide their cache?

Learn more at https://inclusiverec.org/

What would you like to say to any people with disabilities who are interested in geocaching?

The conversations and snacks during the journey are the real treasures when hunting for an elusive cache.

group of people sit outside together with a sunset and city skyline in the background.

Programs like the Fitness Inclusion Network and Handicaching help to support Geocaching HQ in our goal to make the game as accessible as possible for players around the world. We urge cachers to keep ability in mind when placing geocaches and to continue using tools like Difficulty and Terrain ratings to indicate how accessible a cache might be.

Check out the Accessible Geocaching booklet for more resources on finding accessible nature areas and tips on starting an inclusive geocaching group in your community. Let’s work together to keep geocaching fun for all players and continue to inspire outdoor activity while exploring your community!

Nikki is a Community Coordinator at Geocaching HQ. Her specialties include making cheesy puns, talking endlessly about coffee, and being the only Californian who enjoys rain. She is passionate about geocaching and loves that it brings communities together.