Bi-monthly, Buckrail sits down with a local mover and shaker who plays a role in making Jackson, Jackson.
JACKSON, Wyo. — Joe Stone envisions a world with more representation.
And for over twelve years, he has been hard at work planting the seeds and pulling the weeds to bring this vision to life.
But the road to equality of opportunity and accessibility is a long one.
That’s why after sustaining a spinal injury in 2010, Stone has focused his efforts on making his own passion for outdoor sports accessible and inclusive of people with different abilities. In 2013, he founded the Joe Stone Foundation, which shared a similar mission with local nonprofit, Teton Adaptive. So when asked to join the team in 2020 as the Director of Mission, it was a no-brainer to unite forces.
Now, he finds himself in Jackson Hole, the land of all things “extreme”. But for Stone, it’s the best place to be.
“Jackson represents the ‘extreme’ in the outdoor sports industry, so if adaptive programs can succeed here, they can succeed anywhere,” said Stone.
Stone explained how in the United States, one in four individuals is disabled, yet there is still a force of separation that too often divides individuals with different abilities from the rest of the population. This separation is even more prominent in the outdoor sports industry.
But at Teton Adaptive, Stone and his team have changed that.
The Teton Adaptive approach is to provide training in adaptive sports activities so when the time comes for an individual of different abilities to ski, mountain bike, paraglide, or spend the day on the Snake, businesses don’t have to turn them away.
Teton Adaptive is the only program in the U.S. that uses this model. Throughout the rest of the country, programs have separate facilities for people with disabilities. Meanwhile, in Jackson Hole, Teton Adaptive’s programs are a collaboration between the nonprofit and the outdoor recreation organization.
This model has proved itself effective and successful. But to be effective it takes an educated and willing community to be inclusive and onboard.
Having individuals “dialed-in,” as Stone would say, is how these programs flourish. When Stone trains experts and instructors it’s relatively simple.
“It’s pretty easy to teach an expert,” said Stone.
When Teton Adaptive conducts its adaptive training with experts of respective sports, he says that at its core all that is required is enthusiasm and dedication. These experts have already formed and sharpened their skill set, they just have to build upon the foundation that exists to learn the adaptive accommodation to the sport.
To name a few, Teton Adaptive works alongside Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee, Rendezvous River Sports, Jackson Hole Paragliding and Wheel Wranglers. Once these organizations are trained to serve people with disabilities they feel safe and empowered to welcome them.
Today, Stone and Teton Adaptive are facilitating this educational effort in the hopes that one day it will no longer be necessary.
“In the future, it would be ideal for the community to no longer lean on us,” said Stone.
But this vision, the one that Stone holds fast to, cannot come to life on its own and in a society where inclusion lacks across the board, he says.
He explains that the formula is a conscious, informed and educated community, and Stone’s work is well on its way to building a society that is just that.
Learn more about Teton Adaptive’s mission, upcoming events and activities, and the road to equality of opportunity and accessibility here.