Right to Risk
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Susan in Deer Creek waterfall

Plan Your Adventure

Arizona River RunnersArizona Raft AdventuresCanyon Explorations Canyon Plaza Quality Inn Marble Canyon Lodge Arizona Office of Tourism Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau

About the Film

The “Right to Risk” documentary was filmed in May 2005, accompanying eight individuals with significant physical disabilities on a 15-day whitewater raft trip down 225 miles of Colorado River through the most inaccessible and awe-inspiring environment of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. 

The seeds of “Right to Risk” were sown while the brother sister team of John and Kathleen Ryan were working on a gallery of Kathleen’s photography based on a previous Grand Canyon book and companion documentary, “Writing Down the River”.  Having informally advised each other on projects over the years, they were looking for an opportunity to put their respective talents to work.  

When they heard about the City of Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation, Adaptive Recreation Services “River of Dreams” rafting trips through Grand Canyon, it was obvious to both that this was it.  The City of Phoenix was the first organizations to initiate these trips with river outfitters and Grand Canyon National Park in 1991. 

Working with the City of Phoenix Adaptive Recreation staff, they solicited nominations from fifteen adaptive recreation organizations from all parts of America so that the participants would reflect the rich diversity of our nation's disability community.  They put together a team of Emmy award winning cinematographers, sound and production crew.  And they worked with three Grand Canyon outfitters and the National Park Service to coordinate the logistics.

With only one opportunity to capture the events of the trip, they packed a large amount of video and audio gear: two large cameras, three small cameras, waterproof microphones, transmitters, batteries, chargers, generators and anything else they might need.  Then they set off with five oar boats, two motor rigs, medical supplies and all the food and water for 36 people for 15 days over 225 miles of some of the most exciting rapids, and spectacular scenery, in North America.

Managing the hot sun, cold water, windstorms, and whitewater in Grand Canyon was only the first major challenge.  The following year they edited the 60 hours of footage into a 57-minute documentary for public television.  Their film “Right to Risk” is a testament to the power of people with disabilities to be active participants in our society and independent in their own lives. 

River of Dreams