Getting out into the countryside is something that able-bodied people take for granted, but with advances in wheelchair design and an increasing awareness of inclusion, the countryside is becoming more accessible to those with walking difficulties. Popular destinations have paths that are wheelchair friendly as well as gentle level areas for those who finding walking difficult.
To help the outdoor types Chartwell Insurance, has looked at where to find more information on accessing the countryside.
The Disabled Ramblers are a group of like-minded disabled people who enjoy being in the countryside. They organise a programme of supported disabled rambles, publish a regular newsletter and are contactable via an online enquiry form. There is a sister organisation in Scotland, the Forth and Tay Disabled Ramblers for those living or holidaying north of the border.
Walking on Wheels is another Scottish based organisation with 50 downloadable wheelchair walks. All walks on the site have been visited by a person using a wheelchair or electric scooter, and where possible, are up-dated to take into account recent work by land managers and rangers that might affect countryside access for disabled people.
Accessible Countryside for Everyone, ACE, campaigns for accessibility for all (including wheelchair users and families pushing buggies) to the countryside and green spaces. Prior information on accessibility, gradients, gates etc. are important to people with limited mobility, but as Neil Padley of Ace points out all too often organisations make the effort to tell you which beach you can walk your dog on but make no effort to publish which are wheelchair accessible.
Get Walking Keep Walking promotes walking as healthy exercise but includes a section for people with disabilities because they believe everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors, no matter what their capabilities.
The Fieldfare Trust works with people with disabilities and countryside managers to improve access to the countryside for everyone. It also runs the annual Fieldfare Challenge, an inclusive national outdoor adventure competition which involves outdoor problem-solving activities for young people from 13 to 16 years old.
Even Rough Guides are taking notice and have produced a Rough Guide to Accessible Britain. It’s packed with ideas for trips, with tips on parking and getting around, all reviewed by writers with disabilities.
For the really adventurous ballooningaccess.com offers hot air balloon flights to wheelchair users and friends. The specially designed basket allows wheelchair entry access and a restraint system holds the chair securely in place during the flight. The basket and the restraint system are certified by the CAA and tested for safety.
But if you prefer gentler activities, Accessible Gardens provides articles on the accessibility of gardens for disabled people, children and disadvantaged families. It has a Directory of gardens in England and Wales written by disabled people which is also useful for those with pushchairs.