Case Study

Project “Accessible nature experience in Nature Parks in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany)”

Contact name

Kathrin Risthaus

Institution name

Association of German Nature Parks e.V. (Verband Deutscher Naturparke e.V.)

Region & country

North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany


In addition to raising awareness for the issue of accessibility, the aim of the project was to develop a concept for at least one accessible nature experience up to the point of being ready for implementation and including improvement of infrastructural conditions along the tourist service chain in each of the twelve participating Nature Parks in North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition to the Nature Parks themselves, the project primarily addressed small and medium-sized enterprises and other partners located in the Protected Areas. The most important part of the project was the provision of expert advice to the Nature Parks and their partners on the subject of accessibility.
(Project duration: June 2016 – June 2019)

Accessible tourism

VDN / Dirk Neidhardt

Accessible tourism

VDN / Ulrich Appels

Background of the project

With regard to offers of accessible nature experience, the model Nature Parks were set up very differently and had gathered quite individual experiences in the implementation of accessible tourism offers. Often the offers were only implemented sporadically. This means that they often were not integrated into the tourist service chain. In addition, accessibility concepts that address the needs of the different target groups and the corresponding implementation in detail were usually absent.

The issue of accessibility is becoming increasingly important, not least because of demographic change. The design of offers taking into account the various age and disability groups brings with it a number of requirements that providers must first be made aware of. In addition to raising awareness and providing specific advice on the implementation of selected offers, new partners and networks for the design and implementation of offers must be acquired and established in some Nature Parks.

Solution and actions taken

• Basic sensitization on the topic of accessibility
• Technical advice for the Nature Parks by an external expert office
• Intensive monitoring of the process of designing accessible offers

• analysis of status quo
• Sensitization workshop for the model Nature Parks and their partners
• Workshop in each Nature Park to identify suitable offers
• Consulting tours to evaluate the offer and identify necessary measures
• Workshop in each Nature Park to work out the planning basis for the selected offer
• Workshop in each Nature Park to finalize the planning basis
• Development of a guideline for the development of accessible offers of nature experiences

Other institutions or parties involved

• “freiheitswerke”, a consulting office for accessibility
• 12 Nature Parks in North Rhine-Westphalia
• Integration of “Tourismus NRW” and „Tourismus für Alle e.V.“ (NatKo) in the working group accompanying the project
• Partners at regional level: cities/counties, tourism organizations, catering and accommodation businesses, cultural institutions, nature conservation authorities, and so on.
• Project funding: European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia


• Project ideas have been developed and were or are about to be implemented.
• The Nature Parks were able to win new partners.
• Nature Parks and their partners were sensitized to accessibility and the needs of people with disabilities, which is also beneficial for the following projects.


• Generation of subsidies for the subsequent financing of the developed project ideas
• Acquisition of small and medium-sized companies as partners, such as gastronomy and accommodation companies
• Reduction of “barriers in the mind”: Fears that the implementation of accessibility is too expensive and complicated and that the demand for it is too low.

Lessons learned

Nature Parks play provide important impulses for the development of accessible nature experience. They link various interest groups and develop nature experience offers. An action guideline for the conception and implementation of accessible nature experience offers for download (PDF) contains the knowledge gained:

Contact name

Kathrin Risthaus

Institution name

Association of German Nature Parks e.V. (Verband Deutscher Naturparke e.V.)


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