Webinar: Accessibility and Inclusion in Protected Areas

Contact with nature and enjoyment of the outdoors should be accessible experiences to every person. Protected Areas administrations play a fundamental role in providing opportunities to people with physical or intellectual disabilities, by creating accessible infrastructure for visitors and inclusive programmes and activities.

Webinar: Accessibility and Inclusion in Protected Areas

The webinar was co-organised with EUROPARC Germany, which has been working intensively in the topic for the past years. Anne Schierenberg presented us the basic concepts of accessibility in parks, and shared an overview of the manual “Planning Accessible Experiences of Nature”, which provides guidance and useful resources for protected areas aiming to be more inclusive. According to EUROPARC Germany there are many ways, often easy and affordable, to improve the experience of disabled visitors. Observation, personal contact with visitors are fundamental, but also building up connections with local institutions, and exchanging experiences with other Parks are fundamental steps.

Click on the image to download the brochure in English

Watch the full recording of the Webinar

“It all starts with a shift in the culture of the Park”

…was one of the key messages of both case study presenters, who highlighted that becoming an accessible park involves in one hand, opening up for dialogue and cooperation with local organisations, and in another hand, it requires training and building capacity of Park staff.

Johannes Hager, from the Eichsfeld-Hainich-Werratal Nature Park in Germany, told us how the park is working on infrastructure adaption for people with different type of disabilities for over 15 years. The park is prepared to provide nature experiences to wheelchair visitors, thanks to a partnership with a local organisation; and it’s adapted to welcome blind people with specially adapted paths and a range of interpretative tools and panels.

accessibility, inclusion

Paul Hepworth is one of the volunteers who works in the North York Moors National Park Volunteering Administration department. Paul gave an interview to a journalist from his hospital in which he talks about how much volunteering has changed him. Paul is physically disabled (spinal injury) and has kidney disease and therefore undergoes dialysis twice a week. Paul has been with the National Park for 1 year and volunteers 3 days a week every week!

Ryan Chenery from the North York Moors National Park in the UK, shared his experience of working with volunteers with physical and mental disabilities. Groups of volunteers support in conservation activities throughout the year, coming from several “Associate Groups” (organisations working with disabled people in the vicinity of the Park). Besides, Ryan told us about their programme to provide physically disabled people the opportunity to work as a volunteer in the park administration.

Download the Presentations

Introduction: Manual “Planning Accessible Experiences of Nature” by Anne Schierenberg, EUROPARC Germany

Case Study 1: Eichsfeld-Hainich-Werratal Nature Park: How we work together with people with disabilities by Johannes Hager, Eichsfeld-Hainich-Werratal Nature Park, Germany

Case Study 2: The Human Element – the involvement of people with disabilities in volunteering with the North York Moors National Park by Ryan Chenery, North York Moors National Park, United Kingdom