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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Countryside access for disabled people

Visiting the countryside can have a positive affect on your health and having a disability shouldn’t prevent you enjoying these benefits. Local authorities are responsible for providing access for all disabled people. Find out more about disabled people’s right to explore the countryside and information on where to go.

Your rights as a disabled person

If you have a disability, then physical barriers should not limit where you can visit in the countryside. These include fences, steps and stiles or uneven surfaces.

Every provider of facilities and services has a duty to improve access by making ‘reasonable adjustments’. These adjustments are designed to help disabled people with restricted mobility, learning difficulties and sensory impairments to use the service or facilities. They could apply to more than physical barriers. For example, reasonable adjustments could be needed to information leaflets, or signage about access to areas of countryside.

Improving access for disabled people

Where it is necessary to have a barrier, like a gate or bridge, it must be as accessible as possible for disabled people.

How much this service should be changed to improve physical accessibility for disabled access is known as a ‘reasonable adjustment’. Local authorities and anyone providing countryside access are encouraged to consult with disabled people in their area to decide what ‘reasonable adjustments’ might be.

The aim is to remove, overcome or avoid obstacles without losing the character of the countryside’s natural features.

Countryside and the Disability Discrimination Act

The Disability Discrimination Act supports civil rights for disabled people. This law makes sure that local authorities and any providers of countryside access must provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that disabled people can enjoy the countryside.

Where to go in the countryside

Some local areas and country parks have made more progress than others in making the countryside more accessible. Providing accurate information on where to find trails and walks can be as important as physical changes on the ground. Better information can include signposting and maps for disabled people, or audio guides as an alternative to written information. Improved access might include wide gates or removing steps and other obstructions.

There is information available on which routes are suitable for disabled people. The ‘Walks with wheelchairs’ website lets you search by region, distance, gradient and terrain to find a trail that suits your particular needs. Many local authorities also have information on their websites about walks suitable for people of all abilities.

Who you can go with

If you want to meet other disabled people to enjoy the countryside with, then the following groups organise trips for varying difficulty levels.

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