Everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors, no matter what their ability. However, if you have limited mobility, or are a wheelchair user, it’s not always easy to access the countryside. We have highlighted some of the obstacles you might face, how you might overcome them and where to find support.
The problems you might face can vary greatly. If you are capable of walking long distances on flat paths you may still encounter problems with stiles, steps or overhanging trees. The impact could vary from a minor inconvenience, to something that could be overcome with the help of a companion, to an obstacle that could prevent you from enjoying an outing at all.
Users of both manual and powered wheelchairs can expect to encounter major problems on most country paths, particularly those with challenging surfaces, steps and obstructions. You are entitled to take a wheelchair anywhere that is open to walkers, but that does not mean the path will be practical for a wheelchair user.
There is an increasingly wide range of mobility scooters available and some are designed for use on more rugged routes. However these will still encounter problems with stiles, steps, and narrow or blocked paths.
If you have limited mobility you may also need other facilities such as regular rest stops; accessible toilets; extra wide parking spaces; or accessible public transport. So it is worth doing some research beforehand to decide if a particular route is within your ability.
It can be difficult to find reliable sources of information about accessibility in the outdoors, but the good news is that the situation is improving and more information is slowly becoming available. Some useful sources of information are identified below.
There is also an increasing number of accessible trails. Some have special gates that can be unlocked with a RADAR key; some trails have signed diversions that avoid steps and other obstructions; and some country parks and other countryside sites have mobility scooters for loan, and may be able to arrange special assistance for visitors with disabilities.