Summer is coming to an end: the days are getting shorter, umbrellas are whizzing off the shelves, and small streams are forming alongside every pavement. What better time to contemplate walking in our beautiful natural landscapes?! The National Trails stretch across 2,500 miles of England and Wales, and they’re waiting to be enjoyed by everyone, whatever the weather. However, a lack of information about accessibility on the National Trails means that many people with limited mobility are unable to make the most of them, come rain or shine. We’re working with the National Trails and Walk Unlimited to promote walking for people with limited mobility, by collecting information about accessibility along the trails.
According to a survey conducted by listings and review website Euan’s Guide, 95% of disabled people attempt to find accessibility information before visiting a new place, and 76% are generally dissatisfied with the current amount of information available. The National Trails currently have no easily-available information about accessibility. Although some of the National Trails contain sections that are impassable and not wheelchair-friendly, this lack of information is particularly frustrating as many of the National Trails are fully accessible. In many cases, the only thing preventing wheelchair users or parents with pushchairs from enjoying the trails is the lack of information about the location of facilities, or path conditions.
That’s why Mapping for Change along with keen National Trail volunteers are setting out to collect information relevant to accessibility along key trails in England. At kick off events along the trails, we will use a selection of three mobile applications: one will capture images of the path to detect slope, surface type and footway width; one will enable people to report particular barriers such as stiles or steps, and the final one will be used to map the accessibility of buildings and facilities along the route. Together, these applications will build up a comprehensive picture of the trail’s accessibility, which can then be used in the future to produce access guides. By working together as groups of enthusiastic walkers, will quickly be able to cover large sections of the National Trails, and build up a database of accessible walks across England.
Our first kick-off event will be held on the Thames Path on September 18th, in Eynsham, Oxfordshire. We will then be heading north to the Yorkshire Wolds on the 29th September. If you would like to attend, or receive further information about the project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.