Physical Access And Nature

By Monica Bhatia

We all know that nature is incredibly beneficial to people of all ages, for a variety or different reasons, whether it be physical health such as going for a jog, or mental health, such as taking some time to clear your head. Now, if nature is so helpful for anyone, why isn’t it accessible for everyone?

To begin, we need to address the question; what actually makes nature accessible? Accessibility is defined as the quality of being able to be reached or entered, and for people with disabilities, their requirements for being able to enter nature spaces are slightly different. Examples of some simple implementations that can make a green space be classified as open to all are:

  • Wheelchair rental 
  • Disabled parking
  • Near public transport links (for those unable to drive)
  • Disabled toilets
  • Braille on maps and signs
  • Ramps for hides
  • Wheelchair friendly ramps
  • Keys given out for vehicle access gates

These small scale adaptations to the UKs green spaces could mean that more people can get out there and comfortably experience wildlife without struggle.

So if we know what makes a green space open to all, which green spaces have already taken on these adaptations? If we, for example, are looking at nature reserves, the statistics are as follows:
1The UK hosts a huge 341 national nature reserves (224 in England, 74 in Wales, and 43 in Scotland), yet only a small portion of these have implemented the facilities above.

This statistic is incredibly saddening, because while some may believe that accessible green spaces are not of much importance, research by many trusts and organisations prove otherwise. 3Below is presented just why accessibility to these nature spaces is so important.

Upon knowing the vast array of the benefits nature provides, it makes the lack of green spaces such as nature reserves in the UK even more saddening – but not all hope is lost! There are many individuals and organisations trying to turn the tide. One example is the 4All For Nature & Nature For All campaign, started by a young girl living with cerebral palsy called Ellie. In her post, she explains that she has faced many disappointing experiences with inaccessible nature, stating that the location of her local nature reserve, linked with the inconsistent public transport timetable means she is unable to travel to and from the area, and her campaign sets out to ‘further educate those working in the conservation sector to make sites of natural interest as accessible as possible’.

Additionally, an example of a celebrity hero in conservation who has recognised the issue and is doing his bit is no other than Sir David Attenborough himself! In 1966, The Attenborough Nature Reserve And Centre was established – being best known for its birds, the reserve is incredibly accessible, hosting on site disabled parking and wheelchair friendly trails.

Finally, an organisation supporting the cause is us! Our #Naturenearby campaign is calling on governments to make nature accessible to ALL, so if you’re looking for ways to support the cause, be sure to sign our 5petition!

So now that you know who to support when it comes to making nature accessible to all, what can you as an individual do? I recently went to my local green space, and using the criteria of what makes a place accessible, took photographs and gathered a rough idea of how open-to-all it was. By doing this, you can inform friends and family with disabilities where they should consider going to be around nature, and if you really feel there are issues with the open spaces accessibility, with this information you could even write a 6letter or email to your MP!

1 – www.gov.uk>Parks, trails and nature reserves

2 – www.wildlifetrusts.org>Accessible nature reserves

3 – cvc.ca>Top 7 health benefits of being in nature

4 – #Attenborough90: Why nature should be accessible to all

5 – http://chng.it/DRqDtKm7Qd

Follow Monica HERE

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