National Trails: mapping their accessibility

September in the UK: temperatures are plummeting, umbrella sales are soaring, and everyone’s beginning to feel like hibernating. 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 experienced by everyone throughout all the seasons. However, a lack of information about accessibility on the National Trails means that many people with limited mobility are unable to get out and enjoy them. Mapping for Change are 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, the lack of information is particularly frustrating as many of the National Trails are fully accessible. Many have even had extensive works completed to make them 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 to build up a picture of the trails’ accessibility. Mapillary will capture images of the path to detect slope, surface type and footway width; the My Accessible EU Obstacle Tagger will enable people to report particular barriers such as stiles or steps, and Wheelmap.org will be used to rate the accessibility of buildings and facilities along the route. By combining the information collected from all three apps, we will have all the necessary details to produce informative accessibility guides in the future. The idea is that, by working together as groups from across the country, we will quickly be able to cover large sections of the National Trails, raise awareness about accessibility issues, and build up a database of accessible walks for everyone.

Our first kick-off event was held on the Thames Path on September 18th, in Eynsham, Oxfordshire. We will be heading north to the Yorkshire Wolds on the 29th of September. If you would like to attend, or receive further information about the project, please contact r.payne@mappingforchange.org.uk.

Photo credit: Mick Garratt, licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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