Good Examples on Barrier Free Nature Experience / Education in Europe

During the work on our project, we found many interesting examples, how does barrier free nature experience function. Let them inspire you too.

Nature Parks / Lake Areas

Gesäuse, Austria

The Gesäuse National Park is a beautiful natural landscape. Three visitor centres (Admont Information Office, Weidendom adventure centre and Gstatterboden National Park Pavilion) are barrier-free, as well as the "Lettmair Au" theme trail and the barrier-free Leierweg hiking trail. Many offers are available for both individual visitors and groups, so that people with limited mobility can also enjoy a special natural experience in the Gesäuse National Park. You will find a specially marked disabled car park right next to the Weidendom.

For more information please visit https://www.nationalpark.co.at/de/naturerlebnis/barrierefrei (in German).

Kaunergrat, Austria

In Austria the Naturpark Kaunergrat in Tyrol serves as a good-practice-example for barrier-free facilities. Especially for people with motor impairments a variety of offers is provided. It is possible to rent useful equipment such as handbikes, monoskis and cross country ski sleighs. To reach more elevated beautiful spots like Gepatschhaus, Falkaunsalm or Aifneralm, Swiss Tracs (motor assistance for wheelchairs to be able to go up steep slopes) are available as well. The bog and natural monument Piller Moor may be explored on a 700 m long wooden boardwalk, which is designed as an educational walk with information displays.

Close to the nature park center Naturparkhaus Kaunergrat the viewing platform Gacher Blick is located and may be reached with a wheelchair as well. Another viewing point, the Adlerblick, provides spectacular views of the valley of Kaunertal and many mountains higher than 3.000 m. The platform is located on a 100 m high rock face, a wide gravel path leads up there. Nevertheless an electrical wheelchair or a Swiss Trac is necessary.

Swiss Trac users can go up to the restaurant Bergrestaurant Sattelklause, which is located at 1.900 m. Alternatively visitors can take the 4-seat-chairlift, whereby it is possible to bring Swiss Trac, wheelchair or pram. Close to the restaurant you can find an educational trail about the native fauna, which is easily accessible. To go down to the valley it is possible to use mountain carts – this also applies to wheelchair-users!

Kaunergrat has a playground called Bach am Moos that is accessible for children with motor impairments and also accessible for wheelchair-users.

The glacier region Kaunertaler Gletscher has been known and appreciated as a skiing area by people with motor impairments for years, as it is possible to reach the cable car, lifts and ski slopes from the car park with disabled parking without barriers. They have wide slopes suitable for monoskis and barrier-free bathrooms at the accessible restaurant Weißsee. Since this season the skiing area has implemented special lanes for monoskiers at the lift stations. Furthermore the staff at the lifts and the skiing instructors are trained to work with people with motor impairments. Other nice options are the four cross country skiing tracks that are accessible for wheelchair-users and may be used with sleighs which one could also rent on site.

There are several barrier-free accommodations available in the nature park, e. g. the hotel Weißseespitze. It offers 30 rooms that are even suitable for paraplegic people.

A very useful tool for planning and making excursions is the “Rolli Roadbook” (“Rolli” is a German colloquial term for “wheelchair”) for the region Terra Raetica, which includes the Naturpark Kaunergrat. It contains information about the accessible routes and Swisstrac tours like starting and end point (including height and distance), difficulty, condition of the tracks, duration and a contact number for further questions. Furthermore there is a detailed description of the routes, pictures and maps. The routes have been tested by wheelchair-users.

More information under: www.kaunertal.com/de/Ihr-Kaunertal/Barrierefrei (in German and English).

Eifel, Germany

All people should be able to experience the natural treasures of a national park – this was the idea in the Eifel. The national park gates (entrance portals) are the ideal starting points for a visit. Those are information points, which also offer various exhibitions on the themes of the Eifel National Park. The national park gate Gemünd is one of five facilities of this kind. All exhibits here are provided with Braille. The control panel of the diorama is equipped with Braille as well.

The barrier-free nature experience space “Wilder Kermeter” allows access to nature without obstacles. The stations for wildlife observation and guided hikes address people with disabilities in general. The "Kermeter" (mountain ridge between Gmünd and Heimbach) forms the ecological heart of the national park. There, visitors stroll through mixed forests of copper beeches, which develop back into second-hand wilderness without human intervention.

In addition to a barrier-free network of trails, the barrier-free nature experience area includes vantage points, fascinating panoramic views of the lake landscape and the nature discovery trail "Der Wilde Weg". There, ten mostly interactive stations along the 1.5 km long trail provide information about wilderness, forest development and biological diversity in the Eifel National Park.

There is a bench about every 250 meters. Additional sensory couches have been set up at four locations. Here, visitors can enjoy the view into the treetops, listen to the sounds of nature or simply relax. At the Kermeter rest area, the Hirschley vantage point and the Wilden Weg research station, tables are also available for resting.

Visually impaired hikers are being completely guided by tactile systems through the area. They also find a paved guidance system at important points. The vegetation edge can be felt along the path and serves as a guide strip. The only exception is the wooden footbridge at the beginning of the Wild Path. A continuous handrail enables orientation there. At locations of benches and signs, attention fields run across the path. At crossroads, there are guiding strips. All information in the Wild Kermeter is available in raised capital letters and Braille or acoustically. A leaflet on the Wild Path is also available free of charge in Braille.

The exhibition “Wildnis(t)räume” (German for wilderness areas, wilderness dreams) can be experienced by everyone with all senses. More than 50 touch installations invite the visitors to touch. Scents can be sniffed out and over 30 loudspeakers give an idea of the "Sound of Nature". There is plenty of seating options and enough space for a wheelchair or pram. A tactile guidance system shows the way and all information is available in many different ways: in easy language, raised script and Braille. All texts and graphic representations have sufficient contrast sharpness. Media guides that can be lent free of charge offer an audio description and translation into German sign language. Mobile sound amplifiers are available. Tactile overview plans help with spatial orientation.

A tactile guidance system leads also from the nearby bus stop (distance approx. 220 meters) to the visitor centre.

The exhibition is part of the "Forum Vogelsang IP" and can be reached via a visitor centre with sales counter and shop. There are several sign posted parking spaces about 170 meters away. Within the visitor centre, seating is available everywhere.

Barrier-free sanitary rooms are located in the visitor centre, in the exhibition "Wildnis(t)räume" and in the nearby gastronomy.

At the counter of the visitor centre and in the exhibition, trained staff is available to provide personal assistance and answer questions. Buy booking in advance by telephone, arrangement of an individual assistant as well as provision of a rental wheelchair is possible.

Rangers and forest guides regularly attend advanced training courses on the subject of accessibility. They are trained in making guided tours attractive for people with and without disabilities.

For more information please visit https://www.nationalpark-eifel.de/de/nationalpark-erleben/barrierefrei-unterwegs/ (in German).

Müritz, Germany

Wonderful nature experience is possible in the Müritz National Park. In order to make this accessible for blind and visually impaired nature lovers, special guided tours are offered from various starting points in the park. Those include a bat tour, a birdcall hike or a guided hike to observe and listen to the cranes and deer in autumn.

The tours are coordinated by the Hohenzieritz Nationalpark Authority. Here, visitors can also obtain further information.

On the ground floor of the Boek manor, the permanent exhibition "Die Fischer von Boek" (The Fishermen of Boek) has been placed. It offers the opportunity to touch a lot of the exhibits. An audio guide including additional descriptions suitable for the blind can be lent. Visiting the exhibition „Im Reich der Buchen“ (German for: In the kingdom of beech trees) can be also recommended for blind and visually impaired persons.

At the manor, there is also a relief board where the hiking trails through the Müritz-Nationalpark are depicted. Additional Information can be found in the audio guide. There are Braille brochures available describing the offers for guided hikes through the national park. Next door to the manor, a restaurant invites visitors to linger and offers menus in Braille.

The outdoor area offers the possibility to explore the floor plan of the manor house with a colourfully designed tactile model.[1]

The 3.5 km long nature experience trail „SpurenWeg“ is accessible for blind and visually impaired people too. This trail is more than a forest trail, as it is full of memories of earlier times. In the course of the trail, visitors will recognise the landscape as an interplay of human culture and wild nature. At the various stations, visitors find information also in Braille. An accompanying booklet to the SpurenWeg in Braille can be lent.

More information can be found here: https://www.mecklenburgische-seenplatte.de/barrierefreier-tourismus/mueritz-nationalpark (in German).

National Park Black Forest (Schwarzwald), Germany
The pictures shows an excursion in National Park Schwarzwald_copy right NP Schwarzwald
© mahp-barrierefrei

Whether guided tours in sign language, barrier-free construction measures or online offers in easy language - the Black Forest National Park is aware of its role as a co-creator of a barrier-free society and takes it very seriously. This commitment is honoured by Lebenshilfe Offenburg-Oberkirch: the association awarded the National Park team the title "unhindered with each other”.

In the future, the National Park will continue to intensify its efforts to reduce barriers - both with regard to minor details, such as the selection of the annual programme events, and milestones, such as the planning of the infrastructure.

Currently, a new barrier free visitor center is being build.

More information under https://www.nationalpark-schwarzwald.de/de/erleben/barrierefrei-unterwegs/ (in German).

Contact: info@mahp.de

Balaton Uplands National Park, Hungary
The picture shows the map of the National Park area.
© www.bfnp.hu

The Balaton Uplands National Park was established in 1997. It is located on the northern shoreline of Lake Balaton. The area of the national park is about 57.000 hectares, which consists of six landscape protection areas, e.g. the Kis-Balaton and Tihany Peninsula.

Improving accessibility for impaired visitors is an important priority for the national park. It dedicates special attention to adapt nature trails and visitor centres to different needs. The nature trails in the Balaton Uplands National Park introduce the most beautiful and the most diverse nature formations of the area. The nature trails are located in a relatively small area, but there are large differences in height level. Therefore, only certain sections of the trails can be visited by people with reduced mobility and wheelchair users. Guided tours are available for disabled people with different needs on these nature trails. Upon request separate guide may be provided.

The surrounding of the Belső-tó (“Inner Lake”) in Tihany is one of the most preferred areas to visit, because it is easy to be accessed and walked around even by individually. People are visiting the Belső-tó to learn about the water ecosystem. They also can observe gray cattle and ground-squirrel on the lake side. The rocks in the Kali Basin are accessible for impaired people too. The sandy sandstone outcrops can be found in several places along the roads. Touching different surfaces can provide an exciting experience.

In general the visitor centres of the Balaton Uplands National Park can be visited by people with reduced mobility. The toilets are barrier-free. Most of the exhibitions are interactive; thereby visitors can sense and touch the exhibited objects (for example the “Feel the rocks” game in the Lake Cave in Tapolca). The videos, displayed in the movie rooms have subtitles. Many visitor centres offers special programmes and workshops for interested visitors. The soup-ball making workshops, organised by the Lavender House in Tihany, is often attended by impaired people.

The website of the national park provides information on the nature trails, visitor centres and accommodation facilities for people interested in exploring the natural values of the area: http://www.bfnp.hu/en (in English, German, and Hungarian).

Accessible Nature Reserves, The Wildlife Trusts, UK

Here, the visitors can find accessible Wildlife Trusts reserves:

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/visit/accessible-nature-reserves

 

City Park / Infrastructure

Treetop Path Salzkammergut, Austria

With a total length of 1,400 metres and a height of up to 21 metres, the low-barrier treetop path winds through the mixed mountain forest at the top of the Grünberg passing numerous educational and adventure stations: https://www.baumwipfelpfade.at/salzkammergut/

Panorama Tower in the National Park Kalkalpen, Austria

The barrier-free 21-metre high panorama tower Wurbauerkogel in the National Park Kalkalpen, Austria, offers a breathtaking view. 21 "two-thousanders" can be seen by a clear view: Dead mountains, Sengsen mountains and Haller Mauern almost ready to touch: more information here.

Park of the Gardens in Bad Zwischenahn, Germany

The park is designed to be as barrier-free as possible.

The grounds have a handicapped accessible, gradient free path system and several barrier free sanitary facilities. In addition to the classic "barrier-free elements", such as ground-level entrances, automatic doors with sensors, currently four handicapped accessible sanitary facilities and largely step-free terrain - the observation tower can be reached up to the 1st level with wheelchairs, handcart and pram - the planners of the park and its buildings have always paid attention to the aspect of "experience for 100 % of the guests".

The cooperation with corresponding associations of people with motor impairments as well as visually impaired has also contributed to the fact that the Park of Gardens is considered to be a "best practice example" in East Frisia. This can be experienced in various elements like the "Impressions Landscape" with its "Fountain for the Blind", the visually impaired signposting and many tactile elements, but also by offering the free hire of walking frames, wheelchairs and hand carts. For example, brochures in Braille are handed out to guests at the cash desk.

Detailed information is also available for:                                                              

  • People with hearing impairment
  • Deaf people
  • Allergy sufferers and people with food intolerances
  • Garden webpage is available in easy-to-read

More information under https://www.park-der-gaerten.de/en.html (in English and German).

Herb Valley Zánka, Hungary

The Herb Valley is an exhibition park and educational centre, located at Zánka. The aim of the park is to introduce the herbal flora of the Balaton Uplands in an interactive and experience-focused manner.

The exhibition park provides interesting and attractive entertainment for visitors. It offers various programmes and services for tourists, families, school groups, advocates of sustainability, alternative practitioners or herbalists.

In the Balaton Uplands, herbs are picked by hands, carefully selected, and processed by traditional methods. The interested visitors can also participate in the collection of herbs, and in the herbal processing manufactory they can see how herbs get processed (drying, distillation and the production of natural products). In the movie-room, visitors can see various films about herbs and their utilisation. At the tea shop, special herbal teas and syrups can be tasted. The aquatic garden, the sensory garden and the relaxation grass are designed to further enrich visitor experience.

The Herb Valley dedicates high attention to welcome disabled people among its visitors. The park was designed to be barrier-free. The exhibition centre and the garden can be accessed by wheelchair-users as well, there are ramps for the easier access. The toilets are barrier-free. In the sensory garden, the herbs are planted in raced beds, thereby it is easier for impaired people to touch and smell the plants. It is also planned to use pictograms to provide information on the herbs and their impacts.

The Herb Valley offers special programmes for impaired people, which includes e. g. introducing spices and other aromatic plants in the interactive smell-store, the sensory garden to touch plants and crumbling dry plants as well as tasting fresh plants and teas.

For more information please visit https://architizer.com/projects/herb-valley-centre-zanka/ (in English).

Guided Experience

Wheelchair-accessible hiking tours in Tyrol, Austria

Excursion tours, panoramic routes, circular hiking trails: selected wheelchair-accessible hiking tours make the powerful mountain world of Tyrol a barrier-free experience: https://www.tirol.at/reisefuehrer/barrierefrei/rolli-wandertouren (in German).

Chiemsee: guided tours for blind people / nature experience with all senses (for all visitors), Germany
The picture shows a moorland hike at lake Chiemsee
© Chiemsee Naturführer

The Chiemsee Nature Guides want to make nature an experience for all senses. The pure experience in nature is the central topic of each nature tour. During a guided tour, blind and visually impaired people can feel, hear and smell nature as it is. Also seeing people are given the opportunity to explore nature with all their senses and even in the dark, e.g. during the tour "Bieber am Chiemsee" (German for: Beaver at late Chiemsee).

Furthermore, there is a portable and tactile map of Lake Chiemsee, which can be used to give blind people an idea of the lake and the region. Boat trips at the lake, during which nature guides describe the lake and the region with the help of the tactile map, are a great opportunity to practice inclusion actively and successfully on the subject of nature and culture.

For more information you can visit www.landschaftsfuehrer.com (in German).

Contact: info@landschaftsfuehrer.de

Project "Uninhibitedly Committed", Germany

Since 2009, the EUROPARC umbrella organisation of national natural landscapes has been cooperating closely with the German Federal Association Lebenshilfe as part of its volunteers programme. Together they have succeeded in linking 17 national natural landscapes and "neighbouring" Lebenshilfe-offices in order to promote the commitment of people with intellectual disabilities to nature conservation. Initially, the main aim was to create a framework in which people with intellectual disabilities could also exercise their right to civic involvement. The focus was on the volunteers' need to do practical manual work.

Volunteers with learning difficulties receive offers in the form of a seminar in Easy Language. In this way, they can deepen their knowledge of nature, biological diversity and nature conservation. Well-informed and involved, they actively work with other volunteers on nature conservation measures in nature parks and biosphere reserves. In doing so, they consciously contribute to the protection of biological diversity.

With the project "Uninhibitedly committed: People with intellectual disabilities discover, experience and preserve the habitat of water", the cooperation partners are now pursuing a further goal: the need of volunteers to acquire in-depth knowledge, to apply it, to pass it on to others should receive more attention than before.

With this project concept, EUROPARC Deutschland took part in the competition for the German Nature Conservation Prize 2013. It succeeded in receiving the highly coveted prize. The prize money enabled the planned measures to be implemented in 2014 and 2015. The implementation of further measures is planned.

For more information you can visit http://ungehindert-engagiert.de/ (in German).

“Nature for All” / “Mountains for All”, Spain

The organisation Fundación Global Nature carries out routes with Joëlette and courses to train volunteers in the correct use, maintenance and driving of these chairs. This programme has been developed in 2013 in collaboration with the association "Montaña para Todos". Courses and outings are held in different natural areas. For several years, the project "Nature for all in National Parks" has been organized in Picos de Europa, Monfragüe.

For more information you can visit https://fundacionglobalnature.org/proyectos/naturaleza-para-todos/ (in Spanish).

Nature Trails

Beelitz-Heilstätten, Germany

In the Barefoot park Beelitz-Heilstätten, activities are offered for both people with learning difficulties and people with visual impairments. However, these are not immediately visible on the official website. The best way to find information about the offers is via the link barrierefrei-brandenburg on the special portal "www.Brandenburg barrierefrei".                                     

The 60 experience stations on the three colour-coded circular trails offer a nature experience with all senses. Special guided tours for people with learning difficulties and blind and visually impaired people are offered here. Two of the stations on the red circular trail have been designed in such a way that they can be experienced particularly well without seeing: "Blind Journey" and "Touch and Smell Boxes". On the webpage of "Brandenburg barrierefrei", the necessary information is accessible in Easy Language. A functioning and comprehensible signpost system is available, travel directions are well described and a pick-up from the station or stop is offered.

Owl Trail, Nature Park Rosalia-Kogelberg, Austria

13 communities, a nature park and a 75 km long circular trail, which connects the most beautiful scenic sides of the Mattersburg district and the nature park communities under the sign of the owl. The owl invites us to look at this beauty of landscape and nature. The owl is both a symbol and a signpost for all people to experience the nature park with all their senses: with emphasis on ALL. The stations at the nature experiences (pond meadows and cherry orchards) along the Owl Trail present themselves barrier-free to hikers. People who are restricted in their freedom of movement can explore these adventure stations just as easily with a wheelchair or wheelator as families with prams.

For more information please visit http://www.rosalia-kogelberg.at/barrierefreies-naturerlebnis/ (in German).