Walking with wheels aims to improve access

Posted on 15/04/2014

Ian Clarke2_LR.jpgIan Clarke is a volunteer countryside ranger with the Lancashire County Council, he welcomes the new ‘walking with wheels’ category for trails and encourages all ViewRangers to consider including details about access when they submit new routes.

Ian explains his interest:

As a keen hill walker I have been using ViewRanger since early 2011, particularly in the Lancashire area where I am a Volunteer Countryside Ranger.

As a Ranger I have met people from many communities who have had difficulties with accessing the countryside for many reasons. In Lancashire we want to enable access to the countryside for everyone: people with wheelchairs, pushchairs, limited mobility, or simply for those whose legs aren't as young as they used to be.

Most people are adventurous whatever their ability. Some, however, may just need a little more assistance or information. In 2012 I saw a wheelchair user get to the summit of Pendle Hill with the assistance of the Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team.

This person also intended to paraglide down and it was only poor weather on the day that prevented this.

I am now a mature student at Myerscough College studying for a foundation degree in Ecology and Conservation Management, after retiring from the Royal Air Force Police in 2012. Part of the course includes studies into countryside interpretation which is basically how to develop good visitor information that is inspirational for countryside visitors.

For my project, I choose to develop “Access for All” routes and look at the methodologies that aim to encourage and inform countryside users who may have access difficulties. I soon discovered this to be a wide and complex area.

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I also entered into discussion with the disabled ramblers association, who I had worked with previously though my work as a volunteer ranger, to explore what might be helpful and I also contacted ViewRanger to discuss my ideas ViewRanger offers a product that I use and trust.

ViewRanger provides a new, innovative method of enabling people of all abilities to find routes that suite their requirements by looking at others recommendations and route information. Also for these to be shared, for example, through the use of QR codes.

new_activities.JPGEarlier this year ViewRanger published its “Walking with Wheels” category and I have since published some routes under this category. However, in my opinion, “Access for All” is not just about the disabled user. It’s about helping users of all abilities to overcome difficulties with access. This could easily be a parent with a baby in a child carrier negotiating a stile (look up “Miles without Stiles” for more on this aspect).

So what am I trying to achieve with my project? I would like to increase awareness of “Access for All” – ViewRanger’s inclusion of the “Walking with Wheels” category is a massive move in the right direction.

I would also like other ViewRangers to be aware of access requirements when planning and publishing routes. Good information can be equally important to a ViewRanger user on horseback, as well as a user with a push chair, or in a wheel chair.

If you have an opinion on my project or how ”Access for All” information can be improved either by my routes, or through ViewRanger, then please share it. We can work to making this product better but more importantly, make the experience of access to the countryside even better for all users whatever their ability. If you need anymore info just drop me a line.

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