Walking with wheels: Making the countryside accessible to all

Walking with wheels: Making the countryside accessible to all

By Victoria Ellis - 17 April 2014

Escaping the crowds for a good walk, cycle ride or trek becomes increasingly attractive as a series of UK Bank Holiday's approaches.  But what if you are in a wheelchair, have limited mobility or need a little help getting around?  

This consideration has prompted ViewRanger to launch a new initiative called "Walking with Wheels".  Users of the GPS navigation app and online community can indicate whether the terrain is suitable for people with limited mobility and whether there are any obstacles to access such as stiles.

Craig Wareham, co-founder of ViewRanger, explains that its development has been user-driven: “People like to share walks they have enjoyed and ViewRanger makes it easy to do this. The new ‘walking with wheels’ category is already proving popular - I think the Paralympics have shown that having wheels shouldn’t deter you from having adventures.”

This view is shared by Ian Clarke, a volunteer countryside ranger in Lancashire and former Royal Air Force police officer.

He says: “In Lancashire we want to enable access to the countryside for everyone and ViewRanger offers a new, innovative method of enabling people of all abilities to find routes that suit their requirements by looking at others' recommendations and route information.

“Most people are adventurous whatever their ability, but some 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.

“As a ranger I have met people from many communities who have had difficulties with accessing the countryside for different reasons. Those with wheelchairs, pushchairs, limited mobility, or simply for those whose legs aren't as young as they used to be.

“Inclusion of the 'walking with wheels' category is a massive move in the right direction and feedback so far has been positive. I would like all route contributors to be aware of access requirements when planning or publishing routes. Good information can be equally important to a ViewRanger user on horseback as to a user with a pushchair or in a wheel chair.” 

Having this extra information upfront can help make the day more enjoyable. ViewRanger routes include length and an altitude graph so you can see how rough the route and contributors can add notes about things to see and suitability for other users.  Ian would like everyone to think about improving access when submitting his or her favourite routes.

“By working together we can make this product better but more importantly, make the experience of access to the countryside easier for all users whatever their ability.”

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