Talking Point 3: Travel for all?

Eifel National Park Zen Bench Eifel National Park Zen Bench

IMG 4364 Edit Talking Point 3: Travel for all?

Zen Lounger: “In the woods there are things you can think about for years, lying in the moss…”

Travel for all? 

Kirstie Profile Small Talking Point 3: Travel for all?

This picture of me reclining on a sun lounger was taken in Germany last week. I know I’m laughing in the photo but it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t really a sunbed, and there wasn’t any sun. My woodland chaise longue was a ‘zen’ lounger; a leaf shaped installation in The Eifel National Park. A park bench made to make you stop and think. But to be honest the whole trip made me stop and think.

I travelled to Germany to explore ‘barrier free travel’; a phrase that didn’t mean that much to me before I left as the only barriers to our family travel are a lack of hard cash and a child in secondary school. But for those with or who have kids with limited mobility, vision or hearing, there are many obstacles to enjoying travelling in another country. If you are able bodied, you may not even notice some of the difficulties they face, unless of course you’ve tried to get around a museum with a double buggy. Personally I will never look at flights of stairs in the same way again.

Those involved in tourism in Germany have taken notes. In fact they’ve done more than that, they’ve taken action as I began to discover at the Landesmuseum in Mainz. Detailed plans, practical solutions, extensive databases and substantial funding are part of the efforts they have put into making the country more accessible to all; regardless of age or ability. Accessible tourism is what it’s all about. The joined up thinking is impressive. But why do they care? Well, simply, because they should. Travel should include not exclude. Well, I think so. What about you?

Talking point

Do you think travel destinations should be more inclusive and work harder to accommodate everybody, whether mums with double buggies, grannies in wheelchairs or any other family member with different needs and abilities to the majority of us? Are there any great accessible places you recommend?

Join the conversation

Talking Point is our series of short Photo Friday posts. Each week we pick a photo from the archive, post a talking point and invite you to join the conversation. Leave a comment with your thoughts or tell us what the photo says to you.

For more photo inspired fun why not check out Travel Photo Thursday from Budget Travelers Sandbox, Photo Friday at Delicious Baby or Friday Dreaming at RWeThereYetMom.

 

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Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of the project, the misadventure magnet part of the partnership and a busy mum.

22 Responses to “Talking Point 3: Travel for all?” Subscribe

  1. Lisa October 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Very interesting discussion point! I think travel destinations should definitely have accessibility as their goal but I do recognize that this is easier with some destinations than it is with others. It’s much easier for a new building that’s under construction to have lifts, ramps and the like installed than it is for an historic site to do the upgrades to become accessible. Some outdoor destinations may also be physically inaccessible to anyone who isn’t mobile or fit enough to reach them. So I guess I believe that destinations should do everything that is reasonable to improve accessibility but recognize that it is not always possible for a place to be fully accessible. Not sure that makes any sense! :)

    • Kirstie October 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

      Makes perfect sense Lisa…it’s perhaps easier to plan for it in new builds than to retrofit. I think the outdoors element is interesting too – there’s been some great work in places to reshape trails to make them more accessible, but you can’t do this everywhere logistically or financially or some argue from a conservation or impact point of view. But in some ways our personal abilities limit all of us in what we can access outdoors. If the paralympics showed me anything, it was that personal abilities and possibilities are not determined by whether or not you are what is considered ‘able’ Thanks for commenting.

  2. Becca@ R We There Yet Mom October 19, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I absolutely thing that more accessibility should be made EVERYWHERE, and not just b/c I am a mom who travels with a stroller!!

    We have a local park here in Texas that is dubbed the “All Abilities PArk” where playscapes are lower to the ground, swings accommodate wheelchairs, sensory walls are available for autistic children. And it is so eye-opening for parents to have a playground that was made for ALL ABILITY children.

    I wish this concept would sweep the nation …and the world!

    Thanks for linking up this week!

    • Kirstie October 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      That’s a lovely local example of the impact a differently designed space can have on us all. It’s not just ‘accommodating’ for those with different needs but may also make us all more aware of the fact they have different needs, which must be a good thing. I was struck on this trip by the idea that accessibility is as much about things like mums with strollers and wobbly grannies with sticks as it is about including the partially sighted, deaf or other communities. It does require a shift away from thinking about self to asking what do others need to access and enjoy this place. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. Wendy October 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    I’ve been working for years to convince communities and tourist areas to seriously think about accessibility. I am a married mother of 2 teen daughters and a paraplegic for almost 22 years. We are avid world travelers with many interesting stories about the quest for barrier-free destinations.

    I have found that the general public does not understand the necessity for access or accurate information about accessibility and barriers until it becomes a personal issue. Not only for inclusion of all family members but for an untapped market. Individuals and members of families with mobility needs have money to spend too.

    That said, I am finding that parts of Europe are leading the way in accessibility. The US talks a good game, but slower to implement at times. There is a great need for accurate information. Barrier free travel is a huge challenge that requires meticulous planning and follow up…and with that there are still the inevitable surprises.

    I love that you are tackling part of the issue. Not only are those of us who are full-time wheelchair users impacted by inaccessibility, but so are families with babies in strollers, temporarily injured kids, or grandparents with mobility issues of aging.

    I found your blog because I am planning to spend the summer in Germany (Mainz/Wiesbaden area) with my 2 daughters and we are looking for accessible places to stay, transportation, etc, etc. The planning process is like putting together a giant 3-D puzzle….everything has to fit…top to bottom…side to side. I’ll be curious to read about what you are finding.

    • Kirstie October 21, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. So interesting. I have to admit it’s not a topic I’d ever thought about until I went travelling last week in the company of a wheelchair user. Like you say, rightly or wrongly the issue becomes an issue when you are touched personally in some way. And it really is not just a ‘disability’ issue, my mum has a frame, Stuart’s mum is wobbly on her feet and from time to time most families will experience a broken limb or injury affecting mobility. It should be a mainstream issue and I hope in some small way our pieces on the blog will help raise awareness. If you want to chat about Germany drop me an email via the contact page. Would love to hear more about your family world adventures – perhaps there’s a story there we could share??

  4. Kirstie October 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    Here’s a couple of articles in the Telegraph (UK) relevant to this if you want to read some more:
    Let’s enjoy a true Paralympic legacy ‘Travelling with a disability’
    The Adventurers – Inspiring disabled travellers

  5. Sonja October 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    It’s not easy for Europeans to make all that old stuff accessible. They’ve got a long way to go but they’re trying.

    • Kirstie October 21, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      The Landesmuseum managed to make a lot of changes in a redesign. I guess there are moments in a buildings history and development where there are opportunities for change. And it’s good to see them being grasped. But as you say it’s always a challenge. Although there are a lot of things I saw that help visually and aurally impaired visitors which require little change to infrastructure or indeed relatively little funding. It’s all about awareness of the need and the will to make it happen. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Michele | Malaysian Meanders October 21, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    I never realized how hard it was for wheelchairs to get around until I became a stroller-pushing mama. I would check the handicap accessibility of places online to get an idea of how stroller-friendly it is. This especially helped when we were hiking in Washington state’s Olympic National Park. Penang, Malaysia where I now live is particularly difficult because of all the open storm drains along the streets.

    • Kirstie October 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      I don’t know about you but I never ever imagined myself to be a stroller pushing mama so that in itself was quite a shock. It’s a good idea to check disabled access in advance, even if you’re just taking a stroller. And increasingly this information is more available.

  7. Thomas Arbs October 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    Like so many of us who are lucky enough to be not physically impaired, first contact with the limitations of others came through pushing a bike trailer serving as a stroller into a tram. That time really gave us something to think about, like when only every fourth tram that passed had a level entry. When travelling in Germany, and lately also London, Raul Krauthausen’s wheelmap.org can be a valuable resource. But it doesn’t end with a level entry and a wheelchair toilet, it only begins there. Hearing impaired twitterer @einaugenschmaus has literally opened my eyes to the variety of limitations that inclusion, which is a right, has to overcome. With Raul I discussed whether a forest, a mountain or a beach are ‘wheelchair-enabled’. With my 8-year old daughter, who has certain anxieties, places can have all-new limitations. How far can you go if you need a dialysis machine every third day? It is a wide field, and we are only beginning to touch the surface of it.

    • Kirstie October 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Hi Thomas.
      I’ll check out that twitter stream you have referenced, sounds interesting! I think you make a really good point about a disabled loo, wide doorway or low counter being just the first step and not a fait accompli!
      I can’t understand why hotels don’t do more when it comes to the visually or aurally impaired. Because the more inclusive they are then the more business they will get, and small, inexpensive improvements can make a big impact to the visitor experience. Maybe its a lack of imagination on the part of the owners?

      On your point about the countryside, I went for a walk with a wheelchair user on an accessible path in the Eifel National Park.He rarely gets out into the forest at home because its simply too difficult to make the wheels go around on a path strewn with leaves, branches etc. It’s one thing to make a building accessible but how do you open up miles of countryside to all? It’s an interesting challenge isn’t it, and one for future generations if we aren’t up to it?

  8. Bron October 22, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Great discussion topic. Great to get some awareness with this issue.
    We experience this first hand as our seven year old son uses a variety of mobility aides after sustaining a brain injury at birth. The whole world has a long long way to way in many areas of disability including access.
    We have not let disability stop us accessing travel, its just done a little differently, with extra support from locals and a lot of planning.
    In general the whole attitiude towards difference really needs working on which would then see the flow on affect to accessible environments etc.

    • Kirstie October 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      You are right, it needs a major attitude change, and in the end it all comes down to education and awareness doesn’t it?
      But then again, awareness that there is an issue isn’t enough on its own. Someone needs to have the budget and the determination to change the infrastructure. Then they’ve got the task of letting people know that changes have happened. (In different languages!)
      I hope there is enough momentum on this to make things easier for you and your family. I think its great that you go for it despite the barriers that still exist in many places.

  9. Marina October 22, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I’ve recently been travelling in the French Alps. I found Chamonix Mont Blanc quite accessible, It’s not often you can get to 3842 metres altitude in a wheelchair. I also recommend Lake Annecy for stunning scenery, lovely wheelchair walks and accessible beaches.

    • Kirstie October 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

      They are really good suggestions. Thank you. I might look into doing a follow up post in a couple of weeks focussing on on other places that seem to be getting it right. It’s good to know they are out there isn’t it?

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