Lakes without Limits: Nature 100 % barrier-free

Press Release for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Forest soil to touch -
With simple means, different forest
types made tangible for blind people.
© GNF Archiv
For about 10 million people in Germany and about 80 million in Europe, experiencing nature is associated with various barriers. Access to nature is often difficult for people with disabilities. The project "Lakes without Limits" wants to change this.

For many people, a stay in nature, experiencing nature and learning about nature are an important part of their lives. For people with disabilities, access to nature trough conservation centres and similar facilities has so far hardly been possible. Correspondent adaptation of environmental centres and nature parks is often associated with considerable costs in the implementation.

The Global Nature Fund (GNF) wants to address this issue with the European Living Lakes Partnership in European countries. "Lakes without Limits" is the name of the project, which will develop practical training materials for environmental educators. The focus is on lake regions in Europe, but all results are equally applicable to other natural environments. In addition, the project includes practical support for several nature conservation centres in Germany, Austria, Poland and Hungary in a barrier-free modification.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, more than 10 million people with disabilities lived in Germany in 2013. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights speaks of around 80 million disabled persons throughout Europe. These people are confronted with barriers of all kinds in their everyday lives. Inclusion is at the top of the political and social agenda, but implementation of certain measures is faltering. If integration into the labour market and adaptation of the general infrastructure are increasingly successful, another, no less important area is only being addressed to a limited extent: Stays in nature.

"Our main focus in the project is on the communication barriers, i.e. that people with limitations in perception experience the same thing as those without", says Katja Weickmann, project manager at GNF. The most important goals of the project are to gather the European experiences, to analyse the existing criteria and programmes, and to develop a practical and practicable implementation guide for nature educators in Europe. "People with disabilities are our most important ‚project experts‘ in developing guidelines and testing measures. Our approach in this respect is to involve people with disabilities by developing the requirements," explains Hilke Groenewold of the German Blind and Visually Impaired Association (DBSV), one of the project partners.

Barrier-free offers are indispensable for 10 % of people, helpful for 30 %, convenient for 100 %. This project both addresses the integration of people with disabilities in participating countries and promotes the environmental awareness of all Europeans.

Contact Information

Global Nature Fund (GNF)
Ms Katja Weickmann, Project Coordinator
Hackescher Markt 4
10178 Berlin, Germany
E-mail: weickmann@globalnature.org  
Webpage: www.globalnature.org
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