GNF - Nature without Barriers

Nature without Barriers

Assuring the access to nature education and nature experience for impaired people


Educational materials on the topic of "Guided nature experience for people with disabilities"

Nature experience and education for people with disabilities
Part 1: Guided nature experiences and educational programmes


Nature experience and education for people with disabilities
Part 2: Experience nature with all senses – practical ideas for methodological implementation


Self-determined Nature Experience
Towards barrier-free design of educational nature trails


Self-determined Nature Experience
Evaluation-tool for self-determined nature experience - the decision matrix


How to overcome physical barriers in nature experience
Brochure IO3


How to overcome physical barriers in nature experience
Brochure IO4

 Nature experience and education for people with disabilities
Part 1: Guided nature experiences and educational programmes
 Nature experience and education for people with disabilities
Part 2: Experience nature with all senses – practical ideas for methodological implementation


The topic of barrier-free nature experience is still barely established in nature conservation centers, public guided tours and environmental education facilities. There are many reasons for this. One is that there has not yet been a good range of training courses for the major environmental education providers. Accordingly, measures for barrier-free nature experience in many nature conservation centers in Germany remain the exception rather than the rule. Based on the experience of the last 10 years, the first step that identifies possible adaptations and measures is crucial. This first step was supported in the project.

Project objectives

To achieve the two overarching objectives, all activities were carried out in two work packages:

  1. How can environmental educators improve their offer of guided nature experiences for people with disabilities?
  2. How can nature trails be prepared and/or changed for the unaccompanied use of people with disabilities?


With this project we want to promote the integration of people with disabilities in the EU and promote sensitivity for nature for all Europeans. We want to give impulses for the experience of nature to people with disabilities.

Project measures

Various results will be developed during the course of the project. Project meetings offer the opportunity to exchange views on general management issues, but also to gain an insight into the situation and implementation of the measures in the respective countries. Through a close and active cooperation in four European countries we want to achieve the following:

  • Creation of a guide on general nature education practices for people with disabilities, which will be available in all project languages for experts in guided nature education/experience. The guide also offers the opportunity to develop concrete pedagogical goals.
  • Provision of a comprehensive self-check tool with a clear matrix for the appropriate adaptation of educational elements in nature conservation centers and other nature education institutions (unguided nature experience – to enable autonomous use by people with disabilities).
  • Provision of a practical educational guide to overcome the accessibility of the site and the communication barriers with concrete examples (for unguided nature experience).
  • Creation of concrete examples for teaching material in each country (e.g. brochure, redesign of a nature trail, audio guide, D3 material, etc.).
  • Extension/acquisition by nature educators of special skills in working with people with disabilities.

Project results

Based on the results of a supply and demand analysis, a curriculum was created that is adapted for the training and further education of nature and landscape guides, rangers, environmental educators in nature conservation centers and FÖJ/BuFDi. Before the curriculum was transferred to regular event formats, it was tested and adapted accordingly. The content of the curriculum is geared towards the stakeholder groups that particularly benefit from barrier-free offers.

Details of the curriculum can be downloaded here.

As part of the Germany-wide competition "Natur barrierefrei erleben", a total of 10 nature conservation institutions were advised in detail on the possibilities of adapting their offers to make them accessible and received financial support for the implementation of initial measures. We cordially invite you to try out the adapted or newly created offers on site (in alphabetical order by federal state):


- BUND Nature Conservation Center Mindelsee (Baden-Württemberg) 

As part of the project, the new modern exhibition on the Mindelsee nature reserve was supplemented with several elements for greater accessibility.

A three-minute film now also presents the Mindelsee nature reserve in all its diversity in sign languages (DGS and IS). It is the Mindelsee itself that is given a voice to characterize itself. The film was translated into national and international sign language as part of this project and can be seen in the Mindelsee exhibition and on the website of the BUND Landesverband BW. In the exhibition, explicit reference is made to the films in sign language, which can be played if required.

Three handsets with an integrated audio player and 10 buttons were purchased and recorded with audio material. Due to the small overall area of the exhibition, this measure lends itself to independent use by people with visual impairments.

Various tactile models and skins were obtained for people with impaired vision or blind people to use: Egg casts of various bird species in different sizes and colors, tactile skins of various animal species (red fox, deer, wild boar (summer and winter fur), hare), cast animal tracks to feel and fill. All these tactile models and skins are also an enrichment for sighted guests and can be used both in the exhibition and during excursions or events.

Certification of tours for all is being sought and is currently being prepared.


- Neckartal-Odenwald Nature Park (Baden-Württemberg)

As part of the "Experience nature barrier-free" competition, the Neckartal-Odenwald Nature Park decided to create a mobile tactile model. This model was created in A3 size so that it can be used both in the permanent exhibition and at events such as nature park markets, guided tours or other information stands. The tactile model depicts the area of the nature park as a tactile relief map, which is also colored according to altitude. In addition, the individual natural areas (six natural areas) are demarcated by raised lines and a raised QR code can be felt for each natural area. The QR code can be scanned using a smartphone to play an audio file in easy language for the respective natural area. Another QR code can be used to play general information about the nature park via audio. This gives people with and without visual impairments the opportunity to experience the nature park scenery with several senses.

In addition, texts written in easy language have been integrated on the nature park's homepage, thus offering further use and information.


- Chiemsee Nature Guides e.V. (Bavaria)

Verein der Natur- und Landschaftsführer*innen, Inn - Salzach e.V. offers a variety of nature and culture-related excursions on and around Lake Chiemsee. The focus of the work within the project was the adaptation of the association's existing homepage to the currently possible/best inclusive standard for better use of the homepage by people with disabilities. It was important to put the homepage on a basis that would enable further improvements in inclusive use in the future.

In addition, tactile specimens were acquired for use in natural history tours. The (real) specimens of muskrat and marmot, together with the existing exhibits, make the natural history tours more comprehensible. The direct tactile comparison of the different (but related) animals gives participants a differentiated idea of the differences between them. The third tactile specimen, a water flea, can be dissected to allow participants to feel the anatomical features. During limnological tours, the water flea model supports the explanations of the food chain and life under the water surface. The desired feeling/touching of real specimens, their fur, teeth or bone/body structures

bone/physical structures, enables blind/visually impaired people to develop a truly qualified idea of the environment and its special features. 

The newly acquired specimens will make the existing nature tours more accessible to all participants.


- Nagelfluhkette Nature Park (Bavaria)

The Nagelfluhkette Nature Park is a large protected area between the Allgäu and Bregenzerwald. As part of the project, tactile models for the water habitat and other educational materials for learning with all the senses were developed and implemented here. The tactile models and other educational materials are designed for all groups to experience with all their senses. The main target group is people with disabilities, but the materials are also suitable for children and older people.

During the guided tours, knowledge about various habitats (geology/mountains, forest, water, meadows) is imparted. The aim is to convey the knowledge as interactively and tangibly as possible. From now on, tactile models will be used to support this: dragonfly larva and dragonfly, common toad, grass frog, grass snake, common noctule, pipistrelle bat and four models that reflect the life cycle of the frog.

New tactile boxes can be filled with various natural materials to suit the season. Children, in particular, can experience different habitats through the giant hidden object book. The giant Jenga game appeals to several senses at once. On the one hand, groups can test their fine motor skills and dexterity as a team and thus become active, and on the other hand, the topic of "biodiversity" can be addressed. The more animals and plants are pulled out of the Jenga game, the more unstable the ecosystem becomes. You can also improve your knowledge of species with this game. Due to the size of the game, Jenga is also easy to handle for people with disabilities. All materials have been selected so that they can also be carried along during the outdoor event program.


- Märkische Schweiz Nature Park e.V. (Brandenburg)

In the heart of the Märkische Schweiz Nature Park, a three-kilometre-long accessible hiking trail "Adventure with Stobbi" has been created. The starting point is the Schweizer Haus Nature Park Center. The trail picks up on themes from the nature park exhibition. The mythical creature "Stobbi" conveys the Ice Age formation and more recent phenomena of the landscape, which can be experienced along the trail. The offer creates a new, manageable and well-signposted hiking experience for the target group of cognitively impaired people and families (including those with baby carriages). This closes a gap, as previously only two very extensive hiking routes (Nature Park Route 21 km and Natura Trail 17 km) were advertised from the Schweizer Haus with accompanying flyers.

An inclusive family tour with a focus on cognitive impairments has been created in coordination with regional tourism stakeholders and has been integrated into the nature park's communication measures. An accessible accompanying flyer for the route was developed in plain language. Nine easy-to-understand experience points were designed and installed in the area by regional social institutions. Easily understandable signposts that can be recognized and read while seated were installed at 20 locations on robinia posts from regional forestry.

The content and practical design of the trail was a joint project between the nature park administration, the association Naturschutzpark Märkische Schweiz e.V. with the volunteer project Artenreich Märkische Schweiz, the nature watch and the Märkische Schweiz office with the environmental department and tourist information. The Oder-Spree Lakeland Tourism Association was also involved. Individual stakeholders anchored in the region provided partial services within the project. The trail was set up by the nature rangers and volunteers, the association Naturschutzpark Märkische Schweiz e.V. and employees of the nature park administration in coordination with the Märkische Schweiz office.


- Westhavelland Nature Park Center (Brandenburg)

The Westhavelland Nature Park Center is the main information center of the Westhavelland Nature Park in the network of visitor centers in the state of Brandenburg. The focus of the measures here was on the adaptation of existing exhibition elements. The audio station was technically adapted to make it usable for wheelchair users or visitors of small stature, which also made it child-friendly. By lowering it, the operating elements are now also "within reach" for guests with disabilities without further assistance. The "Footprints" station has also been adapted so that the controls can now be used from the sitting height of a wheelchair user or child. The feet of individual objects have been shortened, making them accessible without barriers. The use of kinetic sand has created an additional haptic experience.

An audio adaptation was made at the Havel renaturation station. Using a QR code, you can find out about the status of the renaturation on your own device, which is exciting for visitors with sea restrictions, among others. Fish from the Havel were brought to life using plastic panels that were adapted to the silhouette of the fish. Plexiglas panels were laser-cut in the shape of the fish to match the illustrations: although the fish are not 3-dimensional, they are still "tactile" for visitors with or without disabilities. The actual colors and shapes of the fish are also recognizable after

the measure, creating an almost 3-D effect.

The Havellauf model was lowered and also fitted with a new Plexiglas plate. The Havelllauf can be traced using fingers or a magnet. Guests with or without visual impairments can follow the course with their fingers or bring the "fish" to the target using magnets. The center has also installed new seating in the entrance area.


- Nature Conservation Center Zittauer Gebirge gGmbH (Saxony)

The Zittauer Gebirge Nature Conservation Centre is a company of the district of Görlitz and has been a recognized nature conservation station since 2017. Two inclusive sensory hiking routes for visually impaired people and their families were developed here as part of the project. Depending on the request and group composition, the concept for the hikes can be individually adapted. The hikes convey a variety of sensory impressions, especially haptic grasping, smelling and tasting, so that they are also suitable for people with hearing impairments. Training in sign language for a tour guide is planned so that the offer will be even broader in the long term. The hike starting from Bertsdorf railroad station is suitable for wheelchair users.

After intensive preliminary research, suitable routes were sought in the Zittau Mountains. The result is two circular walks of 2.5 and 5.5 km in length. Both hiking tours start at stations of the Zittau narrow-gauge railroad, the shorter one at Bertsdorf station, the longer one at Jonsdorf station, so that independent travel is possible.

Both tours provide general information about the Zittau Mountains Nature Park, its history, special features, geological formation and the protected species that live here. A special focus is placed on experiencing nature with 4 senses. In addition to the hiking experience, the sensory impressions of touching, hearing (including birdsong), smelling and tasting are combined with a variety of encounters with nature. In addition to the respective sensory impressions, background information is provided on the respective species, their ecological function, way of life and significance for us humans. Depending on the interests of the participants, mindfulness and breathing exercises, oxygen refueling, yoga or forest bathing are also incorporated. The hike is also offered as an inclusive family or multi-generational hike. Both hiking tours have been evaluated with those affected. The offer can be booked through the Zittau Mountains Nature Park Tourism Center.


- Natura 2000 Information Center House of Rivers, Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve (Saxony-Anhalt)

The House of Rivers - Natura 2000 Information Center of the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve in Havelberg is the contact point for visitors and residents of Havelberg and the surrounding area who are interested in nature, as well as for nature lovers in the biosphere reserve. A range of events has been created here, which are held in the indoor and outdoor areas of the information center: On a pond and meadow tour: discover nature interactively, up close and barrier-free.

The tours are designed for different age groups and for people with various impairments/disabilities and can be further developed. The focus is on people with cognitive, motor impairments and visual impairments. The procurement of five portable (lightweight, robust, with handle) folding stools also expands the seating and resting options in the indoor and outdoor areas of the information center and is particularly beneficial for people with impaired mobility or older people.

Touch boxes, smell memory, touch basins to fill with (river) water, versatile video and photo material as well as new tactile models now enrich the exhibition and can be used specifically during tours. For reasons of accessibility and improving service quality, the procurement of portable folding stools has also proved useful, especially for exhibitions with few permanent seating options.


- Wadden Sea Visitor Center Cuxhaven (Lower Saxony)

The Wadden Sea Visitor Center is located directly on Sahlenburg beach between the heath and mudflats. The informative exhibition in the architecturally impressive wooden building shows everything worth knowing about the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site. The mudflats, salt marshes, geest cliffs and coastal heath can be experienced on guided nature tours. The vast tidal flat landscape is a special nature experience at any time of year. Now the walks have been enriched by tactile models of the "Small Five", the five important inhabitants of the Wadden Sea. From now on, simple language and a lower density of information will also be used to make the event suitable for other groups, such as families with small children or people with cognitive disabilities.

After extensive research and preparatory work, it turned out that it is particularly important to introduce visitors to the "Small Five", consisting of the lugworm, the mud snail, the North Sea shrimp, the cockle and the shore crab, so that the idea of developing these animals as tactile models led to the competition entry. Corresponding models were developed and implemented. Now the "Small-Five" can be grasped and touched during guided tours of the mudflats.


- Wasser. Otter. Mensch e.V., Holsteinische Schweiz (Schleswig-Holstein)

The aim of Wasser Otter Mensch e.V. (WOM) is to enable otters to recolonize the waters of Schleswig-Holstein and the adjacent structures in the cultural landscape. As part of "Nature without Barriers", the association wanted to make its canoe excursions on the lakes of Holstein Switzerland more inclusive.

As the boats previously used had a number of barriers due to their design, two new Lettmann Trapper four-seater smooth-bottom boats were purchased as part of the project. These boats are characterized by high tipping stability and wide benches. The width of the boats makes it possible to board from the jetty without barriers. In addition, the company's own co-financing will be used to procure life jackets to prevent fainting instead of the usual buoyancy aids. The new boats will also enable the service from Plön to be extended to Eutin. For the tours from Eutin, a cooperation with the newly opened inclusion hotel in Eutin is also being sought.

The tour concepts are to be revised with target groups in mind and focus on shared sensory experiences. For example, when blind people take part, all participants should temporarily wear a blindfold in order to focus on acoustic perception and thus expand their own hearing space. Mutual learning and enrichment should be the basis of the tours for everyone.

We would like to thank our partners and sponsors for their constructive and inspiring work on the project! Our work on the topic of "Barrier-free nature experience" continues. You can find more information on specific training courses and other relevant topics at


 To the Project Webpage "Nature without Barriers"
 The international project team of "Nature without Barriers" went on a barrier exploration in the National Park Donau-Auen near Vienna, Austria.

Copyright: Umweltdachverband

 None of the project team members would have thought that a 2 cm high edge on the bridge passage would leave the wheelchair stuck!

Copyright: Umweltdachverband

 Barrier-free paths are important for people with mobile disabilities.

Mindelsee one-handed receiver ©BUND Möggingen

 Touch model ©Naturpark Neckartal-Odenwald

Touch model ©Naturpark Neckartal-Odenwald

 Chiemsee water flea model ©Chiemsee nature guides

Chiemsee water flea model ©Chiemsee nature guides

 Box Tracks Nagelfluhkette Nature Park ©Sippl

Box Tracks Nagelfluhkette Nature Park ©Sippl

 Stobbi station 8 with a focus on seeing ©Naturparkverwaltung

Stobbi station 8 with a focus on seeing ©Naturparkverwaltung

 Hike along the narrow-gauge railroad ©Naturschutzzentrum Zittauer Gebirge

Hike along the narrow-gauge railroad ©Naturschutzzentrum Zittauer Gebirge

 Sensory pool ©BRME Marlene Delatre

Sensory pool ©BRME Marlene Delatre

 Wadden animals cockle ©Wadden Sea Visitor Center

Wadden animals cockle ©Wadden Sea Visitor Center

 Excursion with 4-person flat-bottomed boat ©WOM

Excursion with 4-person flat-bottomed boat ©WOM


Project partners

 Global Nature Fund (GNF, Germany)
 Deutscher Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband e. V. (DBSV)
 Umweltdachverband (UWD, Austria)
 Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczne "Etna" (Poland)
 Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (LBDCA, Hungary)

Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

The project should make a concrete contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

 Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
 Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
 Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
 Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Contact person

Ms. Katja Weickmann

Global Nature Fund (GNF) - Office Berlin

Phone: +49 30 2400 867 341



Project duration:


Project countries:




Project partners: 

1 October 2018 - 31 August 2021

Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary

Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union


Global Nature Fund (GNF, Co-ordination, Germany), 

Deutscher Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband e. V. (DBSV, Germany),

Umweltdachverband (UWD, Austria),

Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczne "Etna" (Poland),

Balatoni Integrációs és Fejlesztési Ügynökség Közhasznú Nonprofit Kft (LBDCA, Hungary)