The European project "Assuring the access to nature education and nature experience for impaired people" (acronym: Nature without Barriers) aims to make nature an experience available for everyone. For almost 80 million people in Europe, everyday life is associated with a wide variety of barriers. Access to nature is often difficult for people with disabilities. Ramps instead of steps are not enough to make an area barrier-free. Accessibility means that services are readily available to everyone without outside help. Ramps, but also sign language, Braille boards, and audible information contribute to this.
Nature conservation centres and environmental educators, who want to get acquainted with the topic of barrier free nature experience, have little practical material at their disposal. Therefore, disabled people are largely excluded from environmental education. In this project, we want to address this obvious lack. We need more barrier-free access so that everyone can experience nature. Our project develops guidelines for barrier free modification of nature trails and other offers for nature experiences. It provides good examples from four European countries: Poland, Hungary, Austria, and Germany. With this project, we want to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the EU and inspire all Europeans for nature.
The project is intended to help environmental educators to moreover identify opportunities for more accessibility and inclusion in their offers. The guidelines give ideas and support in the offer design.
The project "Nature without Barriers" is an official project of the UN Decade of Biodiversity within the framework of the special competition "Social Nature - Nature for All". The UN Decade thus honours exemplary projects that combine nature and social issues and demonstrate the opportunities that nature and biological diversity offer for social cohesion.
We want to answer two important questions with this project:
- How to improve the range of guided tours for people with disabilities?
- How to prepare and/or change educational nature trails so people with disabilities can use them independently?
Within the framework of the project we develop:
- Guidelines for adapting nature tours to the needs of disabled people
- Practical suggestions for redesigning nature trails for barrier-free independent use
- Model description for a barrier-free reconstruction of nature trails: elimination of physical and communication barriers
- Methodology handbooks for the work with the four target groups: mobility, hearing, sight and cognitive limitations
- Explanatory webinars for a targeted use of developed materials
With this project, we expect nature experience for impaired people to become a regarded issue in the field of nature education in Europe and beyond.
5 partner organisations in 4 European countries work together to improve access to nature experience: Global Nature Fund (Germany), German Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted (DBSV, Germany), Umweltdachverband GmbH (Austria), Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczne “Etna” (Poland), and Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (Hungary).
The Global Nature Fund (GNF) is an international non-governmental, non-profit organisation based in Germany. In 1998 GNF established the international lake partnership Living Lakes with the aim to protect lakes and wetlands worldwide and to promote sustainable development in lake regions, including use and sources of energy. The network comprises more than 100 organisations working in 50 countries and protecting more than 111 lakes and wetlands around the world. Further expertise lies in the field of Business and Biodiversity, where the GNF leaded the European Business and Biodiversity Campaign (LIFE+ project) and is now active in ecosystem services and natural capital. The Global Nature Fund has initiated & conducted several projects in the field of barrier free experience of nature in a close cooperation with other organisations and institutions in the field of environmental protection/accessibility.
The Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczne "Etna" (Environmental Association „Etna”) is a non-governmental, membership organisation, working mainly in the field of environment, sustainable development and environmental education for adults. The organization concentrates its work in the Barycz River Valley, southern Poland, an area of extraordinary natural values, and few development opportunities. Etna works in a partnership that developed into the LEADER group and comprise well over 100 members, including local authorities, business and social sector. Etna was involved in the environmental education for the disabled in different age groups, starting from the kindergartens and schools.
The Vienna-based Environmental Umbrella Organization (UWD) is a non-party platform for 36 member organizations from the fields of environmental protection, nature conservation, alpine conservation, agriculture, forestry and renewable energies from all over Austria and thus for around 1.3 million members. The work of the environmental umbrella organisation focuses on comprehensive nature conservation and commitment to the preservation of the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems (biodiversity), environmentally compatible development of renewable energies and the conservation of resources to meet the challenges of progressive climate change, the sustainable protection of water as a living resource, the strengthening of rural development, the promotion of sustainability and CSR and - as the responsible body of the Austrian Alpine Protection Commission CIPRA - Alpine protection. In addition, the UWD is the central interface and information platform for European and national environmental policy via the EU Environmental Office based within it. With the FORUM Environmental Education, the environmental umbrella organisation also houses the Austrian Competence Centre for Education for Sustainable Development.
DBSV is self-help organization, stakeholders and solidarity of the blind and partially sighted people in Germany. It is the umbrella organization over federal self-help organizations of blind and visually impaired with their subdivision, and across countries of Operating organizations and institutions who identify with the goals of DBSV. DBSV aims to create conditions that enable blind and visually impaired people to live a self-determined and independent life. Where blind and visually impaired are disadvantaged or discriminated by social, political or technical developments or are in risk of these conditions the DBSV represent their rights and interests. The German Blind and Visually Impaired Association works as a lobbyist. As the leading organization the DBSV represents the interests and demands of blind and visually impaired and takes on their behalf influence on social developments, political and legal decisions. From the beginning of the foundation the DBSV is involved in initiatives concerning the integration of and accessibility for blind persons. The active self-help members have been involved in main German standardisation about accessibility. In the last 10 years the staff of the DBSV has been active in projects concerning to barrier free exhibitions.
The Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (LBDCA) is a non-profit company and was established in January 2000 by the Lake Balaton Development Council. The Agency performs professional and operative duties promoting the development of the Lake Balaton Resort Area. LBDCA’s aim is to provide effective assistance so that Lake Balaton and its vicinity should become one of the most attractive regions in Hungary and Europe. The LBDCA works with domestic and international partner organizations to launch initiatives focused on sustainability issues. The most important tasks of regional cooperation for the Lake Balaton Region are environmental protection, tourism development, traffic infrastructure, and the development of human resources. The basic activities of the Agency include executing long-term development plans of the Lake Balaton Resort Area, preparing for the Council time-proportionate implementation activities, and participating in the elaboration of development programmes and planning work.