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Trails can range from smooth pathways in public parks to rugged routes across open countryside, in mountainous areas or through forests. Some environments can be welcoming and easy to traverse while others can present challenges for the visitor, particularly for people who have a disability.
Greenways are traffic-free routes for use by pedestrians and cyclists. They are often established along an existing corridor such as a canal bank or disused railway line. They generally have low gradients and a smooth surface and provide an amenity suitable for people of all abilities.
Public Parks are environments that are designed and laid out for recreation purposes often including amenities such as pathways, playgrounds, picnic areas and coffee shops.
This section considers how accessibility can be built into the design and management of trails, greenways and public parks including any facilities such as picnic areas and playgrounds that are provided on-site. Given that Greenways are a type of trail and a large part of the attraction of Public Parks are the trails they contain, trails are a major focus in this section.
Accessible Trails. Where trails are appropriately designed and managed they may be shared-use and capable of facilitating a range of users including walkers, cyclists, buggy users and, in many instances, people who have disabilities. Such trails are sometimes known as Multi-Access or Challenging Access Trails.
Typically the sections of a walking trail are ‘classified’ based on the surface, width and gradient of the trail. The Sport Ireland document ‘Classification and Grading for Recreational Trails’ provides further details on the classification of trails from Class 1 to 5. The ‘Grade’ of a trail is then determined based on the length of the trail that is made up of each Class.
Multi-Access Trail. A Multi-Access Trail is defined as one which is Class 1 throughout its length and has no obstacles such as gates, steps or stiles. A Class 1 Trail has a firm surface and is flat and wide. (See ‘Classification and Grading for Recreational Trails’ ). The goal of a trail designer providing an accessible trail should be to comply with the requirements of a Class 1 trail.
Challenging Access Trail. It is recognised that due to the surrounding terrain or other environmental factors it may not be physically possible to comply with all of the guidelines related to surface, gradient or width as required for a Multi-Access Trail. For example, a trail which has some sections of Class 2 trail may also be considered accessible but slightly more challenging for some users. A Class 2 section of trail can be narrower, may not be quite as smooth and may have slightly steeper gradients. To deal with this situation these guidelines are recommending a trail called a Challenging Access Trail.
So, in summary, the following descriptions would be used;
Accessible Trails can be described as Multi-Access and Challenging Access Trails or routes and the guidance within this section outlines design criteria for both.
The guidance within this section outlines design criteria for Multi-Access and Challenging Access trails.
The design criteria and guidance includes;
The symbols below represent Multi-Access and Challenging Access routes which are proposed to identify two levels of accessibility.
Challenging Access Symbol
These guidelines propose the use of the internationally recognised wheelchair symbols to identify the two levels of accessibility on trails/routes as follows;
When displaying this symbol the following criteria should apply:
› Accessible route from parking to the trail.
› Fully accessible trail.
› Little or no gradient.
› Flat /smooth surfacing i.e.concrete, tarmac, bitumen macadam.
› No steps.
› No obstacles.
› Accessible but more challenging trail.
› More significant gradients at some locations.
› Surface may not be as firm e.g. use of gravel/quarry dust.
› May be narrower.
These symbols should be located at the beginning of a trail and at all access points. They should also be used in conjunction with directional arrows at trail junctions when used for waymarking the trail. The use of these symbols will ensure that the accessible trail and designated route can be clearly determined and followed. This information allows people with disabilities to make an informed choice to follow a specific trail.
Please note: Warning should be given where the accessibility along a trail disimproves so that the trail is no longer accessible.
The design of an accessible trail should allow good access and facilitate everyone. The trail should be designed and set out in a manner to avoid hazards and allow all users a safe opportunity to enjoy variable terrain while visiting various outdoor environments.
Slopes that have a gradient steeper than 1:21 are considered ramps and require specific design elements including the provision of adjacent steps which are favoured by some people who have a mobility impairment. Section 7 of this guide gives design guidance for ramp design.
The surface of a trail should be firm, compact, stable, non-slip and obstacle free. The surface should also be free from severe erosion and drainage problems. On an accessible trail, it should be suitably drained so that it is not waterlogged or muddy at any point along the route.
Information Display Boards are essential elements in providing adequate information to direct visitors towards and along trails and routes. Information Display Boards provide a visitor with information on facilities available, the use of any waymarking system, features of interest or give warnings about hazards along routes.
Revert to section 3 for complete guidance on the design of Information Display Boards.
“Seating made available at regular intervals during walking trails.”
– Quote from National Online Survey 2017
Information should be presented in a variety of ways i.e. both online and on-site, to provide users with information regarding accessibility levels so that people planning a visit to the site can know what facilities are provided in advance of their visit.
Route information and waymarking should be clearly provided on an Information Display Board at the beginning of a trail, at junction points and at regular intervals along the trail. This will ensure the preferred route direction is always clear, that direction is given on accessibility as well as notification of any route change or change of accessibility.
Consider also providing an audio guide alongside the Information Display Board that can be activated by a push button device or alternatively by using headphones.
To Note: Warning should always be given where the accessibility along a trail disimproves so that the trail is no longer accessible.
Route information presented on the Information Display Board at the start of a trail should detail the following:
For futher reference please see: https://www.irishtrails.ie/Sport_Ireland_Trails/Publications/Management_Standards_Access.pdf
The guiding principle of access for all is to choose the least restrictive option so that access through entrance and exit points is as easy as possible for everyone including people with limited strength and restricted manual dexterity. All gates/gaps should be sufficiently wide to allow a person using a wheelchair/mobility scooter to easily gain entry to a trail. Consider quick fix options of replacing an inappropriate gate or stile with a more suitable gate type or create an open entrance. Always provide an alternate entrance where vehicle barrier poles are located.
Obstacles on trails/routes may occur. Where an obstacle occurs the preferred solution is to alter the route or to achieve a safely manageable alternate route. The following obstacles and barriers may occur and accessible solutions may have to be innovatively designed and creatively achieved wherever possible:
Many people with disabilities may have limited mobility and specific equipment can ensure increased participation in outdoor activities. On some outdoor sites, public parks and visitor centres there may be equipment e.g. bicycles/other, available for public use. Consideration should be given to also having dual use accessible equipment such as handcycles or disability-specific equipment, available at all such sites.
The following equipment may assist in supporting individuals to access the outdoor environment more freely;
Manual wheelchairs are the type of wheelchair that a person propels themselves without the assistance of a battery. Options include a self-propel wheelchair, which requires the user to push themselves, and a companion propelled wheelchair, which means that the person seated in the wheelchair is assisted by another person.
FreeWheel is a lightweight clamp-on attachment which quickly and easily attaches to the footrest of an existing wheelchair. The Freewheel allows the person to easily and safely traverse any rough terrain by raising the existing (small)front wheels that might catch or slow down on difficult terrain.
The forests have walks mapped out but the gateways into them are too narrow for my son's wheelchair".
Powerpacks. The Powerpack is a two-wheeled power pack that converts a manual wheelchair into a powered chair. Manually wheeling over surfaces that are not smooth can be exremely effortful. Converting a manual chair to a powered chair can assist manual wheelchair users to access more trails for longer periods. The power pack is controlled with a handheld remote. Movement of the chair is operated by pressing the power button.
Dual-use Gym Equipment is outdoor accessible exercise equipment that is predominately found in public parks, playgrounds, and greenways. This dual use exercise equipment offers all users equal opportunity to exercise at their own leisure in the outdoors. Many of the pieces of equipment are designed to be used by both people standing and by a person seated in a wheelchair.
Hand Cycles. A handcycle is a type of bicycle that is propelled by the arms rather than the legs. Most hand cycles are tricycle in form, with two coasting rear wheels and one steerable powered front wheel. Despite usually having three wheels, they are also known as hand bikes.
Audio and Guided Tours. Consider providing pre-recorded audio tours and guided group tours on request.
Families and friends often venture to outdoor recreation areas with the specific intent to picnic. Accessible picnic elements facilitate the inclusion of park visitors. The provision of accessible picnic areas should be a consideration for all service providers. Providing accessible picnic elements such as tables can be an easy process especially since accessible picnic tables come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Universal Design Picnic Table
The CRPD, Article 30 (5d) specifically makes provision for children with disabilities to have access to play facilities, states: “Parties shall take appropriate measure to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities”.
A playground designed on the principles of Universal Design should be located on a level site with smooth, firm and non-slip surfacing. Play equipment should be carefully chosen to allow for social interaction and as many play items as possible should be usable by the broadest range of children. At least one play item within each of the main play activities – swinging, sliding, rocking and climbing – should be accessible to children with mobility, cognitive and sensory impairments. Ground level play items including sand and water play should be at a height that is easily accessible to all children. An accessible and inclusive design approach for playgrounds means it is easier for everyone to play, regardless of their abilities.
Ground level activities
Features to increase accessibility include:
Other features to consider:
Roll-On swing set
Sensory play – Sand and Water
9 On some outdoor sites there may be equipment e.g. bicycles/other, available for public use and consideration should be given to also having dual use accessible equipment such as hand cycles or disability specific equipment, available at all such sites.
Donations of €250 or over in a year are eligible for tax relief at 45% so your €250 is worth €362 to Irish Wheelchair Association and the people we support with physical disabilities with no extra cost to you
Donations of €21 a month or more in one year are eligible for tax relief at 45% so your annual total of €252 is worth €365 to Irish Wheelchair Association and the people they support with physical disabilities with no extra cost to you.
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