Towpath walking for people with disabilities
Taking a walk along a canal is something that should be enjoyed by as many people as possible. While not all routes are suitable for people with disabilities, towpaths can often be flatter and more accessible than other footpaths.
I truly believe that everyone should be able to get out and explore our beautiful countryside”
For people with disabilities who are looking to enjoy the waterway network, the problem can often be finding out in advance whether a route will be suitable. However, this information is becoming more readily available – many local councils provide information about accessible walks in their areas, and there are also dedicated websites where you can search for routes.
Marie Houlden, founder of the Walks with Wheelchairs website, says: “I truly believe that everyone should be able to get out and explore our beautiful countryside and this was the key reason for creating the site - it was apparent that there was simply not the information available. Getting out into the fresh air can be a great way to help with symptoms of illness and I felt it was essential to have a central and free resource that people could draw from.
“The best advice I can offer for walking with a wheelchair is making sure that the walk is suitable for your equipment and your own abilities - some people have standard wheelchairs and obviously a walk which is flat and on tarmac is preferable, while others have a more robust chair which can easily navigate tougher terrains, such as gravel canal tracks. Always ensure the walk has the facilities that you personally need, for example, a toilet with disabled access. Our site will always provide this information and will also say if you need a RADAR key.
“Over the last few years I have been really impressed with the number of individuals and organisations that have been working to improve access on walking routes and to educate the public about these routes. I think there is still a long way to go, but every year we see more and more routes added to the site and we hear of more walks that have now been made accessible.”
The Walks with Wheelchairs website features an accessible walk near Devizes along the Kennet & Avon Canal
The Canal & River Trust provide an audio trail for the blind and visually impaired at Hatton Locks.