WalkNI.com Your definitive guide to walking in Northern Ireland

Accessible Walks Scheme

Overview

The Accessible Walks Scheme is aimed at informing people with mobility issues. This covers a wide range of users and includes those with physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, learning disabilities and hidden disabilities, but can also include other users such as parents with push chairs or cyclists. People with physical disabilities may require the use of a wheelchair, a mobility scooter, a walking aid or an accompanying carer to provide stability and or physical or emotional support.  People with learning disabilities may also require the use of mobility aids and an accompanying carer, to guide them around their chosen route.

Walks on WalkNI.com have been classified into grades according to the accessibility of features on each route. Each walk will attain grade 1-5, with grade 1 being the most accessible and grade 5 being the least accessible. Examples of features to be taken into consideration are path surface, path gradient and presence of obstacles on the route. 

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland set up a steering group to advise on the development of the scheme. Organisations represented on the steering group were Disability Action, Disability Sports NI, Disabled Ramblers, Local District Councils, Mencap, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). A consultee group was also set up for the scheme, bodies on the consultee group included environmental organisations, local government and organisations who deal with people with disabilities. 

 
Walk Accessibility Issues

There are several components that can dictate the accessibility of a route i.e. those features or issues which could severely impact somebody with mobility issues either completing the route or putting their health and safety at risk. These are discussed below:  

 
Features affecting Walk Accessibility 

Based on case studies of other grading systems currently in use in the UK as well as a pilot audit conducted by local disability organisations, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland developed a grading system called the Accessible Walks Scheme (the grading system can be found here). The focus of the grading system would be issues with a route or features on a route that, when someone with mobility issues was faced with the route, that it would severely impact their ability to complete the route or be a significant health and safety risk. The issues taken into consideration by the Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland grading system are discussed below.