As we travel around Europe and review campsites and experiences (such as tours, theme parks etc), I thought an easy way to discuss their accessibility aspects is to use a 5 point scale, 5 being the highest score a site or place can get.
The purpose of this is to provide a standard against which a campsite or experience can be rated, and compared with others. I will be focusing on elements relevant to sightloss, and will focus less on other areas like wheelchair accessibility for example. However, there will be some crossover as flat pavements and good signage are relevant to people with varying abilities.
I have assumed that guide and service dogs are given access to all public areas and are entitled to enter campsites. All research I have done online indicates that this is a right for guide dog users. Therefore, guide dog access is not one of the criteria I have included here. If I am mistaken on this, please let me know in the comments below.
The Accessibility Scale
|1||Desperate||No signs, no contrast or tactile paving, bad steps everywhere, poor lighting, no map, nada, nothing, zip, zero effort|
|2||Not good||A few bits like the odd sign, a bit of tactile paving, some bad steps, some lighting, basic map|
|3||Grand||Has the basics like signage, well maintained paving, basic map, good lighting in communal areas|
|4||Very good||Effort made with good signs, tactile paving, lighting all over the site, flat paving with few steps, good map which is easy to read, some accessibility services available|
|5||Fabulouso||All the good stuff in place like large font or big signs, contrast on steps, tactile paving, well lit everywhere, as much flat ground as possible, tactile signage, large print or digital maps, extra accessibility services available|
I have based this scale on the features that I find most important to create an inclusive environment. These are signage, paving and steps, maps, lighting and availability of accessibility services.
I had a moment while writing the below post – am I really spelling out what a good bathroom sign looks like? Why should I have to do this? Should those who are putting these signs up like restaurant owners, interior designers, planners etc not consider this? This thought then spiralled into – am I asking for too much here? If these experts put up these signs, does that mean they know better? I began to unspiral my thoughts by concluding that NO, they do not know better and these are the basics that are not right, I’m not asking to change the world (yet!).
This one might seem simple and obvious but it is the one I find that public places fall down most. Having correct, large print and well maintained signs makes a huge difference to my experience of a place. It allows me to move around freely, without worry and significantly reduced the chances of me ending up somewhere I shouldn’t be (the men’s bathrooms, for example). As my detail and distance vision isn’t great, I might not see what is ahead of me. Generally, I need to be 6 meters or closer to really see what is going on.
A good sign should be clear (plain background, plain font/symbol in a contrasting colour), in a large font size alongside a picture if possible (Eg. like WC with the symbol of a person next to it). In an ideal world, these would be well lit and have a digital support like Navilens
Here is an example of a good sign
The below is a bad sign! It might look pretty but if I am trying to see this from afar, it is hard to decipher. Is it just a picture? Its not standardised, the light bounces off the gold, I could go on and on . . .
Paving and steps
One of my pet peeves is bad steps! (entire post on this coming soon). They just grind my gears and make getting around so much harder than it needs to be. I am so afraid of breaking an ankle or falling in front of a bus. The solution is often just a strip of brightly coloured paint which makes it all even more frustrating.
A good step is one that is the standard height and has a contrasted edge. Ideally it would have an edge with a grip on it and if its a set of stairs, it should have tactile paving at the top and bottom, along with a handrail and a coloured edge on each step.
Here’s a good step in a shopping centre in North Dublin. It has contrasted colour and texture edge, with different colours for first and last step.
Here’s a very bad step on one of the main streets in Dublin’s city centre Believe it or not, there is a step in this picture, and these are a dime a dozen. Not only is there no contrast, but the step is exactly the same colour as the ground beneath it, making it virtually impossible to see. This is probably one of the worst I have seen. It is also beside a Luas track (the Luas is a light rail public transport system in Dublin City. It is similar to a tram).
You can’t beat a good map. They are great when you get to a new place or campsite and point out the critical places you need to know about, like the bathrooms. Map apps are great as well, allowing as much zoom as needed to read the details.
Many campsites hand out a paper map upon arrival, which I normally take a picture of and zoom in on my phone to see it. A great next step would be PDF maps available directly onto your phone, or even better, an interactive version.
Let there be light! No please, let there be more light. Good lighting can be like a good magnifying glass, illuminating your way to seeing more detail. Most of the time, communal areas are lit pretty well but more often than not, getting to the communal areas from your pitch is a magical mystery tour of its own.
These are supports that go above and beyond the basics provided in most public spaces. they might be a person to guide you around, an audio guide, interactive map designed specifically for those with additional needs (E.g. the Disneyland maps show rides that are / are not guide dog friendly), or braille or large print versions of literature.
Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments if there is something I should be looking out for!
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