Environment for All: Accessibility for People with Disability

The Greenability Conference last 22nd October in West Lothian (Scotland) gathered different environmental charities and public sector bodies to discuss how to improve access to the environment and outdoor activities for people with disability.


Jordi Albacete

Most Scottish environmental charities (1) include in their agenda the possibility of enjoyable access to the environment by people with disability. More than 20 NGOs participated in the Greenability Conference in Linlithgow last 22nd October. These organisations analysed how they could be more effective in delivering a good quality service, for the integra[cml_media_alt id='106']alvin-bayona-montac3b1a-silla[/cml_media_alt]tion of a wide range of individuals with different support needs.

Disability is an overarching term to include people with learning disabilities, mental health issues, sensorial impairment, and reduced mobility as any other collective in the society. Everyone, regardless of these limitations requires special needs in his/her live.

Breaking barriers in Scotland

Since 2000 Scotland has delivered an integration programme The same as you? , which is being observed by other European countries as a successful example. Access to the environment is one of its key priorities.

In the different talks of the conference, Sarah Boyak ex Transport Minister in the Scottish Executive (from 1999 to 2000) (2)  remembered that still today there is a long way to go to integrate people with learning disabilities.

Boyak outlined some shocking figures: only one out of three people with serious learning disabilities considers that have intimate friends. In the same collective after middle age (44 -year-old) 73% of this collective walk less than 1 hour a week.

Inspirational examples

Julie McElroy

In the conference there was a great deal (3) of inspiration and hope. Julie McElroy has Cerebral Palsy which has resulted in walking difficulties along with a hearing impairment and manual dexterity problems.

[youtube height=”390″ width=”100%”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xHNtaxGzvs[/youtube]

In the last three years McElroy pioneered in partnership with the National Trust an initiative to integrate special needs people in the Scottish woodlands. She and her volunteer team of 14 participants were given the John Muir´s Discovery Award in 2013 for its successful result.

Edinburgh College community garden

[cml_media_alt id='108']image-3[/cml_media_alt]Severine Monvoisin,  garden coordinator at Edinburgh College, said: “We have seen huge improvements in the confidence levels of students using the garden. It gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. For example, a student with disability required help to change into gardening wear and this made her very reluctant to use the garden. However, after a few months, she started to work with her peers taking on tasks she could achieve, such as weeding and planting seeds, and this gave her confidence in her own abilities. She now no longer requires any help to put on her gardening outfit and regularly uses the outdoor space”.

Mental health

One of the invisible realities that needs to be addressed is the need of ensuring access and use of the environment for people with mental health issues (i.e. depression, anxiety, burn-outs, trauma, etc.).

Monvoisin from Edinburgh College community garden described her experience witnessing the therapeutic benefits of doing outdoor activities for political refugees, traumatised by war and conflict. She outlined how refugees in a community garden in London could relief  their insomnia (due to trauma) by working with other people outdoors.

Employing People with Disability in the Green Sector

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Other successful experience was introduced by the South African horticulturist, Robby Gass, in Ayrshire who manages a team of young people with learning disabilities. Enable Scotland employs Gass as a Horticulture Manager in the Hazeldean farm. He emphasised (4) the need of integrating better people with learning disabilities in the green business world.





Use of English for Spanish speakers students

  1. Charities. It is the equivalent to NGO. This word is very popular for the non profit organisations.
  2. The Scottish Executive (from 1999 to 2000). Scotland inaugurated its new Parliament in 1999 after a process of devolution from Westminster. The first Scottish Government was known as the Scottish Executive. Labour Party  had majority in the parliament in that period. 
  3. A great deal. This expression is very common for this type of context, try to use it as a synonym of a lot. 
  4. To emphasise. This verb is very common with the same meaning as in Spanish (enfatizar). Try to use it for quotes, instead of underline or highlight.

Autor: Jordi Albacete

I am an environmental journalist. My passion for the protection of human and environmental rights has been inspired by research led journalism. My ambition is to communicate and inspire people to make positive changes in the environment. Twitter @albacetejordi or Linkedin.

Periodista medioambiental. Mi pasión por la protección de los derechos humanos y medioambientales se ha forjado a través de la investigación periodística. Mi objetivo es comunicar e inspirar a la gente para hacer cambios positivos y proteger el medioambiente. Twitter @albacetejordi o Linkedin.

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