Schiehallion: The first peak to be declared wheelchair friendly
IT’S already one of the most popular mountains in Scotland, but Schiehallion now has another claim to fame. The 3,547ft peak has become the first Munro to be declared wheelchair friendly.
The iconic conical mountain in Perthshire has been listed by the FieldFare Trust, which promotes countryside access for disabled people, for its suitability for wheelchair users.
Andrew Johnson, director of the FieldFare Trust, said: “In terms of levels of accessibility, only a tiny proportion of the outdoor network is accessible to those with disabilities. It’s not about trying to sanitise the outdoors so everyone can go there, but about recognising that people of any ability should have the right to try.
“What we do is try to provide information about trails and walks across the UK so people can make that decision.”
Johnson welcomed Schiehallion’s entry on the Trust’s website. “It’s a positive move because it means that even the most rugged landscapes can provide some accessibility for people of all abilities.”
The website – called Photo Trails – rates the path to the summit of East Schiehallion from the Braes of Foss car park as suitable for those with wheelchairs for the first third, adding that it would be up to individuals to assess for themselves if they can manage to ascend the path up the higher two-thirds to the summit. The John Muir Trust, which manages and maintains the mountain, said it was delighted with the inclusion.
Sandy Mitchell, the manager of Schiehallion, said: “Obviously there is a section of society that can be excluded from this type of activity, so when it comes to breaking down some of these barriers we are keen to co-operate with organisations involved in trying to open up access. We have done work to make the paths as accessible as possible and would hope that parts of Schiehallion would become more accessible by people with disabilities.”
Capability Scotland also welcomed the move. Richard Hamer, director of external affairs at Capability Scotland said: “Getting out and about when you’re disabled can present challenges. In fact, more than a quarter of disabled people we surveyed who hadn’t visited Scotland’s historical sites and great outdoors in the recent past had been prevented by problems with physical access. However most were sympathetic to the challenge of making natural and historic sites accessible.
“What’s important is that disabled people get the assistance they need, and information on the accessibility of sites and attractions has a big role to play in this.”
Mitchell said that adapting certain routes and paths on wild land to make them more accessible presented challenges. “The landscape plays a big part in what’s possible,” he said. “We’re not in favour of building roads up mountains. We also stand for protection of wild land and try to retain the natural beauty of the land and to disturb the ecological system as little as possible. However where it is possible we would certainly be in favour of trying to make pathways more accessible.”
Last year, Edinburgh woman Sally Hyder scaled Ben Nevis in a specially designed off-road wheelchair with assistance from Royal Navy Elite personnel and six fire fighters from Lothian and Borders Fire Rescue Service.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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