Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy our national parks. The personal benefits include increased wellbeing and improved quality of life. But not everyone can access these parks. The new Accessible Parks Policy published by the New South Wales Government should go some way to addressing the barriers.
The policy aims to provide a framework for improving access by integrating accessibility into the planning and management of parks.
But once again, we have a document professing to promote access and inclusion yet universal design is tacked on at the end as if it is an optional extra rather than an underpinning concept.
The reference link to universal design takes you to the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland and the list of the 7 principles of universal design.
In brief, the National Parks Service recognises:
- the health and wellbeing benefits
- cultural and historic heritage can present a range of barriers
- barriers to accessing national parks may have compounding impacts on Aboriginal people
- disability is diverse and may not be visible to others
- good information is critical to empowering people with disability
- the inclusion of people with disability in the planning and decision-making process
- people who experience barriers to access should have the opportunity to participate in finding solutions to those barriers
- accessible facilities or experiences in national parks are only one component of the whole visitor journey
- it will not always be feasible to provide physical access to national parks for all people.
In brief, the National Parks Service will:
- identify and aim to remove barriers to services, facilities and experiences
- identify and remove barriers to people engaging and collaborating with the management of national parks and reserves
- engage and consult with those experiencing barriers in accessing national parks, visitor facilities and visitor experiences
- where possible, apply the principles of universal design
The webpage has different policy sections for visitor facilities, information, collaborating, and decision making.
Connection to Country is not included in this policy as there is a separate policy document. Perhaps as some point the Department of Planning will take a universal design approach which embraces intersectionality. That is, First Nations people also have disabilities and specific access requirements.