South Moravia Turns To Wheelchair Users To Test Accessibility in Tourist Sites

Wheelchair users who like to travel and discover new places are often limited by inaccessible terrain or unadapted facilities. Credit: South Moravian Tourism Centre.

Brno, Oct 10 (BD) – Travelling can involve lots of added stress for people who use wheelchairs, as well as parents with prams or people with reduced mobility, as often they have to travel to unknown places not knowing whether the place is easily accessible for them. The South Moravian Tourism Centre has been working to make the region a more friendly place for the less mobile, and as part of this project, they sent wheelchair users to test selected tourist destinations for themselves. The idea was also supported by the CzechTourism agency, which has also been promoting accessible tourism.

Wheelchair users who like to travel and discover new places are often limited by inaccessible terrain or unadapted facilities. To map accessible tourist destinations, the South Moravia Tourism Center enlisted the help of the ParaCENTRUM Fénix organisation, with which it has been cooperating for a long time. 

“We selected destinations where wheelchair users went together with a technician and a photographer,” explained Martina Grůzová, director of the South Moravian Tourism Centre. “They carefully recorded everything, from the arrival, the entrances to the buildings, through the slope of the terrain and surfaces to the tour routes themselves. I think this is excellent feedback for the tourist destinations themselves – now they know if they have reserves from the point of view of wheelchair users and what can be improved.”

During the summer months, the test participants visited a total of 13 destinations across South Moravia, including the Slavic hillfort in Mikulčice, Hodonín Zoo, the castle in Slavkov, the House of Nature in the Moravian Karst, and the South Moravian Museum in Znojmo. 

According to Alena Jankotová, coordinator of volunteers at ParaCENTRUM Fénix, this mapping is one of the few that brings together the most important things: accurate data, visual information and a view from a wheelchair user’s point of view. 

“Every piece of information that a person in a wheelchair receives about the accessibility of an object is valuable,” she said. “The mapping in our project was carried out by the wheelchair users themselves, and thanks to this, the information provided is accurate and true. In addition, detailed photographs were taken of each location, which can supplement the visual information, so the user can imagine for themselves how accessible the location is for them personally.” 

The results of the “South Moravia without barriers” project will become part of the nationwide Vozejkmap guidebook, which provides information on accessible tourist destinations in the Czech Republic and abroad. The Vozejkmap accessibility map is managed by the Czech Association of Paraplegics (CZEPA). 

“I’ve been using a wheelchair myself for many years, and despite that, I’m sometimes unpleasantly surprised when I want to go somewhere, for example on vacation, where they tell you that everything is accessible, but you get there and find out that the reality is completely different,” said Jaroslav Náhlík, a client of ParaCENTRA Fenix. “As a wheelchair user, I myself participated in the project of mapping the accessible destinations of South Moravia, and I believe that it is a great inspiration for people with wheelchair mobility, where to go on a trip.” 

According to the results of the mapping, the accessibility of tourist sites in South Moravia varies. Newer buildings, such as the Kyjov Heritage Museum, are usually problem-free, while older buildings are more difficult for wheelchair users to navigate. “For example, we were pleasantly surprised that at the Ornithological Lookout in Sedlec near Mikulov, it is possible to use accessible toilets in the Sedlecká vína facility. In addition, we have proven that whenever an obstacle appears, people are very willing to help us overcome it,” concluded Jankotová.

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