Like a lot of people around the world, many people with disabilities enjoy outdoor activities like hiking trails, but sometimes these activities aren’t accessible. The Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee in Canada wants to use the power of crowdsourced information to help solve this problem with its “We Check the Trails” program.
As part of this program, citizens can log accessibility observations, complaints, and images on the Essex County website. Christine Easterbrook, chair of the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee, explains what feedback they’re looking for. “They need to look for things like how wide is the trail — is it wide enough for people who use mobility devices? What is the ground cover like? Are there potholes that someone could get stuck in?” The Essex Region Conservation Authority can then address these issues.
Easterbrook connects outdoor activity with improved mental health, explaining that the pandemic has threatened mental health for everyone, including people with disabilities, says Easterbrook. “Not being able to see their friends, not being able to get out to their doctors’ appointments and the regular things that they do on a regular basis that make their lives what they are. Being able to get outside and enjoy themselves on these trails is a great thing,” she says. If the trails aren’t accessible, then many people with disabilities will not be able to reap the mental health benefits of the trails.