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An overlooked need of better access to parks and trails is addressed by Taiwan Access for All Association.

arrow From the Fall 2009 issue of American Trails Magazine

 

TAIWAN: Advocates work for accessible trails

photo of wheelchairs on trail

An accessible trail next to the gravel path

By Chao-Fu (Jacky) Hsu and Ming-De Chen

THE ACCESSIBILITY OF ARCHITECTURAL buildings has been the focus of rights for persons with disabilities in Taiwan. In 2008, Taiwan Accessibility Building Code was amended, but unfortunately such code places more emphasis on the accessibility of the buildings than on outdoor facilities. As a result, the park administration often pays more attention to the accessibility of visitor centers while overlooking other areas, such as the accessibility of the trails.

The rights of people with disabilities to participate in leisure and recreation have been overlooked in Taiwan. As a grass-root organization advocating for disabled
people’s social inclusion rights in Taiwan, Taiwan Access for All Association (TAAA), has worked with environmental protection, ecological, and social welfare organizations for the past five years. Together, their goal is to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in outdoor recreational activities.

In 2008, TAAA was commissioned to facilitate year-round Accessible Day Trips by Taoyuan County Government. The County government was very impressed by the turnout of the trips; the governor decided to purchase 46 more accessible vans in additional to the original 14 accessible vehicles in Taoyuan County. Since public transportation in Taiwan is not fully accessible, with the additional accessible vans that are available now, more people with physical disabilities will be able to participate in society.

With the experience in bringing people with disabilities to nature and outdoor events, TAAA and other nonprofit organizations approached Taiwan Forestry Bureau about making trails fully accessible. Meanwhile, complaints of the inaccessibility of trails from numerous travelers drew the Bureau’s attention to this important issue.

The Bureau started to recognize that accessible trails not only benefit individuals with physical disabilities, but also the increasing aging population. The Bureau then commissioned TAAA in taking the lead on launching the Accessible Trail Project in Taiwan in May 2009.

photo of grassy hillside

A naturalist speaks to participants on an accessible outdoor trip

The preliminary step is to evaluate the accessibility of 18 National Forest Recreation Areas administrated by the Bureau. With the evaluation results, the Bureau will develop plans to improve the accessibility of these Areas. Another primary task has been conducting research for examples of accessible parks and trails in the U.S., U.K., and Japan. The experiences of these developed countries will be valuable resources to draw a proposal for accessible trails in Taiwan.

In terms of the accessibility of walkways and parks in the cities, pathways inside the park are much better designed than sidewalks. Most common barriers in Taiwan are the railings at the entrance of the parks. As motorcycles are a common means of transportation in Taiwan, the purpose of the railings is to prevent motorcycle riders from entering the park with their vehicle. However, in the meantime, those railings also make the trails inaccessible for people who use a wheelchair or who push a stroller.

As for the accessibility of trails in the countryside and mountains in Taiwan, much improvement still needs to be done. TAAA has found that many trails are made of gravel or uneven wooden pathways in Taiwan. While the trails paved with asphalt are more accessible, the slope of the ramps still remains as a problem.

map of Taiwan

 

 

With the collaboration between the Bureau and other organizations including TAAA, we hope that trails in Taiwan could be fully accessible in the near future and consequently more and more people with disabilities could have the same opportunities to experience the beautiful country— Taiwan.


 

Chao-Fu (Jacky) Hsu is the Secretary General of Taiwan Access for All Association. Jacky has posted many photographs of accessibility issues in Taiwan, from parks and trails to buildings, at www.flickr.com/photos/sunablenet.

Ming-De Chen is the International Affairs Specialist of Taiwan Access for All Association. He is also currently working on his Ph.D. degree in Disability Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago. If anyone has suggestions to share on accessible trail policy and design, please contact Ming-De at mchen37@gmail.com or sunable.net@gmail.com.

TAAA’s official website in Chinese can be found at
www.sunable.net. Information on TAAA in English is at http://twaccess4all.wordpress.com.


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