The barrier-free Area of Eifel

trail in the wood with wheelchair
The Cacus cave is one of the largest natural walk-in caves in the northern Eifel. No problem to explore it on wheels (Picture: Eifel barrierefrei)

Moors, reservoir lakes and many more fascinating landscapes can also be explored by wheelchair. The Eifel region offers “Nature for All".

In 2003, in the European Year of People with Disabilities, wheelchair users could access the Natural Preserve Eifel only in a rallye wheelchair. Today, people with mobility limitations can leave safety helmet and four-wheel drive at home. The Natural Preserve Eifel has developed into a prime example for accessibility.

Barrier-free offers continuously developing
The kick off for “Eifel barrier-free” was in 2004. “The European Year of People with Disabilities was the birth of ‘Eifel barrier-free’. We are now sensitised to the issue of accessibility. We began to inform us, and train and call tourism partners”, tells Jan Lembach, CEO of the Natural Park Eifel.

Currently, there are over 70 offers for people with disability in the 2500 qm2 of the German-Belgian park. All the offers are controlled by the coordination point “Tourism for all” (NatKo). And the development of accessible offers is still far from complete.

couple in wheelchair looking to the lake trail in the wood with wheelchair  (Picture: Eifel barrierefrei)
Even in bad weather, hiking is always great in the Eifel (Picture: Eifel barrierefrei)

Many options for all

All accessible options are listed with a detailed description on the website of the Eifel www.eifel-barrierefrei.de. Five different symbols provide information about the nature of the accessibility of the offer. In addition to services for disabled people with mobility impairment, the specially-designed facilities are also accessible to blind and/or deaf people and people with learning difficulties.

Services for people with mobility impairment are equipped with accessible toilets, paved roads, plenty of seating, low pitch and disabled parking space. Options for blind people focus primarily on outdoor experiences through touch, smell and taste. The texts on the explanatory signs are written in Braille. As the park does not yet offer a control system (leading bars etc.), escorting by a seeing person is recommended.

Barrier-free nature highlights

The highlights of the park for people with mobility limitation are the Kakus cave, a barrier-free landscape trail with 12 information stations and the 5 km long Höfener hedges trail.

In 2010, the first time, 11 certified hosts of the National Park Eifel present themselves with special offers for people with disabilities. Restaurants, hotels, holiday apartments, campsites and a guest house underwent a qualification for this program. Besides controls by the NatKo, these businesses took part in advanced education.

People who need assistance currently have to bring along assistants by themselves. The subject of the provision of assistance services, however, is already planned, according to Jan Lembach.

Woman in wheelchair reading an information board (Picture: Eifel barrierefrei)
On low pitch without stairs, everyone can enjoy nature in the German-Belgian Hohes Venn-Eifel (Picture: Eifel barrierefrei)

Awards and visions

For these exemplary service for people with disabilities, “Eifel barrier-free” was honoured with several awards already. For example, with the German PR Prize in the category of New Territory.

Currently, the staff of the Natural Park works at the third edition of the brochure "Eifel barrier-free". The second edition is out of print but can be downloaded on the website of the park as a PDF file (only in German).

"’Eifel barrier-free’ is very well accepted. There is a lot of positive feedback", says Jan Lembach. The commitment of the park for people with disabilities has obviously paid off. Lembach and his team still have many ideas in store. Who knows, maybe in a few years, it will be possible to travel around the famous local daffodil fields by wheelchair.

Text: MHA

Pictures: Eifel barrierefrei