An inspirational Yorkshire man has set himself a challenge of covering over 200 miles in a wheelchair, with the aim of raising funds and awareness to improve accessibility in the UK’s countryside.
Roy Taylor, who works for Europe’s largest wildlife conservation charity, the RSPB, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in September last year.
Although still able to walk a few yards with the aid of a stick, he now relies totally on the use of a wheelchair for even the shortest of walks.
His experiences have highlighted the issue of accessibility for people with mobility problems in the great outdoors, a subject that the RSPB has recognised the importance of and been acting upon, for many years. To raise funds to transform some of the RSPB’s nature reserves, Roy will be taking on a coast to coast wheelchair challenge, from Southport to Hornsea.
Roy said: “Like many other people I love being outdoors and watching wildlife. It makes me feel alive. Yet, despite purchasing the best four wheel drive wheelchair on the market, many paths suitable for disabled people like myself, are inaccessible due to stiles, kissing gates and other obstacles. Many paths I could access when walking are now out of bounds when in a wheelchair. It needn’t be like this.”
While unable to control what happens in the wider countryside, Roy is in a position to further improve on what happens on RSPB nature reserves. Over the next year, with the help of previous audits undertaken to assess the accessibility of our reserves in northern England, Roy will be able identify any outstanding or additional actions for change that we have not until now, had budget or staff resource to immediately fulfill.
These range from actions that benefit very specific user groups, such as installing wheelchair friendly access points, to measures that will benefit everyone, including those with access needs, such as better views from hides.
Starting on Saturday 24 May, Roy will cover 215 miles along the Trans-Pennine Trail, aiming to finish on Tuesday 3 June.
Roy said: “I might not be able to change anything out in the wider countryside, but I can ensure that the 20 superb RSPB nature reserves we have in northern England are exemplars of accessibility, not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone with specific access needs; for example others with mobility problems and parents with prams.”
All of the money raised by the wheelchair challenge will be spent directly on implementing the changes.
Roy is also inviting other people to take on the challenge themselves, adding: “I’d love for people to join me – perhaps for a day or two, or even just for a few hours or miles. It will be tough but it’ll be a lot of fun.”