On The Move Outdoors: Case Study
On The Move Outdoors is a series of accessible walks reviewed by the DRAGONs (Disability Real Action Group of Norfolk). These walks were developed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This followed government restrictions which prevented providers from delivering the original On The Move sessions.
On the Move outdoors became the new extension of the On The Move project. It enabled the young members of the DRAGONs to get together in a safe and sanctioned way, and review walks for accessibility. This was something that was difficult for many as a direct result of the pandemic. Through these reviews, the DRAGONs considered things like parking, access, terrain, seating, points of interest and café stops as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted heavily on everyone. However, studies show that those with disabilities reported increased feelings of isolation and loneliness than those who did not consider themselves to have a disability. According to the Activity Alliance study ‘The impact of COVID-19 on disabled people‘, just 55% of those with a disability who were questioned felt they had the opportunity to be active during the pandemic (in comparison to 72% of non-disabled people.)
Many people with disabilities used On The Move sessions as a way of getting active and socialising with others. As the pandemic prevented indoor gatherings, this was taking away their opportunity to do both of these things. This, in turn, could impact on their physical and mental wellbeing.
In creating On The Move Outdoors, the aim was to enable physical activity and social gatherings in a safe way. The DRAGONs also reviewed the routes for accessibility, so others could benefit from it in their own time. Walks would be completed by the DRAGONs all over Norfolk, so everyone could benefit in their local area.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions was an unprecedented challenge we had not anticipated. On The Move Outdoors was a direct response to government restrictions, which were constantly changing as the virus evolved and different parts of the country were sorted into tiers.
Once a safe and secure way of carrying out the walks had been identified, it was crucial we kept up with the latest updates to ensure we the DRAGONs were staying safe and adhering to the current rules. This was particularly difficult as the rules changed frequently, and often at short notice.
‘I want everyone to be able to go for a good accessible walk. We have seen so much of Norfolk and I have been to places I never knew about.’
‘I have really enjoyed the walks. I feel tired but it has been so good to meet friends and other families.’DRAGONs (On The Move Outdoors Project Participants)
There were limits as to how many people could meet at once. As each walk received a lot of interest, with a good number of young people attending, it was important to ensure everyone had an equal opportunity to take part.
Young people would meet at a designated point, and go on the walk as a group. Thanks to supportive parents who could support travel, the walks were spread across the county, and would vary depending on who was attending. The more accessible the walks were, the more people could participate.
Accessibility was vital for people with disabilities to gain access to the outdoors, so the young people involved in the DRAGONs assessed every walk they went on to encourage others to access the countryside.
When completing the walks, the DRAGONs assessed the following things:
- Whether disabled parking was available
- Whether there were accessible toilets on the route
- If seating was available on the walk
- If there was anywhere to stop for refreshments
- Did the walks have hills or steep terrains
- Whether the walk was accessible for wheelchair users
- Whether a shorter route was available
This was then translated into a series of downloadable guides which could be used by anyone looking for accessible walks. As the programme developed, we opened up to suggestions, so people could request a local walk near them.
Young people have benefited from being outdoors. They have experienced new places and have taken an interest in their environment. All the young people involved said that they have felt better both physically and mentally since the programme started.
The young people who have walked with the Dragons have also shown an interest in continuing the walks and asked for the Dragons to review walks near where they live so they may continue to walk with their friends and family.
This has also allowed us to spread out the walks and offer people a local option. The more local the walks, the more they felt people would access them in their local area.
Active Norfolk was able to support this through sharing the DRAGONs experiences with a wider audience, and allowing more people to be able to choose a walk that meets their accessibility needs. To date, there have been 883 downloads of the On The Move Outdoors guides.
The DRAGONs have since been approached by a number of organisations to review their walks and green spaces. It also meant we as a team were able to expand on the original On The Move project, and offered a whole new set of learnings.
What’s next for On The Move Outdoors?
Following the success of the project, On The Move Outdoors is planned to continue. The young people have asked for more walks to cover as much of Norfolk as possible. They feel strongly that this will benefit all people.
The next step is to produce some portable lanyard versions of the guides. These may then be handed out and taken on the walks with people, so they have all the information to hand.
To find out more about On The Move Outdoors, and view the guides available, visit the webpage below.