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Occupational therapists could help councils make open spaces more accessible

Wednesday 30th August 2017
Occupational therapists could help to advise local councils on how to make their open spaces more accessible for people with disabilities. Image: oneinchpunch via iStock
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Occupational therapists could play a valuable role in helping to advise local authorities across the UK on how they can make outdoor spaces more accessible to people with disabilities.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new guidelines stating that councils should be doing more to ensure people living with disabilities are able to get outside and be more active in their local area.

NICE wants wheelchair users, as well as individuals with visual or hearing impairments and others who might find it more difficult to get around, such as parents with prams, to be able to use parks and other open spaces for fresh air and exercise in order to benefit their health and wellbeing.

However, in some parts of the country, not all parks are accessible to wheelchair users, so local authorities are being urged to consider improving accessibility - something that occupational therapists could help to advise on.

In addition, NICE wants all pedestrian crossings to be made accessible, with dropped down pavements for people using wheelchairs and textured ground for those with limited sight.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, explained that having access to safe and well-maintained open spaces and parks can help to significantly improve people's health and potentially lengthen their lives by allowing them to be more active.

Justin Varney, national lead for physical activity at Public Health England, added: "Physical activity benefits everyone at all stages of life. People living with impairments are less active and this can be due to the way the built environment, including public spaces and transport systems, is designed.

"Making physical activity accessible to everyone when planning spaces benefits communities in terms of health, environmental sustainability and economic regeneration."

As occupational therapists are regularly in contact with people with disabilities, they are in a good position to advise councils on the pain points of these individuals and improvements that could help to boost their quality of life.

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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