National parks are places for connecting with nature, culture and heritage. Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the experience and the benefits that come from visiting a park.
The benefits of access to national parks are well known. These include increased wellbeing, better physical and mental health, independence, dignity, social integration and improved quality of life for individuals, friends and family.
Barriers limiting people's ability to access parks and enjoy these benefits can include a combination of physical obstacles, a lack of information, or inadequate services or assistance.
Barriers to accessing parks are often most acutely experienced by people with disability. However, everyone may experience access barriers at different times in their lives, including older people, when caring for young children, or experiencing illness or medical conditions.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages parks and reserves across all types of landscapes, which can include historic buildings and cultural sites. Some of these places present particular challenges for reducing or removing barriers to access.
NPWS will continue to improve accessibility to help everyone experience and connect with national parks.
Scope and purpose
This policy aims to provide a framework for improving access to national parks by integrating accessibility considerations into the planning and management of national parks and the opportunities they provide for visitors, volunteers and the community.
This policy addresses the barriers to accessing national parks and visitor experiences that are faced by people with disability.
This policy is based on a social model of disability that recognises that attitudes, practices and structures are disabling and can prevent people from enjoying places and participating in experiences, rather than an inevitable result of a disability. The aim is to change how national parks are managed to accommodate people living with disability, rather than expecting people with disability to change.
This is in line with the department's Disability inclusion action plan and recognised by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This policy does not address:
- employment or other workplace matters
- costs including park use fees, accommodation, tours, experiences
- policy or processes relating to access to Country for Aboriginal people, as these topics are covered in other policy documents.
NPWS acknowledges that for many people, accessibility and inclusion can encompass a broader range of issues, including language, culture, socioeconomic considerations and gender. While this policy focuses on improving accessibility for people with disability, NPWS will continue to seek opportunities to ensure that everyone feels welcome in national parks.
This policy is guided in its use of language and definitions by the department's Disability inclusion action plan and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
References in the policy to national parks mean all parks and reserves managed by NPWS (see Application).
- the health and wellbeing benefits of access to national parks for all people
- the landscapes, cultural and historic heritage protected by national parks can present a range of barriers to access that can impact people with disability
- barriers to accessing national parks may have compounding impacts on Aboriginal people, for whom health and wellbeing is tied to the management and health of their Country and being able to care for and access Country and its resources
- disability is diverse and may not be visible to others
- disability is unique to the person and only they can decide what is accessible to them
- good information is critical to empowering people with disability to decide whether to visit a place or participate in an experience
- considering and planning for accessibility, and the inclusion of people with disability in the planning and decision-making process, should be 'business as usual'
- considering and planning for accessibility should address the many ways in which people connect with national parks, including passive and active engagement in recreational, educational and cultural activities
- people that experience barriers to access should have the opportunity to participate in finding solutions to those barriers
- accessible facilities or experiences in national parks are only one component of the whole visitor journey
- it will not always be feasible to provide physical access to national parks for all people.
- identify and aim to remove barriers to services, facilities and experiences offered by NPWS. This includes improving information, promotion and other systems that enable people to discover, book, and navigate those opportunities
- identify and remove barriers to people engaging and collaborating with NPWS in the management of national parks and reserves. This includes participating in volunteering activities, advisory bodies, and consultation processes
- engage and consult with those experiencing barriers in accessing national parks, visitor facilities and visitor experiences, to identify solutions and opportunities
- where possible, apply the principles of universal design
- monitor progress in improving accessibility to national parks
- strategically apply available resources to improve accessibility across the NSW parks system and target the needs of people facing barriers to access.