Inclusion and leisure: Barrier-free activities in Switzerland

Inclusion and leisure: Barrier-free activities in Switzerland

More and more hotels, restaurants, museums, and swimming pools, are becoming barrier-free. And yet, still not all leisure activities here in Switzerland are designed so that people with disabilities have free and unhindered access; even though the Disability Organisation Switzerland counts approximately 1.8 million people with disabilities which makes up around a fifth of the overall inhabitants in Switzerland. Various organisations are therefore increasingly lobbying for a more diverse variety of excursion destinations and leisure facilities etc. to become accessible to people with disabilities and for inclusion in leisure activities. We went in search of the best barrier-free activities in and around Switzerland for you; gathered here are the top highlights!

What does barrier-free mean?

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Many people understand the term barrier-free as simply meaning wheels and lifts instead of stairs, or busses with platforms that lower. But the term means a lot more than accessibility. Of course, structural changes as well as well equipped vehicles do play a big role. However, these things aren’t enough to make the day to day barrier-free. Barrier-free means a lot more; it means that a product, a service, or a facility is completely and unrestrictedly accessible, no matter if it concerns a person with or without disability. A living space is then first defined as barrier-free if every single resident, independently and without help from unknown persons, can use a service, enter a building, or travel.

Barrier-free leisure activities in Switzerland

In Switzerland there are diverse possibilities so that you can enjoy your downtime in a barrier-free way. On top of the numerous houses of culture such as museums, theatres, festivals, and cinemas as well as sports centres and swimming pools there are more and more outdoor activities and excursion destinations that are barrier-free for people with disabilities. Are you the kind of person who likes to measure your success in sports? Or maybe you’re more into relaxed activities like simply enjoying a live concert? Either way, no matter what kind of leisure activities you’re looking for, with our guide you’re bound to find just the right thing for you!

Barrier-free sport

It’s old news that sport isn’t only good for our bodies, but also greatly boosts our quality of life. More and more sports clubs are offering ‘adaptive sports’ so that people with disabilities can be included in sport and leisure time activities. Especially popular are sports such as wheelchair basketball, swimming, as well as cycling. A good place to start is the website for the PluSport organisation where all disabled sports clubs in Switzerland, including all contact details and current programmes, are listed. Not only in popular sports, but also in high-performance sports, there is a wide range of offers, in which there is certainly something for everyone.

P.S.: Anyone interested in sporting competitions with people with disabilities can also take part in the aptly entitled "Cybathlon" in Zurich this year, for which the influencer and "Bionic" cartoon inventor Michel Fornasier is ambassador. Here, participants with physical disabilities will have the opportunity to measure themselves by means of technical assistance systems as they complete tasks relevant to everyday life.

Outdoor activities for people with disabilities

Spending time in amongst the beauty and grace of nature is, and has been, one of the most favourable leisure time activities of the Swiss for generations. Hiking is especially high up on the list of outdoor activities. Unfortunately, not all hiking paths and trails are designed so that everyone can enjoy them in a barrier-free way. However SwitzerlandMobility has gathered together all 74 walking and hiking routes where wheelchair users of different physical and technical abilities can enjoy the beautiful mountain landscape of Switzerland without obstacles. On some of the routes and destinations one can rent a JST Mountain Drive funded by the charity Cerebral. With the off-road motorised wheelchair, you can travel over and through a whole host of various terrains; comfortably over sticks and stones, and through mountains and valleys.

Culture for all!

Using the so-called access monitor, a service offered by ProCap, the largest Swiss self-help organization for people with disabilities, you can find out which public cultural institutions and venues are accessible to people with disabilities. In a large selection of museums, cinemas, libraries, festivals and theatres, people with reduced mobility, as well as people with visual and hearing impairments, can participate in cultural activities in various cities.

Barrier-free leisure and wellness

Wellness is definitely right on trend at the moment; for both people with and without disabilities! Furthermore, many swimming pools and waterparks seemed to have figured this out and have started to put more and more emphasis on barrier-free experiences. Which goes not only for the changing rooms and showers, but also the sauna and swimming areas are, as well, conceptualised so that they include everyone without restrictions. Want to know in which swimming pools and saunas barrier-free wellness plays a big role? Well look no further has gathered together all the swimming pools with tried and tested barrier-free access.

Our top 5: extraordinary, barrier-free leisure activities

Think it’s impossible as a wheelchair user to go rafting, paragliding, or diving? Think again! Adrenaline pumping leisure activities for people with disabilities aren’t out of the question. In fact, quite the opposite and we’ve gathered our top five favourites for you:

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1. Rafting : Switzerland is without a doubt the river rafting hotspot in the whole of Europe. And on one of the best rafting rivers in the Engadin region you’ll have the chance for an adrenaline rush ride on the water. ‘Engadin Adventures’ is a great company with a focus on safe wild water rapid rides for everyone. Nevertheless, you should have some residual mobility and strength in your upper body and the ability to swim.

2. Paragliding Flying over the mountains with a paraglider and enjoying the feeling of freedom: the paragliding school 'Flug-Taxi' in Fiesch makes this possible even for paraplegics and people with walking disabilities. Thanks to a specially made wheelchair, you can float through the air in a paragliding tandem flight without any special previous knowledge or experience necessary.

3. Adventure Park ‘Hochseilgarten’ : The Swiss abseil park is the first adventure park which is also accessible for wheelchair users. A specially modified abseiling seat makes it possible for people with reduced mobility to leave the wheelchair on the ground and to prove their courage, concentration and dexterity through the air.

4. Ice Skating : Winter is coming…and with it the ice-skating season! On over 20 artificial ice-skating rinks across the entire Swiss region offer the possibility for those with a disability to take a few spins on the ice. And all thanks to the so-called ‘Ice Gliders’ of the charity ‘Cerebral’ who are available at no extra cost. The wheelchairs can be attached to special gliders with runners.

5. Diving : That blissful feeling of weightlessness under water is also possible for those with a disability. The sport is actually even very suitable because a diver with paraplegia, for example, can still move effortlessly on their own. In Switzerland the wheelchair club RTZ offers diving all year round.

Capturing the most beautiful moments photographically

Fast-paced outdoor activities are sometimes the best way to take great photos and capture those unforgettable moments. In our guide for outdoor photography you will learn the know-how and basics of image creation and composition; we will show you what to pay special attention to. And when all the beautiful photos are chosen? Then it's all the more worthwhile to capture them in a physical object; for example, as ifolor wall decorations!

Tips for barrier-free travel in Switzerland

Many use travel to escape from everyday life and experience new things. People with a disability don’t have to go without it either! The preparation may require, however, a bit more dedication and preparation. It is important here, above all, to plan the journey early on and to clarify the requirements for the form of travel and the infrastructure of the destination before the start of the trip. Depending on what kind of vacation is planned, it is essential to find out in advance which hotels, youth hostels, restaurants, and bars are accessible for disabled people. Other areas of barrier-free travel of interest are disabled parking spaces and accessible toilets. The Swiss specialist agency for barrier-free travel Mobility International Switzerlandprovides you with a wealth of information about various destinations, accommodation, and restaurants worldwide and shows you whether they are completely barrier-free or only partially wheelchair accessible. The website and app Wheelmap also helps you to get an overview of accessible places around the world.

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Still pay attention to these things during a journey:

  • Medical: Before you start your trip, you should always check in with your doctor or GP first, to what extent to the change in climate, time change, and pressure conditions can affect you physically. Also, don't forget to pack your medication and remember the time difference when taking it!
  • Travelling via train : Are you traveling via train through Switzerland? At 170 main stations you will be provided with boarding and alighting assistance. Simply call the SBB Call Centre one hour before departure at 0800 007 102 (Switzerland) or +41 51 225 78 44 (abroad).
  • Traveling via plane : At both airports in Zürich and Geneva specially trained individuals are at your service. It is also advisable to have a doctor confirm that you are allowed to fly before booking a flight. When booking the flight, you must then indicate the type and degree of disability.

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