The Netherlands is still lagging behind in accessibility for wheelchairs
The Netherlands lags behind in accessibility for people with physical disabilities, informed the association de Zonnebloem. They are further advanced in England and Belgium, where people in wheelchairs can often travel completely independently. However, there is a lot of catching up going on, as Efteling presented the plans for the new wheelchair-friendly attraction Danse Macabre this week.
In 2017, several recreational facilities committed to becoming more wheelchair accessible with the help of financial aid and advice from the Zonnebloem. A tour of the ANP showed that many improvements have been made since then. "It's getting better, but we still have a long way to go," said a Zonnebloem spokesperson.
For instance, the Bonnefanten in Maastricht, Safaripark Beekse Bergen, the Rijksmuseum, Madurodam,the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum, and Efteling have adapted their toilets and updated their websites with relevant information. When possible, thresholds were removed, doors widened, paths adapted, changing rooms created and walls lowered or replaced with nets to improve visibility.
Staff at Efteling, Beekse Bergen and the Rijksmuseum are also learning to address wheelchair users directly, rather than doing so through the attendant. "Both the technical and social aspects of accessibility are important to make people with disabilities feel welcome," explained the spokesperson for Zonnebloem.
In addition, Efteling's new attraction does not have a separate entrance for people with physical disabilities. This allows companies to share the adventure, which already begins in the queue. Efteling wants to continue this line with all new attractions, so there will be no distinction in the future. The other recreational facilities surveyed also focus on this. However, this is a time-consuming process, so it will be a long time before everyone can participate in everything.
Overall, Beekse Bergen is aiming for "independent attendance." "Now a supervisor always has to come along, and that's the whole pain point." Therein lies the difference with Belgium and England. Zonnebloem knows from testimonials that people there with a physical disability can go out on their own more often because there is on-site help and many places are equipped with wheelchair lifts.
Reporting by ANP