Charity's plea to make the Harrogate district the most accessible disability-friendly place in the country

Members of Open Countrys Harrogate Tandem Club.Members of Open Countrys Harrogate Tandem Club.
Members of Open Countrys Harrogate Tandem Club.
A charity that provides a vital social lifeline to hundreds of disabled people has backed the Harrogate Advertiser's new Think Access campaign with Disability Action Yorkshire to make the Harrogate district the most accessible and disability-friendly place in the country.

Open Country has been awarded a £5,000 grant to buy a specialist bike and develop its programme of activities which help disabled people across our district to enjoy the countryside without any barriers. The charity is passionate about accessibility and making sure that no one is ever made to feel sidelined.

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The new electric tandem will be specially adapted for wheelchair users, and makes an invaluable addition to Open Country’s thriving tandem cycling groups in Harrogate, Ripon and Wetherby.

More than 350 people are supported by the charity, which runs a wide range of activities including wheelchair-accessible walks and rambles, nature study outings, and other outdoor pursuits.

Harrogate's critically ill stroke patients will be diverted straight to Leeds or York from next yearOpen Country’s Chief Executive, David Shaftoe, said: “Put simply, everyone should be able to access the countryside as a right, not a privilege. Open Country helps disabled people to access the countryside throughout the year.

“We are very happy to pledge our support to the Think Access campaign and hope that it encourages and inspires people to consider ways to enhance accessibility at outdoor sites across the Harrogate district and beyond. Our members have a physical or sensory disability, or have mental health problems, and walking, cycling and conservation activities are hugely therapeutic to many who would normally struggle to access the countryside.”

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Open Country was nominated for the community grant from OneFamily by one of its countryside activities officers, Chris Hunter.

He said: “We currently only have one bike that’s specially adapted for people in wheelchairs and it’s not electrically assisted. Receiving this grant means we can welcome even more people to our clubs and open the countryside to wheelchair users who may not ordinarily get the opportunity. It’ll make a real difference, helping us to ensure that our tandem clubs are accessible to all.”