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Accessible Geoparks in Iberia: a Challenge to Promote Geotourism and Education for Sustainable Development

Abstract

This work aims at providing an overview regarding accessibility conditions for people with functional diversity among the 15 UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGs) located in the Iberian Peninsula—4 in Portugal and 11 in Spain—from the point of view of a disabled user wishing to visit a geopark. Website information and a questionnaire composed of closed and multiple choice questions directly administrated to the geopark managers were used aiming at inquiring about facilities provided to people requiring adapted access conditions, including mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive dimensions of access both under the aim of geotourism activities or in the frame of educational programmes. Results show that Iberian UGGs display several facilities for the development of geotourism and education that meet the needs of people with functional diversity. Accessibility facilities to receive people with physical impairments are common, but sensory and communication access facilities are scarce. Geoparks’ websites generally lack information concerning facilities for special groups, and the web design does not meet the needs of people that have difficulties with written word and speech. The constraints on implementation of programmes aimed at disabled visitors can be partially overcome if geoparks’ leaders seek to integrate partners that currently develop activities for persons with disabilities. Geodivulgar (an innovation project from the Complutense University) and Science without Barriers (an association; Ciencia sin Barreras in Spanish) are pioneer initiatives for the outreach of geology among people with functional diversity in Spain, which currently develops activities and resources that can be of great help to enlarge the geoparks’ offer about geotouristic tours and/or educational programmes for disabled visitors. The acquired experience at the Basque Coast UGG can be of great help for other partners of the UGG Network to fully fulfil their roles as agents of sustainable development through geotourism and education for all.

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Acknowledgements

This work is a contribution to the project “PIMCD GEODIVULGAR: Geología y Sociedad” currently “Proyecto INNOVA-DOCENCIA n° 49 (2017-18)”, developed at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid/Associación Ciencia sin Barreras (Spain), and it is supported by FEDER funds through the Competitiveness Factors Operational Programme (COMPETE) and national funds by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia in the frame of the UID/Multi00073/2013 project (Portugal). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Maria Helena Henriques.

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Henriques, M.H., Canales, M.L., García-Frank, A. et al. Accessible Geoparks in Iberia: a Challenge to Promote Geotourism and Education for Sustainable Development. Geoheritage 11, 471–484 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12371-018-0300-5

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Keywords

  • Accessible tourism
  • Geotourism
  • Iberian UNESCO Global Geoparks
  • Geodivulgar/Science without Barriers projects