Fortunately, we live in an age when people with disabilities do not have to fend for themselves. "Some people, but not all," as wrote the unforgettable Ms. Szymborska, "have slightly different requirements than others, but they are coping well and can enjoy more and more of the benefits of the proposed attractions that are so abundant in Poland.
For a tourist attraction to be considered user-friendly for people with disabilities, it must meet all the following three criteria. The entrance from outside must be without stairs, all the doorframes into every accessible room should be at least 80cm wide and it must be possible to take a wheelchair into a toilet and close the door. It is also important that all sounds and alarms are suitably audible, the stairs are rough enough to prevent slipping and the lettering or numbering door and signs should be raised. On the website
www.turystykadlawszystkich.pl there is a search engine with lists of user-friendly attractions for people with disabilities according to specified criteria like the type of restrictions such as wheelchairs, prosthesis or crutches and interests like sports or culture.
The "Poland without Barriers" competition was organised with the initiative of the Association of Friends of Integration and the Administrative Office of the Polish Government. The winners of the contest are the buildings or attractions in Poland which are best suited for people with disabilities. The sites were entered to take part in the competition in the following categories, central and local government, transportation and public spaces, education, arts and culture, health and rehabilitation, sports and recreation, finance, trade and services, offices and residential buildings.
In the first phase of the "Poland without Barriers" competition, which took place in 2009, the sites that received recognition included the Opera House in Wroclaw, the Town Hall in Dabrowa Gornicza, the Public Library in Koszalin, the Sport and Exhibition Hall in Gdynia and the Cable Car to Kasprowy Wierch in Zakopane.
What has Poland got to offer people with disabilities? Firstly, all the activation workshops, physical rehabilitation centres with spa treatments, physical group activities to encourage physical mobility and reasonable physical exertion within the limits of their abilities and attractive formats for people with disabilities. Also, forms of active and passive recreation, excursions, picnics and group bonding events.
Many gyms, fitness clubs, swimming pools and water parks offer discounts and special assistance, if required, with exercises or in the selection of appropriate workouts. Everyday more and more facilities are adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. The leaders include the Szyndzielnia cable car and the toboggan run in Bielsko-Biala as well as the Dolomites Sports Valley in Bytom.
The aim of the Polish Association of Disability in Sports "Start" is to organize and develop the common physical culture, sport, the rehabilitation of movement, tourism and recreation for people with disabilities and represent the associated organizations. The realisation of the programmes is motivated by the slogan, Learning – Work – Sport. This motto is implemented by the actions involving the conduct of training in a variety of sports for people with damaged motor functions in varying degrees, blind or visually impaired, in the organisation of the Polish Championships for the disabled in various sports, the central training of athletes, the preparation of the Polish National Team for international competitions like the European Championships , the World Championships and the Paralympic Games, the teaching and training of coaches, instructor, judges and promoting new disciplines for the disabled. Branch offices of the Polish Association of Disability in Sports "Start" can be found throughout Poland.
The Krakow travel agency for people with disabilities and the elderly, "Tourism without barriers" organises excursions to many interesting cities in Europe. The modes of transport, accommodation and the sites that are to be visited are specially selected so that all the participants have the opportunity to take part, learn about new cultures and make new acquaintances.
On many beaches in Poland, particularly in Wladyslawowo, Cetniewo, Ustka, Sopot and Mielno, wooden platforms or paved surface have been laid, allowing entry to people in wheelchairs. In Swinoujscie, Dziwnow and Pobierowo the descents to the beach are gentle which make it easier for people with disabilities to move around. In Rewa there is a pier for wheelchair users and Gdynia has a playground that has been adapted for disabled children with facilities that include a sandpit with raised edges and a swing in the form of a basket. Showers, toilets and changing rooms have all been adapted for use by the disabled. On the website, www.kaszubybezbarier.pl there is a search engine to look for sites that have been adapted or tailored for the needs of people with disabilities in the Kaszubian District.
Poland's first hiking trail that has been adapted for wheelchair users, the visually impaired and the blind has been established in the Karkonosze Mountains is more than a kilometre in length and leads from Kopa to Silesia House beneath Mount Sniezka. The trail is complimented with information panels with details about each location along the route, the nature and the animals in Braille.
Sailing trips with wheelchair users are organised on Pogoria Reservoir in Dabrowa Gornicza. Survival camps have become a tradition in the Pieniny for people with intellectual disabilities. Similar camps have also been organised in the Tatra Mountains and the Table Mountain. The latter are directed in particular at people with physical disabilities.
The power of adrenaline can be felt by people with disabilities whilst walking among the trees. The rope parks in Rownica and in Ustron, the Palenisko in Chorzow or the Krucze Skaly in Szklarska Poreba make the easier routes available to the willing disabled.