An estimated 10 to 15 percent of the Lebanese population has a physical, sensory or mental disability. While some progress has been made regarding disability awareness, accessible tourism remains greatly overlooked, despite the fact that nature is linked to mental well-being and is proven to provide a host of physical and emotional benefits. But there’s good news; the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA) recently launched an exciting and ambitious project to allow persons with disabilities to experience Lebanon’s nature reserves in dignity and comfort.
LMTA and accessible tourism
Recognizing that persons with disabilities in Lebanon have been largely excluded from outdoor activities, the LMTA decided to include accessibility as a pillar of its trail development program.
“It is essential to ensure that the LMT and trails in Lebanon are available to all groups, including the young, elderly and persons with mobility impairment,” says Omar Sakr, president of the LMTA.
Since January 2022, the association has been carrying out activities within the framework of a project promoting accessible nature in Lebanon, funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (implemented by the UNDP and in coordination with the Ministry of Environment).
The project includes introducing the Joëlette, all-terrain one-wheeled chairs, in five of Lebanon’s nature reserves (Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve, Tannourine Nature Reserve, Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, Shouf Biosphere Reserve and Tyre Coast Nature Reserve) to enable all paths on high- and medium-range mountains on the LMT and other trails of protected areas to be accessed by all.
The launching of the chairs on the trails was held on June 5, 2022, in Tannourine Cedar Reserve and on June 10, 2022, in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, with the trainees and persons with disabilities accompanied by their families.
In addition to trainees from the nature reserves, key persons were invited to attend the trainings to be able to train others and maneuver the chairs. Members of NDU and Antonine University, Scouts & Guides du Liban, delegates from Arc-en-Ciel, Sesobel, ICRC, LRC, Enta Akhi and École de Montagne, members of USEIL and members of Darbessama and Bchaaleh and Ain Ebel trails attended the trainings, facilitated by four experts from the Catholic University of Valencia.
“Through this project and with all the partners involved, the LMTA is committed to raising awareness on the importance of accessible nature. We will continue our work to allow people of any age or physical condition to enjoy outdoor time on the LMT and on other trails in Lebanon,” says Sakr.
While the LMTA makes progress in improving accessibility on the LMT and in nature reserves, it is also working on four new side trails in Ain Ebel, Falougha Hammana, Bchaale and Menjez.Loading