Accessible Dolomites: “There is no quality without inclusion”

A two-day meeting on the theme “Accessible Dolomites, a Heritage for Everyone”, sponsored by the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation and hosted by “La Gregoriana,” a facility managed by ODAR (the Diocesan Reception Network of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre) in Palus San Marco, came to a close in the picturesque forest of Somadida, in Auronzo di Cadore (Belluno).

Dolomiti Accessibili, i partecipanti lungo il percorso accessibile nella Foresta di Somadida

The event brought different realities from all over the Dolomites face to face, as it dealt with disability, accessibility and inclusion. Among the participants were ODAR itself, Assi Onlus in Belluno, independent cooperative L. di Merano, the Dolomiti Open association, Sportfund, which is active in the Brenta Dolomites, SportABILI from Predazzo a Cortina Senza Confini, CAI Veneto, and the Committee for Understanding between the voluntary associations of the Province of Belluno. A special highlight was the extraordinary human and sporting experience presented by Moreno Pesce, an athlete with an amputated limb, who shared his story about conquering several Dolomites peaks.

Breaking down barriers between men and nations has been one of the pillars of UNESCO since its inception”, stated UNESCO Dolomites Foundation director Mara Nemela. “The barriers we are discussing today are of a different nature, but the strength of our commitment has not changed. The quality of the experience that everyone has the right to experience in the Dolomites depends on our ability to make them accessible, without discrimination and without compromising the very heritage that people wish to enjoy. However, the concept of accessibility is not limited to making it possible for people with disabilities and their families to benefit from the environmental asset itself, but must include a network of services that welcomes them from the time they arrive at their destination until their departure.”

The Accessible Dolomites project

The Auronzo event stems from the experience of the Accessible Dolomites project, which has already given the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation the opportunity to network with many of the associations in attendance for the mapping (available on the portal) of almost fifty routes and sites that are also accessible to people with reduced mobility, including not only the disabled but also the elderly and families with small children.

Accessibility and inclusion are opportunities

The many experiences that the participants shared regarding accessibility and inclusion shone a spotlight on the topic of mapping architectural barriers in accommodation and tourist resorts, the inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities, the involvement of local communities and the business community, and the therapeutic value of sports and mountain visits. However, we still need a paradigm shift towards viewing the issue of accessibility and inclusion as an opportunity rather than an encumbrance