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I-drive Disability News Updates: Ski resorts leading the way in accessibility

Ski resorts have been steadily improving disabled access over recent years and could provide a perfect holiday for individuals or families with disabilities, according to the Independent.

Handiski is the general term for specialist equipment for disabled skiers and can include anything from a piloted tandem ski, which involves another skier doing the steering, to sitskis where the skier is sat down. There’s also new vertiskis that allow paraplegics to stand while skiing.

Britain’s favourite ski destination, France, has more than 150 ski schools which offer handiski instruction and hire. Usually sponsors subsidise the high cost of the specialist equipment which is lent to skiers for free when booked with a lesson.

Due to the wide spectrum of disabilities, not all resorts are accessible to all types of disability and so the independent, not for profit organisation, Ski 2 Freedom Foundation, advises individuals or families on how to get the most out of a mountain holiday despite a disability.

Catherine Cosby, who runs the foundation, told the Independent: “Any French resort that has the adapté label will have to have a certain level of disabled skiing. Savoie Mont Blanc alone has 32 stations with the label. If you’re in a wheelchair, you’ll probably want somewhere quite flat with clear streets, like Valloire. If you have sight problems, Méribel is very good, as is Gstaad in Switzerland, which has a hotel, the Solsana, dedicated to blind people.”

Despite the vast improvements some resorts have made in disabled facilities, not all of them are entirely accessible. Frank Gardner, President of the Ski Club of Great Britain and who uses a wheelchair, said: “Some like La Plagne and ones in Colorado are really adaptive ski friendly, where skiers in sitskis are a common sight. There are others, which unfortunately are the ones I’ve been going to in Germany and Austria, where I can do it only if I hire a guide to ski with me the whole day, which is pretty expensive.”

Disability Snowsport UK runs adaptive ski programmes in seven locations across England and Scotland so disabled skiers can try the sport before committing to a holiday.

Earlier this year, rental firm Adapted Vehicle Hire and Tourism for All UK carried out research that found 87 percent of disabled people in the UK have been prevented from travelling because of their disability.

In other news, a new report from disability charity Scope and think tank nef has outlined how it thinks councils and charities can work together to deliver better and more cost effective support to disabled people.

I-drive is the new information portal for disabled drivers from Adapted Vehicle Hire. For more on Adapted Vehicle Hire and its vehicles, from the WAV to the MPV, visit the homepage.