By Yvette Tan
Farm tourism can be a big source of income. There is a growing interest in turning part of one’s working farm into a vacation spot as well.
This editor, who has mobility problems, found that while a lot of farms have adequate amenities for ‘regular’ people, they don’t often have provisions for the differently abled. Roads are rocky and uneven, stairs are high with no bannisters, mostly in a bid to appear ‘rustic’ in a way that will, in the long run, become impractical. It is also an oversight that can cost a farm extra revenue.
Why cater to senior citizens and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)? Advocating for equal-access facilities aside, a senior and PWD-friendly farm will attract more visitors, and more visitors mean more money.
One, because places that offer facilities to both are so few that once one is discovered, the news will spread like wildfire within the community. Two, these two groups are more inclined to seek out nature, a place where they can feel better physically.
And three, these two groups have spending power. Get one senior citizen to enjoy your farm and they will bring their amigos and amigas with them on their next visit. Same with a PWD, who will bring their family and friends.
Making a farm, or almost any space, senior and PWD friendly need not be expensive, especially when thought of in advance. Here are some ideas:
Wheelchair ramps. Ramps shouldn’t be an afterthought. They shouldn’t just be a visual that says ‘we complied with the constriction code.’ Make sure that ramps are low and wide enough for wheelchair users to comfortably access, whether the person in them is being pushed or is wheeling it themselves.
Stairs with tiny steps and bannisters. Most people take stairs for granted. But to people with mobile difficulties, they can be major obstacles which sometimes can be easily overcome if the steps were shorter, and if there was a bannister to hold on to as one climbs. Not having a bannister for ‘aesthetic’ purposes says one values ‘beauty’ more than human life, and it also means one’s designer isn’t imaginative enough.
Smooth, but not slippery, pathways. Thinking that unkempt rocky paths add to ambience should stop. There’s a difference between a nice, fairly even gravel path that’s there for aesthetic reasons and an everyday hazard built on the idea that dumping uneven rocks in a straight line and calling it a day. Well thought out pathways mean better access to different areas of the farm, not to mention less accidents.
Ample and adequate rest areas. The elderly and PWDs need a lot of rest, and providing shady areas with sturdy seating and maybe a table or two for snacks will generate a lot of goodwill-and recommendations-from visitors. These will double if said areas are photogenic, as people of all ages love taking selfies. Imagine the free publicity your farm will get from camera-happy visitors posting photos of themselves in your lovely and comfortable farm. That’s the kind of publicity money can’t buy.