Accessibility in Spain: a journey to inclusive travel

Spain is making great strides in ensuring that cities, museums, beaches and islands are accessible to people with limited mobility or other kinds of disability

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two brown table outside

Photo by Johan Mouchet

Photo by Johan Mouchet

Spain remains the number-one holiday destination for British travellers. Now the Spanish Tourist Office has launched its Spain for All campaign, promoting accessibility and diversity throughout the country.

At the heart of the Spain for All campaign is a commitment to improve accessibility and promote social inclusivity in the country’s tourism sector. Involving government agencies, tourism boards and local communities, this initiative is not just about meeting regulatory requirements. It intends to create an environment where everyone can fully participate in and enjoy the wonders of Spain – regardless of ability. Manuel Butler, Director of the Spanish Tourist Office in the UK, stated that the aim is “to create geographic and economic sustainability with a socially inclusive tourism model that spreads the benefits around the country, 365 days of the year”.

How will this work in practice?

The first phase of the Spain for All initiative includes establishing an advisory panel to gather industry feedback, in order to pinpoint key challenges and opportunities. Holidaymakers can find support and information through Spain is Accessible, an online platform endorsed by Spanish institutions to standardise accessibility criteria across various sectors.

It provides information on culture, food and nature, as well as support for visitors with disabilities, allowing them to plan their trips with ease. Simply filter by tourist destination, theme or type of disability to find all the information you need.

Accessible flying

All airports in Spain offer free assistance services for people with reduced mobility or with mental, hearing or visual impairments. The form to request this assistance is available in Spanish and English on the website of the airport operator Aena, where you’ll also find information on meeting points and details specific to each airport. On arrival at a terminal, an assistant will be available to offer support throughout check-in, security control, boarding, disembarking and baggage collection.

brown framed glass building interior

Photo by Alev Takil

Photo by Alev Takil

Are the big cities set up with sustainable infrastructure?

Spain has been proactive in implementing accessibility regulations and ensuring that public spaces, transport systems and accommodation options are designed to serve people with diverse needs. Cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, for instance, have made great strides in ensuring the accessibility of their metro systems, with ramps, lifts and tactile paths making it easier for visitors with mobility challenges to get around on these networks.

Most of Madrid’s main attractions are wheelchair accessible and offer wheelchair rental services. Streets are largely flat, with ramps at most junctions. To further assist pedestrians, audio signals are installed at all crossings.

Barcelona is widely regarded as one of the most accessible cities in the world, especially in terms of public spaces and streets. Car-park entrances are designed to be unobstructed, and most streets are wide enough for wheelchair users. The city also has an extensive range of social services that provide advice, assistance, information, and financial support for people with disabilities.

How accessible are the beaches, attractions and roads on the Costa del Sol?

This stretch of the Andalusian coastline is renowned for its spectacular shorescape – and for its accessible beaches for visitors with disabilities. Misericordia Beach in Málaga is one of the best in this respect, catering not only to visitors with mobility restrictions but also to those with visual and hearing impairments. It offers reserved parking, access ramps, boardwalks, amphibious chairs, accessible toilets and showers, and dedicated support staff. Other features include a beach totem, marine information beacons, distress beacons, and a waterproof transmitter clock.

Most attractions, restaurants and streets on the Costa del Sol are now disability friendly, ensuring an enjoyable visit for all. Shopping centres, too, are wheelchair accessible and offer reserved parking close to the entrance.

empty seats and tables in between buildings during daytime

Photo by Jonas Hoss

Photo by Jonas Hoss

What about Spain's islands?

Spain’s two archipelagos, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, are particularly attractive holiday destinations for British travellers. With their spectacular landscapes and postcard perfect beaches, these islands have long been a magnet for visitors seeking both adventure and relaxation. And accessibility in both island groups has improved enormously.

Are the Balearic Islands accessible?

To ensure accessibility for all in the Balearic Islands, amphibious chairs and crutches, accessible walkways and ramps have been introduced at beaches such as Es Pujols on Formentera and on Palmanova and Alcúdia, Mallorca. All of the islands also offer accessible hiking trails for visitors with reduced mobility, including the Finca Pública de Galatzó estate in the heart of the Serra de Tramuntana range, and the historical Camí de Cavalls trail that winds around the coast of Menorca.

In addition, cultural attractions such as the Museo Puget in Ibiza and the Balearic Museum of Natural Science in Mallorca have installed wheelchair ramps, audio and sign guides, and tactile exhibits to facilitate communication.

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Photo by Kadir Celep

Photo by Kadir Celep

And the Canary Islands?

Making a concerted effort to improve accessibility, the Canary Islands are being transformed to make it easier for everyone to discover their beauty. From accessible beach ramps to adapted accommodation and wheelchair-friendly hiking trails, the major islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote are leading the way.

One shining example is Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve renowned for its lunar- like landscapes. Thanks to recent accessibility improvements, such as adapted transport, accessible viewpoints and guided tours with trained staff, visitors with mobility challenges can now explore this natural wonder with ease.

Efforts aren’t just about improving physical accessibility – they also aim to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Local businesses and adapted holiday providers such as LanzAbility in Lanzarote cater to the diverse needs of holidaymakers, offering unique experiences such as scuba diving and parasailing for wheelchair users. “True accessibility entails two key elements: having adapted infrastructure across all areas of life, and focusing on your abilities, not your disabilities,” said David Penney, founder of LanzAbility.

To plan a fully accessible holiday in Spain, visit Spain is Accessible to read about wider accessibility provision across the country, or get in touch with local adapted holiday providers such as LanzAbility.

a sandy beach with clear blue water next to a cliff

Glossary

Sustainability

The quality of being able to continue over a period of time, or the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance (Camrbdige Dictionary).

Biodiversity

This refers to 'the variability of living organisms, between and within species, and the changeability of the ecosystems to which they belong' (The Convention on Biological Diversity).

Responsible Tourism

According to the Responsible Tourism Partnership, ‘Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, and take action to make tourism more sustainable. Behaviour can be more or less responsible, and what is responsible in a particular place depends on environment and culture’. The concept was defined in Cape Town in 2002 alongside the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Rewilding

The process of protecting an environment and returning it to its natural state; for example, bringing back wild animals that used to live there (Cambridge Dictionary).

Zero-kilometre Food

A movement reducing the distance between producers and sales and consumer establishments to a radius of under 100 kilometres, with the aim of minimising the effects that large-scale industry have on the planet, including soil erosion, water pollution, and habitat loss for wild species.

Green

Being ‘green’ is used to describe actions or initiatives that are conducted in a sustainable way, in an attempt to reduce impact on planetary resource limits. However, the word can be used to describe actions or initiatives that do not actively do this, but rather convey an ethos of being planet-friendly; eg being outside, walking or riding a bike. This can be considered 'greenwashing' (when an individual or company paints an action as credibly sustainable when, in fact, it is an action that beenfits them, or that should be considered the bare minimum).
𖥸 Sustainable Travel