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Bob Benson Appears on BBC’s Landward Demonstrating Outdoor Access for People with Disabilities

Bob Benson, who has experienced a life long disability, brought the BBC’s Landward team up into Highland Perthshire to enjoy the countryside footpaths in Kinloch Rannoch.

After talks with the local landowner, and a grant from the Community Environmental Challenge Fund, the five-year work in progress finally pulled off when Bob and his wife, Annie, were able to set up a self-closing gate along a core path.

Bob Benson said: “Annie has been heavily involved in getting access to core paths, which people have a legal right to get access to. But there have been barriers in place, like certain kind of gates like kissing gates or ladder steps, as Arlene Stuart demonstrated on the TV programme, that actually make access for me impossible.

“So, through the Community Enterprise Environmental Challenge Fund she was able to get money to get access to this particular gate, so the programme was really about that and also what it means to actually get access as well.

“So it’s about overcoming the barrier, but it’s also about what that means for disabled or indeed people who have other difficulties.”

For Mr Benson, it’s not just about people with disabilities getting access but also other people ‘who have similar difficulties’, he wants people who are in wheelchairs, pushchairs, horseriders and cyclists too to have the same opportunity to get outside.

Photo Credit: BBC Landward

These gates help people like Mr Benson take advantage of their right to roam by overcoming the physical challenge of working a gate while maneuvering an off road mobility scooter or handling a horse at the same time.

Mr Benson has a lot of praise for everyone involved in helping make access more accessible out in the country, he added: “I think the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust also do a lot of work here, I mentioned the work of the Council, but they’re a charitable body that actually do a lot of good work. And they’ve helped to set up paths around Rannoch and across Perthshire.”

Access like this, with the help of the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and local authority, help get people who would have otherwise been unable to venture out that chance to defy their disability.

Having lived a life long experience of disability, this is a challenge for Mr Benson which he manages to overcome, he said: “Well I had Polio as a baby and I spent many years, really my formative years, largely in long stay hospital care, which actually, in a strange sort of way, was a bit like home really because they were a family. And the NHS was a bit like that in them days.

“But actually, the real challenges are when you come home and when you have to engage with your own family. And being limited anyway, because I was using prosthetic calipers and walking sticks, there was still certain things I couldn’t do.

“And when you talk about the late fifties and sixties, that’s a bit of a challenge in them days because disability rights and access wasn’t really the language on peoples lips.

“So you just had to get by, and that mainly meant your family helped you, or others, which I was always enormously grateful for, but nevertheless, these personal challenges have remained with me and I still have such a strong memory of them.”

Making a full day of it, Mr Benson said ‘it actually takes about fives hours’ as camera crew curate their craft for the screen.

But it’s an enjoyable experience he says, made all the bit easier by how friendly everyone is while they take in the beauty around them in Kinloch Rannoch.

Reflecting back on the day of filming Mr Benson said: “It’s quite a labour intensive business, they have to have cut ins and cut a ways, it’s a kind of unique language they have.

“And they set up every piece of that film to ensure that it looks like a smooth narrative as well as a smooth bit of filming, and I think that’s what we saw in that Landward programme just how professional they are because it looks incredibly slick how that work is done.”

Aside from the carefully composed cinematography, recording was a lot of fun, ‘I didn’t feel that I had been particularly stressed by the experience, in fact I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it, because they’re very sociable people’ adds Mr Benson with a chuckle.

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