The St. James Way: The Way of Diversity

Pick up some recommendations so everyone can enjoy the Way to the full.

By Regional Government of Galicia

Monumental group of Soutomerille (2020)Regional Government of Galicia

The St. James Way is a journey that responds to the diverse needs, interests, and ways of understanding the pilgrimage. Everyone experiences the route in their own, unique way. Diversity is fixed in the Way's DNA, and is another factor in its cultural worth.

Mounds of stones in Triacastela (2020)Regional Government of Galicia

There are also many different ways of tackling the Way for a truly enriching experience. In any case, it is important to focus on certain aspects in order to reap the greatest rewards. 

Pilgrim's hostel in Bruma (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

For those with physical, sensory, or cognitive impairments, or communication problems, it is important to remember that the barrier is not the person themselves, but their interaction with their surroundings; these can present a variety of difficulties and challenges.

Pedestrian bridge over the Arnoia river as it passes through Allariz (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Nevertheless, the St. James Way is renowned for its hospitality, and also its flexibility to the diverse needs of the pilgrims who travel along it. More than one thousand years of history have shaped the Way, which has adapted and adjusted. It builds bridges and breaks down barriers.

The Way as it passes through San Breixo de Parga (2020)Regional Government of Galicia

It is important to keep in mind some advice and considerations that can help everyone enjoy the journey to its fullest.

Peregrinos en el Camino de Santiago (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Although one of the aims is to encourage independence and personal autonomy, it is a good idea to travel the Way with a companion. There will always be moments to be alone, for meditation and introspection, but traveling the Way with a companion means having someone else to rely on when dealing with situations that may present a challenge.

Pilgrims observing Cape Fisterra from Punta de Sardiñeiro (2020)Regional Government of Galicia

The St. James Way always offers the opportunity to learn; and that also goes for the people accompanying those with disabilities on their journey. Difficulties are easier to manage in a team. Especially when it comes to a companion on whom we can rely physically or even metaphorically.

DisCaminoOriginal Source: DisCamino

It is always necessary to prepare yourself both physically and mentally for the journey, but this is even more important in the case of people or groups with functional diversity. Training in groups is always a good idea, and prepares you for dealing with the demands of the Way as a real team.

Concha de vieira que marca el final del Camino de Santiago, en la plaza de O Obradoiro de Santiago de Compostela (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Support products include pilgrimage boots. Never wear these for the first time on the Way itself. Use products that you know well, and can manage easily. And if you want to try out a new resource, practice first, and always have a Plan B: a backup technology.

Chargers (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Remember that if you use a lot of technological support products, you will have to organize the logistics of charging batteries, and carrying spare batteries as backup where possible.

Pilgrim writing (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Your experience along the Way can be as digital or analog as you wish. Consider whether a fault or problem might not have an instant solution. If you use low-tech resources, and have support from the group, an imperfection or fault does not necessarily have to be a big problem.

Peregrina en el Camino de Santiago (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

You should experience the Way with all of your senses, and they are all important when it comes to completing the route and enjoying the journey. If you have a hearing or visual impairment, apart from traveling with a companion, take every precaution in situations that pose a risk.

Santo Alberte de Parga Bridge (14th Century)Regional Government of Galicia

For example, take particular care when crossing roads with traffic. It is also important to pay attention to changes in ground level, irregular ground underfoot, significant uphills and downhills, bridges or paths over water courses, without fences or railings …

Albergue de Casa Forte de Lusío, en Samos (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Many lodgings, with their welcoming approach, are accessible for those with many different conditions. The network of public hostels has plenty of solutions to the problems of accessibility.

They may have specially adapted rooms, or a more accessible design in general. They have signage in Braille, pictograms, accessible paths, and some hostels even have devices such as hearing loops.

Albergue de O Cebreiro (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Everybody has different and specific needs, so it is a good idea to check in advance if the hostel can adapt to your requirements. It is possible to reserve rooms in advance in the public network of hostels, both for the pilgrim as well as their companion, provided they have certification of their disability. 

Digital resource with QR (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

The St. James Way is a comprehensive experience that can be interpreted on many different levels. All perceptions are valid and enriching. Along the way, there are many cultural and tourist resources which offer information in accessible formats, such as pictograms, or easy reading. 

Yellow arrow in Tui (2020)Regional Government of Galicia

Furthermore, the signage is distinctive and coherent. The yellow arrow is easy to see and identify, and really helps with spatial orientation. The Way also has a series of elements such as signs and milestones, providing peace of mind for walkers.

Hands signing in front of a sign on the Way of St. JamesRegional Government of Galicia

Since its beginnings, people from many different places, and often speaking different languages, have traveled the Way. However, language has never been a barrier. Likewise, people with communication difficulties can understand, and make themselves understood, all along the route.

The Way of Saint James by Sergio PalaoOriginal Source: Gobierno de Aragón, ARASAAC

For those who use Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems, it is important to configure the system in advance, loading vocabulary and expressions typically used along the Way. 

Peregrinos en Santiago de Compostela (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

When adapting an AAC system to the St. James Way, it is important to consider your communications with the group in which you will be traveling, but also with other people you may meet along the way. It is an opportunity for mutual enrichment.

St. James the Greater by Sergio PalaoOriginal Source: Gobierno de Aragón, ARASAAC

Banks of pictograms such as those by the Aragonese Center of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ARASAAC) have specific vocabulary for undertaking the St James Way. They can be used in preparation for the Way, as well as for communicating during the journey.

Signs on the ground (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Some people need to know and understand what will happen and how the route will develop along the way. Creating social stories about the Way can help these people get greater enjoyment from the experience.

Planning the Camino de Santiago (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

To summarize, it is recommended to travel with a companion, to form a team, and to train both physically and mentally. It is essential that you plan the route you will take, keeping in mind the criteria of the route and available resources, and adapting your equipment to any eventualities that may arise.

Bifurcation Camino Primitivo in Paradanova (2020)Regional Government of Galicia

You should also have backup plans, in case of any difficulty or challenge that makes an alternative advisable. Being responsible and cautious allows you to tackle the Way with more confidence.

Outstretched hand (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

We must not forget the traditional hospitality of the Way, by which the pilgrim will be supported, to work with their strengths and help them through difficult times. Asking, requesting, sharing, and helping are part of the life experience offered by the pilgrimage.

Peregrinos en el Camino de Santiago (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

And finally, if you are traveling the Way and you meet a person or group with disabilities, do not miss the opportunity to learn from them. Be humble, ask honest and respectful questions, and make the effort to see the world through their eyes. 

Holy Door of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Primera mitad del siglo XVI)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Do not assume that they lack knowledge, or that they need help. Do not do things for them unless asked. Do not take anything for granted; some disabilities are invisible. Offer your support, listen, wait … the experience is worth it.

Roman wall of Lugo: Mosqueira Tower (260-310)Regional Government of Galicia

The St. James Way has a universal design because it is unique and adaptable to everyone, with every life circumstance. The Way is as diverse as the people who travel it.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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