New partnership looks to make B.C.’s tourism industry more disability-friendly

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Ahead of what is expected to be a bustling summer of travel in the province, Destination BC and Spinal Cord Injury BC have announced a partnership to create and promote accessible tourism.

Through the partnership, announced June 1, Spinal Cord Injury BC will be conducting in-person assessments of different tourism businesses in the Lower Mainland, Sea-to-Sky and Sunshine Coast, advising how they can improve access and inclusion for disabled folks.

Participating businesses will also have their accessibility listings updated on the HelloBC.com consumer trip-planning website so visitors can easily search accessible accommodation, attractions, activities and experiences.

“Our work with Spinal Cord Injury BC will help tourism businesses around the region assess their experience offerings to allow more visitors to enjoy them, creating a more inclusive visitor experience and more growth opportunities within the sector,” said Jody Young, a manager at Vancouver Coast & Mountains tourism region.

According to Nancy Harris, a regional development liaison with Spinal Cord Injury BC, the accessibility gaps in the Vancouver, Coastal & Mountains tourism region are similar to the rest of the province.

READ MORE: Washington hiking guide offers a new way to find accessible trails

These gaps include basic accessibility issues such as the absence of ramps and elevators, but they also extend to the fundamental organization of many tourism businesses.

Harris told Black Press Media that because most tourism businesses did not design their services with accessibility in mind, they will likely have a difficult time trying to alter their spaces and their programs to include people with disabilities.

That’s why the organization has taken matters into their own hands when it comes to offering summer adventures and sports for their clients and community, such as their recently launched accessible cycling program.

READ MORE: Kootenay mountain bike trails poised to become global destination for athletes with disabilities

“There seems to be a big lack of understanding for why these things are important and what it means to be accessible,” said Harris.

Accessibility takes many forms, but the core principle is allowing people with disabilities to live with dignity and actively participate in their communities, she said, adding that getting tourism businesses to recognize and accept their own shortcomings is an important first step to building awareness and welcoming guests with disabilities to their locations.

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