Firstly, Vancouver, British Columbia is the third largest metropolitan city in Canada which is not only known for its beautiful landscape and majestic Coast Mountains but also for its continuing efforts to make itself one of the most accessible cities in the world. Vancouver Island which is a 90-minute ferry ride from Vancouver is a nearby attraction worth visiting.
The 2010 Olympics left a legacy of accessible venues in Vancouver including the fully accessible Canada Hockey Place, the newly renovated University of British Columbia Thunderbird Arena (fully accessible with elevators), and the Pacific Coliseum, (partial wheelchair accessibility – stairs) – the original home of the Vancouver Canucks.
As well, a plethora of attractions such as the Capilano Fish Hatchery, Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, Stanley Park accessible trolley ride and horse-drawn tours, Lynn Ecology Centre, and MacMillan Space Centre are all wheelchair accessible.
It is worth noting that In 1990, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to provide scheduled bus service to people with disabilities. All buses in the Lower Mainland are accessible as are most of the rapid transit SkyTrain stations.
Moreover, other forms of transportation such as the B.C. Ferries also have accessible washrooms and deck areas and all other bus services such as Pacific Coach lines and Greyhound offer accessible services with advance notice.
With the Access Canada program, hotels in British Columbia are graded with one of four rating levels that address the needs of people with minor to severe disabilities. While most of the hotels in Vancouver do not offer roll-in showers, the Fairmont Pacific Rim has taken the lead in being the first to offer this feature.
Just north of Vancouver lies the world-renowned ski resort of Whistler which played host to the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics. The accessible website has just been updated with new features on accessibility and a Live Booking System.
Further into the interior of British Columbia lies another ski resort, Sun Peaks, near Kamloops. The Delta Hotel and surrounding hotels in the resort area played host to the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing competitions for two years in a row as they were so impressed with the accessibility.
Lovely Lake Shuswap (one of my favorite places), also in the Kamloops area, offers a wheelchair accessible 56’ houseboat which sleeps 12.
Williams Lake which is situated in the central interior of British Columbia is the hometown of the famous Rick Hansen, an advocate for accessibility and inclusion. The town has worked tirelessly on its accessibility and now offers an “Accessibility Award of Merit” to businesses that improve their accessibility.
Barkerville is a historic goldrush town also situated in the interior of British Columbia Although there is not currently a separate write-up highlighting the fact that Barkerville is one of the most accessible historic sites/towns in British Columbia, the town was given an ‘A’ rating in 2009 from a German company called AHORN, which specializes in Site Inspection for Accessible Travel.
Campbell River, north of Parksville, offers accessible campgrounds, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts.
One of the newest accessible resort/campground facilities called the Accessible Wilderness Society was created in 2009 to give persons with disabilities wonderful unimpeded outdoor recreational opportunities.
Centrally located on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island is Parksville whose temperate climate makes it a popular year-round holiday destination The accessibility program “Measuring up Parksville” began in April 2008 after receiving funding from the “Legacies Now” initiative”….
Ladysmith which lies between Duncan and Nanaimo (mid-Vancouver Island), has also contributed to the accessible outdoors. What better way to see beautiful British Columbia than via a wheelchair accessible 35-foot cruiser or a wheelchair accessible motor home.
The famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. is a fully accessible 50-acre garden with spectacular views. There are areas with stairs that have been accommodated with accessible paths, most of which are wide and smooth. As this park was originally a quarry, there are lots of hills but is well laid out. Plan to spend an entire day here as there is a lot to see.
Nestled in the Gulf Islands just off the coast of lower mainland Vancouver, is Salt Spring Island. Those with disabilities who really want to get away from it all, may contact “Touch The Sky” wheelchair accessible bed and breakfast.
Spearheaded by the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics, the province has excelled in its initiatives throughout. The Connectra Society in Vancouver held its second annual Abilities Expo in Vancouver in April 2011 which proved to be highly successful with the participation of some 38 (thirty-eight) suppliers.
Finally, with the approaching of the Rick Hansen Interdependence International Conference and Exposition in 2012, British Columbia will receive even further recognition as becoming one of the leading provinces in Canada in promoting accessibility and inclusion.
Websites for wheelchair accessible hotels:
- www.islandnet.com – Excellent fact sheet which outlines the levels and appropriate hotels
- www.whenwetravel.com – Accessible hotels in Victoria, B.C.
- www.accessvictoria.com – Accessible suite in Victoria, B.C.