Canada ahead of the curve
As Canadian Paralympian Tony Walby puts it: “More people are waking up to the abilities everybody has. It’s no longer ‘you have a disability, you can’t do this’ it’s ‘you have a disability and you’ll be able to adapt to do what you want to do’.”
Canada seems ahead of the curve. Many winter sports have been adapted to address physical and cognitive impairments, and all destinations should be relatively easy to navigate as all public buildings are required to be wheelchair accessible and provide suitable toilet facilities. Almost all street corners have dropped curbs, and public transport is increasingly user–friendly.
The Canadian Paraplegic Association produces a free guide on the most easily-accessed sights, and provincial tourist offices collate information too. Parks Canada details the many accessible outdoor trails, and by the water, buoyant beach chairs, mobility mats, accessible kayaks and even submersible wheelchairs for use in the hot springs are increasingly available.
Mountains learn to adapt
For those drawn to the slopes, adaptive equipment can be found in key resorts to support skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, snowshoeing and skating, with specialist training instructors, supportive volunteers and programmes for newer challenges such as skate skiing, fat biking, curling, winter frisbee and winter camping too.
Vancouver-based Canadian Adaptive Snowsports is among organisations on a mission to eliminate barriers and create fun, inclusivity for individuals with visual, physical and cognitive impairments or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
British Columbia has a network of 15 adaptive clubs operating in Whistler, Revelstoke, Fernie and Silver Star. There are also skiing, sit-skiing and snowboarding programmes at Grouse and Cypress Mountains. Mountain resorts in Alberta, like Winsport Canada Olympic Park, Marmot Basin, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, have a wide range of facilities, while the Rocky Mountain Adaptive Sports Center at Sunshine Village offers learn-to-ski programmes and private lessons.
In Ontario, Blue Mountain Resort, Snow Valley Resort and Mount St. Louis Moonstone Ski Resort all offer adaptive opportunities and have trained guides to assist visually impaired and blind skiers and snowboarders.
In summer many of accessibility programmes turn their attention to sports such as kayaking, wheelchair accessible paddleboarding, biking and camping.
And many national parks feature accessible campsites and oTENTiks – a cross between a tent and cabin – with accessibility ramps.
Working with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Parks Canada has created a travel package for those with ASD, limiting stress and challenges when visiting Gros Morne National Park. Purpose-designed Rustic Cabins in Berry Hill include sensory-aware home comforts. Lake Louise’s Summer Sightseeing Gondola is now 100% wheelchair accessible and Alberta’s cultural destination Métis Crossing was designed to be fully accessible with a lodge offering six accessible suites.
At Sainte-Anne Falls, Québec, there are three wheelchair-accessible suspension bridges for accessibility to the 74m tall falls.
Stanhope Beach on Prince Edward Island and Inverness Beach in Nova Scotia offer buoyant wheelchairs and mobility mats.
Information is at hand
Travellers with disabilities need information and reliable services. See useful sites such as QuébecforAll.com, detailing snow and touring opportunities at Mont Tremblant, Mont Sainte-Anne and Le Massif de Charlevoix. Québec’s Destination for All scheme certifies accessible tourism facilities.
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, famed for its lighthouses and picturesque coastline, has become the first tourism site in Atlantic Canada to receive the Gold rating thanks to measures like an accessible viewing deck and accessible washroom.