Travelling in British Columbia will be easier for people with disabilities, as the Province and Destination BC embark on a multi-phased plan to make B.C. tourism more accessible and inclusive.
“People with disabilities often face more barriers when travelling. Booking hotels with accessible rooms, finding accommodating transportation or knowing what experiences can be adapted can be challenging,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. “We want to help make travel easier and more enjoyable for everyone, and that’s why we’re starting this journey with our partners in the sector. Our goal is to welcome the world to a barrier-free B.C.”
The first phase of this plan focuses on improving the visitor experience. Destination BC has created an Accessibility Resources page and accessible travel itineraries that highlight over 250 attractions and experiences throughout the province. The itineraries are designed to increase access for people living with physical disabilities and will help people plan their visits to B.C. with added peace of mind.
“While there is much work to be done, the team at Destination BC recognizes the importance of taking these first steps to introduce new accessible tourism initiatives that will contribute to a more inclusive B.C.,” said Marsha Walden, president and CEO, Destination BC. “As well as adding more accessibility information for travellers on our trip-planning website, HelloBC.com, we’ve created a repository of resources on DestinationBC.ca that will provide B.C. tourism businesses with practical information to improve their accessible product and service offerings. These resources also showcase the benefits of hiring people with diverse abilities.”
Destination BC has also enabled tourism businesses to add accessibility features across four categories to their business listings on HelloBC.com. Nearly 200 businesses have added features that include:
- one or more automated entry points;
- lowered counter at reception or ticket desks;
- shuttle service equipped with lift or roll-in access;
- braille/large print signage in publicly accessible areas;
- availability of hearing-loop technology;
- rooms for guests using mobility devices; and
- staff trained on guide and service dog policies.
To help the visitor economy promote and create new accessible travel experiences, Destination BC has also developed new resources for its industry Learning Centre. These include:
- educational videos;
- case studies of B.C. businesses championing accessible travel;
- essays about the importance of using inclusive language; and
- recommendations for making buildings more accessible.
These initial actions have been developed in consultation with organizations that support inclusiveness and accessibility, including Spinal Cord Injury BC.
The ministry intends to create a tourism accessibility and inclusion advisory group that will have representatives from the tourism sector and accessibility advocacy groups from throughout the province. As these partnerships continue to grow, further actions will be identified to help promote B.C. as an accessible travel destination to visitors from across Canada and around the globe.
“In a fully accessible province, everyone will be able to participate equally in their communities,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This needs to be true, both for the visitors we welcome every year and the people who call B.C. home. A more accessible B.C. will include our province’s first accessibility legislation, as well as partnerships and collaboration across governments, businesses, organizations and people with lived experience.”
Making travel experiences more inclusive and accessible is a key priority in the ministry’s strategic tourism framework, Welcoming Visitors, Benefiting Locals, Working Together: A Strategic Framework for Tourism in British Columbia, that was launched in spring 2019.
Beginning in March 2020, the annual BC Tourism Industry Awards will include an accessible tourism award that recognizes and encourages businesses that are providing exceptional experiences for people with disabilities.
- More than 926,000 people in B.C. over the age of 15 live with some form of disability, representing nearly 25% of the population.
- As B.C.’s population ages, the number of people with disabilities and the severity of their disabilities are likely to increase.
- There are 5,000 tourism businesses currently listed on HelloBC.com – Destination BC’s trip-planning platform.
For a sample of accessible business listings on HelloBC.com, visit: https://www.hellobc.com/plan-your-trip/accommodations?accessibility-feature=accessibility
Destination BC’s accessibility resources page: https://www.hellobc.com/accessibility
Mobility-focused tourism itineraries: https://www.hellobc.com/travel-ideas/?accessibility-feature=accessibility
Destination BC’s strategic framework and action plan, Toward an Inclusive and Accessible British Columbia Tourism Industry: https://www.destinationbc.ca/what-we-do/destination-management/accessibility/
A backgrounder follows.