Many people of all ages experience road blocks to participating in activities, based simply on their varying abilities.
The Thompson Okanagan Tourist Association (TOTA) would like to change that.
TOTA has created a video, Accessibility in a New Light, to emphasize the importance of creating region-wide experiences that everyone can enjoy.
Glenn Mandziuk, TOTA president and CEO, said the tourism industry can help make a difference by thoughtfully working to create accessible experiences. That would include building hotels, restaurants, outdoor adventures, transportation and more designed to make it easy for those who have ability challenges to take part.
“Each of us has varying levels of ability, whether aspiring athletes, small children, aging seniors, or gold-medal contenders. Whether we have a child in a stroller, use a walker, a cane, or a wheelchair, we all have a need that must be met so that we can fully take part in all aspects of life and engage with everyone around us,” he said.
“We need to learn to appreciate that all that we are, and all that we have, is fragile and can quickly, and without notice, be altered. Abilities should not define opportunities, nor should they prevent any one of us from having the chance to participate and enjoy.”
For several years, TOTA has been working with Spinal Cord BC and Access BC to bring information and attention to the importance of access for all.
“We are honoured and proud to have three-time Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet to guide our work as our accessibility specialist. In more recent months, we have signed formal partnerships with CRIS Adaptive, KASA, Access Revolution, and Travel for All with a goal to build inclusive and accessible tourism experiences in the Thompson Okanagan region,” said Mandziuk.
He likes a quote in the video from Shelley Buchanan Gilmore: “We need to stop labelling how we are different and start to create a system where we are all the same.”
Mandziuk urges people to watch the video, share it with others, and to think about how their business might make even small changes to be more welcoming to all people, regardless of ability.