L to R: (back row) Nancy Harris (front row) Lori Slater, Sonja Gaudet and Alison Duddy. /LAURA KEIL

By Laura Keil

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association was in town at the end of August for a new accessibility campaign.
Reps from TOTA, Spinal Cord Injury BC, the Northern BC Tourism Assoc. and the Province collected information about the accessible features of local tourism businesses and experiences available in Valemount. The purpose is to populate an existing app called Access Now, which gives consumers the accessible features available at locations before they visit. The group of women said they were impressed by the great service they had at several businesses including Robson Helimagic and Mount Robson Whitewater Rafting.

The group also provided recommendations to organizations and shared best practice standards for things like washrooms, main entrances and parking.

“I think with the (tourism) experiences it’s taking that fear away from the tourist operator, to, you know, not be stressed when they see two or three wheelchairs show up,” said Lori Slater, of the Northern BC Tourism Association.

Listening to the person in the chair is the guiding principle, they say. “Countless times someone asks if they can help and you say ‘No thank you,’ and they’re grabbing your chair,” said Alison Duddy, with Spinal Cord Injury BC.

“We don’t want to miss out on those experiences,” said Sonja Gaudet, of TOTA. “And so (the goal is to) really to educate the tour operators to how it needs to be for us and just normalize it. So that it’s just normal when someone with different needs calls, they know how to approach the situation.”

The group was also analyzing the accessibility of local parks through a separate program.