Accessible Tourism

By Hugh Tollett

moutains road

It seems kind of funny that I am writing to you today about accessible travel resources and tips. I started to become Deaf in 2001 while living full time in Whistler, BC. The 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics had not even been thought of or imagined at the time, so I was pretty much going on nothing when I started the Accessible Travel website.

I became totally Deaf in 2002 and didn’t launch the website until 2006 due to a set back with my own disabilities.

Since there were very few Internet resources on disability at the time, the website really took off. After much media coverage from around the world and awards won, we were picked up by “VANOC” (2010 Olympic and Paralympic Organization) to represent the Whistler community for its accessibility an accessible tourism, for almost two years.

Hosting the 2010 Games in BC did a lot of good for accessibility in the province. Vancouver and Whistler became fully accessible to public transit just prior to the Games, along with many other communities.

Although getting around on your own is still a bit of a nightmare, it is getting a lot better. There has been great progress with automobile rental agencies that now offer special modifications for their rental fleet, such as hand controls, spinner knobs and pedal extenders to allow a person with disabilities to drive. These vehicles need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance. Almost all well-known car rental companies now offer this service at the same price as a normal car rental.

Greyhound and Pacific Coach Lines both offer accessible travel by bus to various destinations when given 48 hours notice, however, they are not the most comfortable for longer trips if you are mobility restricted.

There are many reasons to travel, but for many it is recreation and sports. Any accessible community should have sports and recreation options for all those people with disabilities.

A few organizations and companies in BC that can help you out with adventures and travel information are the BC Mobility Society with Trail Riders (very cool), 9 Lives Adventures (for real thrill seekers) and Accessible Wilderness Society (who offer a guide book on their website for Vancouver Island). If you’re coming to Whistler, be sure to check out our own at Accessible Whistler for all information on accessibility and access.

Another must see and read is Access Tourism New Zealand. A website that focuses on accessible travel throughout the world with articles on developments and initiatives geared at improving the lives of people with disabilities. Our own YVR, Vancouver International Airport, is fully accessible to people with disabilities and on their website they provide video links on how to access and get to the airport. Unfortunately, most airplanes still do not have fully accessible washrooms.

BC Ferries are also fully accessible if you would like to visit one of the many islands in BC. And finding accessible taxis in major BC cities is also becoming more commonplace.

Another great resource for accessible travel is Candy Harrington’s blog. Although she focuses on slow walkers and wheelchair-users, her website is very useful for any traveller, as she has over 16 years of experience in this field , 40 years as a travel writer and has produced many books on accessible travel around the world.

Be sure also to check out Rick Hansen’s website Although it is still in the development phase, it is growing fast and offers users input into world wide travel information by and for people with disabilities.

Progress keeps us all moving in the right direction and there are lots of people leading the way in the area of accessibility.

You can contact us through our website if you ever need some help coming to BC or Whistler at

Go to our links page for more travel resources