British Columbia strives to be an inclusive travel destination to people of all abilities.
BC’s sights and experiences include spectacular scenery, cosmopolitan cities and a wide and varied range of activities that highlight BC’s natural environment.
For persons with disabilities, major urban centres like Vancouver and Victoria offer many options. Vancouver was named “the most accessible city in the world” years before it hosted the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and the region’s major gateway, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is considered one of the most accessible airports in the world.
Experience some of BC’s famous scenery with an accessible hiking, kayaking, sailing or gliding trip, or visit Canada’s first wheelchair accessible cave theatre. Rent a TrailRider for some self-paced outdoor exploration. Winter sports are well represented in BC, with many ski hills offering adaptive ski and snowboard programs.
Read on to learn more about accessible travel in British Columbia, including links and information on getting around, accommodation, things to do, winter sports and more.
Travellers with disabilities can find information on accessible transportation and travel in British Columbia at www.accesstotravel.gc.ca. This Government of Canada website includes information on air, rail, ferry, bus and car travel, and airport accessibility. A list of local accessible transportation options in BC cities and towns is also provided.
Vancouver has a fully accessible public transit system that includes buses, community shuttle buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express (train).
Most of BC’s other larger cities feature a range of accessible public transit. Visit BC Transit for more information on transit in BC cities and towns.
Vancouver and Victoria taxis are well-equipped for persons with disabilities. Approximately 15% of taxis are wheelchair accessible; reservations are not required when requesting a lift-equipped vehicle but may be prudent during busy periods.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the gateway for air travel to British Columbia. YVR is committed to providing fully accessible terminal facilities for people of all backgrounds and capabilities.
BC Ferries, one of the largest ferry operators in the world, provides passenger and vehicle service to BC’s coastal communities, including those on Vancouver Island. BC Ferries provides a variety of accessible services to ensure a safe and comfortable passage to persons with disabilities.
There are many accessible accommodation options in BC. It is recommended to check before booking for the accessibility rating. Many accommodation listings on HelloBC.com include an accessibility rating, identified by a logo found under the “Ratings, Affiliations & Accreditations” section of the property’s listing (click on the logo for more information).
Things to Do
Popular urban travel destinations like Vancouver and Victoria feature a wide range of accessible activities. For information on things to do, travel resources and accommodation options in Vancouver, visit the Accessible Vancouver section of Tourism Vancouver’s website.
Outdoor opportunities for persons with disabilities are available through the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society. Their programs include hiking, gliding and kayaking and typically occur from May to September.
BC Parks is the second largest parks system in Canada and many of its provincial parks offer accessible features such as paths, trails and other amenities.
Many attractions and tourism businesses listed on HelloBC.com include an accessibility rating, identified by a logo found under the “Ratings, Affiliations & Accreditations” section of the individual listing.
Whistler hosted many of the Paralympic events at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and has a growing international reputation as an accessible resort destination for recreational and elite athletes with a disability.
The Whistler Adaptive Sports Program offers a wide range of summer and winter activities, including kayaking, canoeing, rowing, gymnastics, trail riders, hiking, and hand-cycling. Winter activities include alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, and a racing and coaching program geared for those seeking national and international competition.
The Whistler Adaptive Ski & Snowboard Program offers a wide range of programs and rentals for people with both physical and cognitive disabilities (including Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADD/ADHD, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Muscular Dystrophy).
For a list of accessible businesses, accommodations and things to do in Whistler, visit www.whistlerforthedisabled.com
Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Programs in British Columbia
BC offers a wide variety of inclusive winter destinations. The BC Disabled Skiers Association provides a list of BC ski areas that offer adaptive ski and snowboard programs.
Rick Hansen Foundation
Rick Hansen is a world-class Paralympic athlete and medal winner. He is best remembered for his inspirational Man in Motion World Tour, circling the globe in his wheelchair on a 40,000km/24,000mi journey to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Man in Motion World Tour, the Rick Hansen Foundation has introduced planat. This online database provides user-generated reviews on the accessibility of public buildings, attractions, spaces and businesses in BC and throughout the world.
The British Columbia Paraplegic Association also offers a wide range of resources, including information on travel, tourism and hospitality.
More user-generated information on accessible tourism and services, including accommodation, entertainment, restaurants, parks and disability organizations can be found at Access Guide Canada.
Travellers with Guide Animals
A person with a disability accompanied by a guide animal has the same rights, privileges and obligations as a person not accompanied by an animal. As well, a fee may not be charged for a guide animal accompanying a person with a disability. For more information, visit the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General website.
Speech or Hearing Impairment
For persons with hearing or speech impairment, there are services available at the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Call 604-736-7391 (voice) or 604-736-2527 (TTY). For the Telus 24-hour Message Relay Centre call 1-800-855-0511 (voice) or 711 (TTY).