Miguel Strother is a Vancouver Island-based writer whose life changed dramatically when his 41-year-old wife suffered a stroke that left her immobile and unable to speak. As lifelong travellers, Ineke and Miguel, and their two children, are finding ways to adapt their lifestyle so they can keep exploring and experiencing the world as a family.
From unbeatable urban beaches to snow-capped ski hills, Vancouver boasts beauty from every angle. Here are some insider tips for those with disabilities planning a trip to Vancouver.
Vancouver International Airport is a spectacularly designed facility, filled with West Coast Indigenous art and recognized by the Rick Hansen Foundation as the most accessible in the country. From here you can rent a car, or take advantage of the city’s extensive transit network, which prioritizes accessibility at every turn.
The Canada Line SkyTrain connects the airport to downtown Vancouver, and from there you can access the city’s major attractions and suburbs via wheelchair-accessible buses and alternate SkyTrain lines.
BC Ferries connects Vancouver to Vancouver Island’s largest cities (Victoria and Nanaimo) and a network of coastal islands dotting the Salish Sea like rare gems. Vessels travel along routes that expose spectacular water vistas. Reach out in advance for extra support and to take advantage of discounts for disabled travellers.
Downtown Vancouver, like a miniaturized Manhattan, is geographically tiny compared to the surrounding sprawl of boroughs and suburbs. The dense downtown has many interesting options including the Fairmount Hotel Vancouver, which provides well thought out accessibility rooms and suites in the centre of the city. We love this iconic hotel because it’s got a great pool and offers exceptionally easy access to the neighbouring Vancouver Art Gallery, shopping along Robson Street, and a number of the city’s best cafés and restaurants.
For easy access to Stanley Park and Vancouver’s extensive seawall, the Coal Harbour neighbourhood boasts a number of the most accessible hotels in the city, including the Westin Bayshore. We also have a soft spot for Vancouver’s eclectic West End—both of our kids were born there. The West End offers a great sense of community, sidewalks along Denman Street are particularly wide and flat, and many neighbourhood side streets lead into the serenity of Stanley Park.
For an entirely different experience, Parq Vancouver provides a full slate of Las Vegas-style amenities, including casinos, in-house restaurants, and close proximity to the city’s stadiums (it’s practically attached to BC Place). The hotel has 65 different accessible King rooms with roll- or walk-in showers. To be close to the North Shore Mountains, consider a stay at the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier in North Vancouver. It’s conveniently located beside Lonsdale Quay Market and the SeaBus to downtown Vancouver.
With its balance of urban amenities, spectacular natural beauty, and walkability, Vancouver inspires in all seasons. It’s an ideal spot for families in search of a perfect mix of ease, relaxation, and adventure.
The seawall is the place to start and finish any trip to Vancouver, in our estimation. The relatively flat paved path winds along the waterfront for approximately 30 km (18 mi). Begin at the Vancouver Convention Centre, travel the 10-km (6-mi) perimeter of Stanley Park, and keep going as far out as Spanish Banks near the University of British Columbia’s scenic campus. Some of the city’s best restaurants and most iconic attractions are located along the seawall, including the 2010 Olympic cauldron, more than half a dozen sandy beaches (most with easy-access disability parking spots), and the Granville Island Public Market, home to fresh food and an interesting mix of artisan shops, design studios, and live theatre.
For sports fans, Vancouver is home to professional football, hockey, baseball, and soccer teams. Rogers Arena, BC Place, and Nat Bailey Stadium are all accessible by public transit and easy to get around in once you’re inside. Rogers Arena and BC Place also attract top international performers throughout the year.
For active travellers, Vancouver’s ocean and mountains offer all kinds of accessible activity options. Contact the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society to book paddleboarding or kayaking excursions. Just north of the city there are three local mountains—Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour—that offer hiking in summer and snow sports in winter. Of the three, Grouse Mountain offers the most for travellers with disabilities, including a variety of programs, services, and facilities to support accessibility in all four seasons. Grouse is easily accessible by public transit, and has the added bonus of The Observatory mountain-top restaurant and bar, a perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the spectacular view.
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