Improving Accessibility of our National Parks

Improving Accessibility of our National Parks

Canada’s national parks are a source of pride for Canadians and are an integral part of our identity. These parks provide enjoyment to 16 million visitors each year, which include both our residents as well as tourists from around the world. Yet, there has been a surprising lack of focus on making these parks accessible by individuals with disabilities. One in five (22%) Canadians over the age of 15, and nearly one in 20 children under 15 (4.6%) have a disability. The Accessible Canada Act requires that our national parks become accessible to these individuals and their caregivers by 2040.

The goal of this project is to revise existing national park accessibility standards for individuals with disabilities (of all ages), and to develop recommendations for making the national parks barrier free by 2040.

We plan to:

  • Perform a scoping review to identify existing accessibility best practices and standards found in Canada and internationally as well as relevant research, and technologies that may be useful for supporting park accessibility.
  • Develop an Accessibility Matrix for Canada’s national parks (and park reserves) that categorizes disability type/severity (e.g., mobility, visual, hearing, cognitive, etc.) on one axis and activities (e.g., hiking, swimming, fishing, camping, dining, toileting, etc.) on the other axis to capture all accessibility issues that need to be considered. The cells of the matrix will be populated with accessibility solutions that are currently in-place at national parks or parks in other jurisdictions. The need for further research/technology development will be highlighted where no acceptable solutions exist.
  • Develop a Park Accessibility Assessment Tool that will be used to assign an accessibility score to each park for each disability type.
  • Assign an Accessibility Score to each of Canada’s 47 National Parks along with Park-Specific Recommendations to improve access.
  • All of this work will be done in consultation with stakeholders including individuals with disabilities, their caregivers, and Parks Canada.

    To learn more about the project, please visit our website at www.accessibleparkscanada.ca.

    Team

    Alison Whiting, Zeyad Ghulam, Waqas Sajid, Tilak Dutta