3 min Read

Accessible Nature

Our planet, by nature, is often quite inaccessible to anyone. Let’s face it, we can’t go everywhere. But with summer finally here, we can think of ways to improve accessibility in certain areas to ensure everyone can enjoy the benefits of nature. We have a few strategies to make the outdoors more accessible for people with disabilities.

Slogging up and down the Grouse Grind may not be the goal, but local trails and paths should be designed using universal design principles to accommodate various disabilities. This includes making trails wide enough for wheelchairs and other mobility devices, providing firm and stable surfaces, and minimizing steep grades and ensuring debris is limited.

Clear, accessible signage and way finding is crucial. Signs should use large, high-contrast text and include braille and tactile features. Information about trail difficulty, distance, and accessibility should be available at trailheads and online.

Provide frequent, accessible rest areas along trails. These areas should have benches with backrests and armrests, shade, and space for wheelchairs.

Ensure restrooms are fully accessible, with wide doorways, grab bars, and adequate turning space for wheelchairs. Family or companion restrooms can also be beneficial.

Accessible parking spaces should be located close to trailheads, picnic areas, and other facilities. Ensure these spaces have ample room for vehicles equipped with wheelchair lifts.

Provide picnic tables that are designed for wheelchair access. These tables should have extended tabletops to allow wheelchairs to roll under comfortably.

Here in Vancouver there are plenty of bikes and scooters to rent, so why not rent adaptive equipment? Rentals could include all-terrain wheelchairs, beach wheelchairs, and adaptive bicycles. This equipment allows individuals with disabilities to explore areas that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Often seen at DDA’s Leisure Fair, many outdoor programs and activities are or can be inclusive. This could include guided nature walks with interpreters who can cater to various needs, adaptive sports programs, and accessible fishing or boating opportunities.

Construct fishing docks and piers with ramps or smooth paths leading to them. Ensure the railings have gaps or cut-outs to allow for easy fishing from a seated position. While many docks in BC do have ramps, these can be difficult to navigate depending on whether the tide is high or low.

Thankfully, we are seeing more and more beach access mats or pathways that allow wheelchair users to reach the shoreline. Accessible beach wheelchairs should also be available for rent.

Creating accessible outdoor spaces is not just about compliance with regulations; it’s about fostering an inclusive environment where everyone can experience the joy and benefits of nature. By implementing these strategies, we can make significant strides towards making the outdoors more welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities. Let’s work together to ensure that beautiful British Columbia is available to all, regardless of ability.