Montreal hosts forum on accessible tourism for people with disabilities
Published Sunday, October 19, 2014 4:00PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 20, 2014 8:21AM EDT
When most people go on vacation, they don’t have to worry about such issues as how they’ll be able to get inside their hotel rooms, or if the washroom will be wheelchair accessible.
For many living with a disability, those concerns are paramount.
For the first time, Montreal is holding a conference on making tourism accessible for everyone.
Called Destinations for All, the conference is taking place until Wednesday with a goal of addressing tourism, culture and transportation for those with reduced or restricted mobility.
Many don’t realize that even one small curb or step can be a barrier for some.
“Being in a motorized wheelchair, even going into a restaurant if there is a step of four or five inches, I can't get in,” said Isabelle Ducharme, president of Keroul, an organization that provides resources to travelers with disabilities.
When Ducharme travels, she said she often struggles with finding the right place to stay.
Each country and even city has its own definition of what it means to be accessible, something Ducharme wants to change that with the international summit.
“It would be nice if we all talked the same language and we all understood the same thing when we talk about accessibility,” she said.
Over the course of four days, experts from around the world will discuss different ways of making tourism universally accessible, swapping ideas and sharing stories.
"Businesses should start thinking about how can we make it better for disabled people. You get what I call a win-win situation," said Atle Lunde from the Norwegian Association for the Blind.
About 15 per cent of the world's population lives with a disability and with an aging population, that number is expected to climb.
Montreal continues to work on these issues, said Mayor Denis Coderre, who spoke at the event.
“Montreal is a place that respects universal accessibility. It’s an ongoing issue,” said Coderre. “There’s a reason why people are coming here. You have tourism that’s accessible.”
When it comes to public transit, the mayor said improvements are being made. Currently only seven of the city's 68 metro stations have an elevator and are wheelchair friendly.
“Ninety seven per cent of public buildings are accessible in Montreal, but where we built (the metros) in 1965, now we are renovating a lot of them. The new ones we are making sure that they are accessible. But every time we talk about public transport we’ll have to address that," he said. "For public contracts, when we’re going through bids, we make sure there is a reflex for universal accessibility, so we’re doing our share."
All the information gathered from the four-day event will be available on Keroul's website, along with resources on universally accessible cities and venues.