B.C. spending $3.6M to improve park accessibility
Bumpy trails, tiny outhouses and cramped campsites are often part of the outdoor experience on Vancouver Island. But they don't have to be.
They're just a few of the obstacles that prevent people from getting outside, and now the province wants to change that with a new $3.6 million investment into improving parks and campgrounds over then next three years.
"If you were in a wheelchair you wouldn't be able to get to that swing," said disability advocate Susan Simmons while standing at a playground in Victoria.
"We don't want a two-tiered society. So everybody has a right to access," she said.
Simmons is one of many people on Vancouver Island who lives with multiple sclerosis and who faces many different barriers every day, she says.
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman says the province is aware of the challenges.
"The barriers might be physical, they might be cultural, they might be financial, they might be language, they might be sensory, they could be technological, they could even be visual," he said at the announcement Wednesday.
The $3.6 million in funding will go towards upgrades on the Lower Mainland, according to the province.
"More accessible campsites, more accessible toilets, natural features in parking areas," said Heyman.
On Vancouver Island, Heyman says the province has already made gains towards accessibility, pointing towards a new paved parking lot at Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville as an example.
When thinking about trail accessibility, our minds tend to turn to wheelchairs. But it's just one area where accommodations are needed.
"One of the groups we never talk about are people with intellectual disabilities and the impact that the environment has on them," said Simmons.
She hopes to see more park interpreters and signs with symbols out in nature.
"I’m excited to see what’s ahead," she said. "I really hope that the province works with the range of disabilities as they do this."
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