Accommodating Outdoor Enthusiasts with Disabilities

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Outfitters are reporting increasing numbers of requests for special accommodations from outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities.  At the same time, accessibility legislation in the U.S. and Canada has raised the bar in terms of the level of accessibility customers expect when they book their vacations.  These trends can be attributed to the average age of the outdoor enthusiast increasing, and with age often comes disability.

Did you know, 17% of people between the ages of 40 and 65, and 40% of those between the ages of 65 and 75, all share one thing in common, they have at least one disability.  The rate goes up to 53% for those over 75.  With over 48 million Americans and 3.4 million Canadians with disabilities, can you really afford not to make accommodations? 

Accommodations can be relatively inexpensive and simple to implement if you include the principal of “access for all” in the design stage of your facilities and services.  Retrofitting can be more costly, but simple short-term solutions can meet your immediate needs if implemented correctly.  Most provincial building codes now include detailed standards for accessible building designs; unfortunately, little published information exists on accessible designs for assets such as docks, paths, boats, outhouses, fish-cleaning stations, hunting blinds, etc.).  Once you’ve implemented accessibility features, the next step is to secure a return on your investment. 

As a person with a disability myself, my love for the great out-of-doors led to my acquiring a Masters in environmental studies with a specialization in designing environments accessible to everyone.  I’ve lived in Canada’s Arctic to research traditional Inuit accommodation strategies, resided in Sweden to document their innovative integration solutions, served as the “Special  Advisor” on accessibility to Canada’s Senate, supervised the construction of numerous fully-accessible residential and commercial facilities, and ultimately designed the world’s first fishing boat for the blind.  My ground-breaking work has led to my receiving numerous awards including the “Meritorious Service Medal” from Canada’s Governor General. 

The services I offer outfitters, guides, consumers  and equipment manufacturers include designing from the ground up accessible facilities and services, implementing alternative marketing strategies, testing products for accessibility and usability, conducting environmental accessibility assessments, providing key note addresses, and sensitivity / etiquette training.   I also organize Canadian Fishing Adventures for guests with disabilities from around the world.  For more information, visit www.blindfishingboat.com/outdooraccessibility, or contact me directly by phone at: (613) 232-2028 or by email at info@blindfishingboat.com

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