Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happen To Be In Vancouver? Check Out The Winter Paralympics

When Turin wrapped its Olympics and passed the torch to Vancouver, BC at the closing ceremonies in 2006, here’s what I and half a billion other people saw: a handsome guy in a motorized wheelchair, centre stage, deftly waving a huge Canadian flag.  More after the jump.

That image, of then-Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, a quadriplegic, announced to the world: the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are going to be different. The people who run that town get accessibility. Come see. Nose-to-the-glass you will not be, anywhere.

Sullivan’s promise to make the 2010 Winter Games—both sets of ‘em—the most accessible ever looks like it’ll be a legacy. All sites and venues are barrier-free. Leave them, and you move through perhaps the most wheelchair-friendly city in North America. Most bars and restaurants are. Virtually all public transit is. (The bus I take downtown from North Vancouver is forever stopping to “kneel down” for a wheelchair passenger.) The airport is, in spades.

The disabled can look up at Grouse Mountain from Stanley Park, or down on Stanley Park from Grouse Mountain. And in Whistler, BC, which is quickly catching up in accessible amenities, a wheelchair won’t stop anyone from taking mono-ski lessons or renting a hand-cycle or—believe it—going bungee jumping.

Metro Vancouver knows it’s in the shop window. The late “Marathon of Hope” man Terry Fox lived here. “Man in Motion” Rick Hansen still does. In 2010, the city will stand in for Canada itself, for our country’s efforts over the past two decades to make access issues second nature to city planners, and inclusiveness a bedrock national value.

“In many respects, Canada can be looked upon as a model to the world,” says Hansen, who has a lot of data points, having rolled through 34 countries on four continents to raise money for spinal-cord research. “I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, and believe there is a firm commitment from Canadians to continue working towards making Canada fully accessible and inclusive. I believe that our best work is yet to come.”

Tickets to the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games are on sale at

Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission

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