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ASSESSMENT OF 34 TOURISM-RELATED BUSINESSES FINDS 18 ARE NOT ACCESSIBLE FOR DISABLED
OSOYOOS TIMES-September 2, 2009
By Paul Everest – Osoyoos Times
Only half of the Osoyoos businesses assessed earlier this summer for accessibility for people with disabilities received a passing grade.
In June, a member with the Accessible Tourism Strategy audited 34 businesses in town that are involved with the tourism industry.
Each business was rated on a three-point scale based on accessibility for people with mobility challenges, people who are visually impaired and people who have hearing impairments.
For example, if a hotel has wheelchair access, such as ramps, parking for people with disabilities and a wheelchair-accessible washroom, it would receive a rating of one.
If a restaurant has wheelchair access along with alternate menu formats such as online menus for people who are visually impaired, it would receive a rating of two on the scale.
Throw in appropriate lighting levels in a business so that deaf people can lip-read and a business would receive a rating of three, meaning it would be accessible to all.
Sixteen businesses received a rating of one or more out of three, while 18 businesses received a grade of zero.
The strategy was spearheaded by 2010 Legacies Now, a provincial non-profit organization established in 2007 with a mandate to promote tourism in B.C. in the time leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Richard Molyneux, a co-director for 2010 Legacies Now’s disabilities initiative, said 65 businesses in Osoyoos were approached for the audit and agreeing to participate was on a voluntary basis.
He said 17 of the 34 businesses assessed were accommodation properties such as hotels and six of them received a rating of one or more.
Out of the other 17 businesses studied, 10 received a rating of one or higher.
Businesses which received a rating of zero would receive a report advising them about what could be done to improve accessibility and where to go for funding for accessibility-focused renovations or upgrades, Molyneux said.
“They may never have thought about disabilities before,” he said. “We don’t want them to be scared of disabilities, we want them to embrace it because it’s good for business.”
The results of the assessment are being sent to the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA), which will then distribute the ratings to local businesses.
Molyneux said his organization hopes TOTA and the businesses that participated will use the information generated from the assessment for marketing purposes.
He added that accessible businesses could be promoted through means such as websites where people could see which shops, restaurants or hotels in a community are accessible.
A representative from TOTA was not available for comment before press time.
One of 2010 Legacies Now’s goals is to promote B.C. as a premier travel destination for people with disabilities, Molyneux said, and 3,000 accessibility audits have taken place across the province since the project began.
Roughly 650 million people across the globe could benefit from accessible businesses, he said.
In North America alone, 58 million people could benefit from accessible businesses.
The assessment was paid for through $1.2 million worth of funding from the province for 2010 Legacies Now.
In the future, Molyneux said, auditors involved with the strategy will return to communities throughout B.C. for further assessments and to see if businesses are improving accessibility.