First launched in 2008, International Wheelchair Day is celebrated every March 1 for wheelchair users to celebrate the impact their wheelchair has had on their lives. Whether manual, powered, transit, self-propelled, folding, rigid, tilt-in-space, or anything else, wheelchairs provide mobility and freedom.

One per cent of the Canadian population are community-dwelling wheelchair and scooter users, amounting to approximately 288,800 individuals. To protect the fundamental rights of these people, in 2019 Canada adopted new accessibility legislation – the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) – that strives to identify, remove, and prevent barriers facing people with disabilities and make Canada barrier free by 2040.

This important legislation puts the responsibility on organizations to start finding, removing, and preventing barriers. This includes Government departments and private businesses such as banks, airlines, and telecommunications companies. Change has already begun – national parks are making efforts to become more accessible.

Accessibility outdoors

Getting outdoors is important for physical and mental health. Areas of particular importance outdoors, regarding accessibility, include car parks, park footpaths, and play equipment. For those using wheelchairs and other mobility aids, smooth surfaces and sufficient space are imperative for the safe navigation of outdoor areas.

Upgrading your wheelchair itself has also never been more exciting with the wheelchair manufacturers utilizing new inventions and technologies many of which focus on power add-ons turning manual wheelchairs into power wheelchairs or a front wheel which helps regular wheelchairs become powerful hiking machines. If you think your wheelchair could do more, every year there are more innovative attachment ideas to research.

In Canada, we are also delighted to see public attractions focusing on accessibility and many popular destinations are now wheelchair accessible and has an all-terrain wheelchair if you want to go on off-trail. The CN tower has also recently adapted its facilities to improve the experience for all types of visitors. These are great improvements that help wheelchair users access life and all the experiences they want to have alongside the rest of the population.

Accessibility indoors

Wheelchair users have the opportunity to create the living environment that suits their precise needs in the home.

Making your home wheelchair accessible does not have to cost a fortune or involve a complete new build from scratch. A wheelchair-friendly home will ideally have a minimum of 36″ doorways throughout, but if this is impractical, installing offset hinges allow doors to swing clear of the doorway adding up to an inch of clearance. Sometimes referred to as “Z” hinges, these can be relatively easy and inexpensive to install and create just enough space to accommodate a wheelchair.

An often-overlooked aspect in creating a wheelchair-friendly home is lighting. A quick tour of every space in a wheelchair can soon establish problems with glare which can be fixed by adjusting the level of lighting. Add to this light switch positioning can be tackled.

A home elevator can be lifechanging for wheelchair users as it allows you and your chair to travel between floors independently at any time day or night. Funding is available for domestic home elevators and the Stiltz Trio Home Elevator is a very popular choice in Canada. The Stiltz Trip Thru Car option is particularly effective as it allows users to enter and exit from both sides of the lift. This is made possible by the innovative, self-supporting, Stiltz dual rail technology.