• Alison Whiting

Updates from the Team

We are approximately a quarter of the way through our 2-year project, and a lot has been going on behind the scenes. Below are some updates from the research team members about the sub-projects we’ve been working on.

The objective of this project is to make national parks more accessible to people with disabilities and their caregivers.

One of the primary deliverables of our project is an Accessibility Matrix that will provide decision makers with a comprehensive list of possible or potential solutions to improve access so that individuals with disabilities can enjoy the range of activities that national parks have to offer. This flow chart illustrates the various different sources of information that we are drawing from to populate the matrix.

This image describes a flowchart for our project. The main outcome of the project is the Accessibility Matrix, which will be developed using surveys, park visits, stakeholder feedback, and the scoping review of both literature and YouTube
Project Flowchart

The Accessibility Matrix

The Accessibility Matrix will provide a cross-reference of potential solutions and/or recommendations for how to make national parks, and the activities visitors do there, more accessible for everyone, regardless of type or severity of disability.

Along the top of the matrix are all the different facilities and features present at national parks (e.g., washrooms, change rooms, picnic areas), as well as the different activities park goers might participate in (e.g., hiking, swimming, kayaking). The side of the matrix will list different types of impairments, organized into five categories; Physical, Sensory, Cognitive, Mental Health & Communication. Each cell within the matrix will list solutions, services and/or design considerations that would allow that given activity/facility to be more accessible for an individuals with that specific disability.

This image is a draft of the accessibility matrix that our research team is designing.
Draft Accessibility Matrix

This matrix is still under development, but we have already begun to showcase some of the solutions we have here on the website within the matrix. We encourage our readers to post comments or send us feedback about the adaptive equipment and innovative ideas we share here.

Survey & Data Collection

Another component of the project is to collect data from individuals with disabilities and their caregivers through an online survey about their experiences visiting national and provincial parks. We have created two versions of the survey, one for people with disabilities and a second version for caregivers. This allowed us to tailor questions for the specific audience.

The survey will cover all aspects of visiting a national or provincial park; from planning the trip and travelling to the park, facilitators and barriers to access while at the park, participating in chosen activities, and overall enjoyment.

We are currently in the ethics approval process but hope to have the survey up live on our website soon. When it’s live, we will be sure to post it here and on Social Media, and share it through our network of stakeholders and company partners. The survey will be open to adults aged 18 years or older who have a disability or are a paid or unpaid caregiver to a person with a disability. Keep your eye on our website for more updates!

Never been to a national or provincial park because the barriers to access are just too big? Stay tuned, we are working on a way to gather feedback from you too!

Scoping Literature Review

Our research project also includes a scoping review. What is a scoping review, you ask? After researchers study a topic, they publish their results in articles within academic journals. Information about these articles is then stored in very large academic databases with thousands of other articles. A scoping review is the formal name for the comprehensive method of searching these academic databases to find relevant articles.

The first steps of the scoping review process is to pin point the search terms that will pull up relevant search results out of the academic database. We start with broad concepts relevant to the topic of outdoor parks, like “front country recreation areas” and then repeatedly break it down into sub-categories, like “front country camping grounds” and “front country picnic areas” until we get down to precise words or phrases, like “cabins” and “fire pit”. We then take all these categories and terms and combine them into a giant search string which we feed into a database to find relevant articles about outdoor parks. Pretty neat!

In a similar way, we also develop a search strategy for disabilities. In this case, we’re using the disability type categories that Statistics Canada uses in the Canadian Survey on Disabilities as our starting point with the addition of Communication Disabilities.

YouTube Search Strategy

During our preliminary research we discovered that YouTube holds a lot of information about accessibility in national parks. So we’re developing a way to include the information stored in videos into our research.

Our search strategy is focusing on two types of videos. First are videos where individuals with disabilities share their lived experiences while visiting national or provincial parks and the barriers and facilitators they draw attention to. And second are webinars or conference proceedings where speakers talk about their experiences and lessons learned while working on park accessibility projects.

Our work in this area is ongoing as we recognize the rich and important input that these videos have on our research. We are in the process of developing the best strategy for identifying relevant videos and extracting the data.

If you’ve ever posted a video on YouTube about your experiences at a national or provincial park, please let us know in the comments below!

Accessibility Assessment Tool & Site Visits

As well as gathering data about parks through the survey, the research team themselves will be visiting national parks local to them and conducting Accessibility Assessments.

We are currently developing an Accessibility Assessment Tool that will allow us to gather data on existing features and/or services and whether they meet current accessibility guidelines. We’ve been in touch with organizations that already have similar tools in place, like EuroParc in Europe, the National Center of Accessibility in the US, and BC Parks in British Columbia, in order to learn more about these tools and the value they can add to this research.

We are also looking into how we can live-stream or video record these site visits to share with stakeholders in a focus group type setting, in order to learn more about what barriers and facilitators to access are currently present at park locations.

Our Website

If you’re reading this blog, it’s probably because you’ve already stumbled across our website.

If you’re new here, we’d love it if you’d check out some of the previous blog posts where we’ve been sharing information related to park accessibility, topics of which include assistive devices, accessible services in North America, accessibility advocates and lived experiences at various national parks.

Over the next few months, we will continue working to increase our website content and engagement with the community. Our plans include to post a rolling list of assistive devices that can used in parks, posting the surveys when we are ready to begin data collection, and updates on how our scoping review and other sub-projects are coming along.


If you have questions or feedback about anything you read about today, please feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!

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