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February 6, 2015

Tourists

On January 15th, Martin Luther King Day in the US, HalifaxExaminer highlighted two interesting stories:
  • In a letter to the Chronicle Herald, Ralph Ferguson, tireless advocate from Pictou, laments the poor accessibility of the Abbie J. Lane Hospital.  Showing up for a sleep study, Ferguson met unmanageable doors and a rather primitive array of washrooms.
  • CBC recoils in horror at the circumstances of a potential visit by Martin Luther King, Jr. to Fundy Park in 1960.  Although the unwelcome mat was put out by a Canadian, CBC blames American tourists.
If he was alive in 2015, MLKJr would be given a hearty welcome at the Abbie J. Lane, but how would Ralph fare at Fundy Park?

The place where MLK didn't go is called only "private chalets".  Googling "fundy park chalet" gives several plausible results.  I thought Fundy Highlands Chalets seemed the most likely - within park boundaries and about the right size and vintage.  It is a typical Maritime place; spotless, in a beautiful setting, idyllic.  I sent an email inquiring about wheelchair access and received a reply 18 days later (they're closed until May):

We unfortunately do not have wheelchair accessible accommodations.

This is so typical and short sighted.  In the Northeast US, there are 55,943,073 people, 15.1% of whom are over 65.  That's 8,447,404 candidates for a peaceful and inexpensive vacation.  They're not all wheelchair users to be sure, but they're not Olympic athletes either.  If you use a walker or have an achy hip,  you don't want this cabin without a ramp or railings:


Ralph Ferguson is too much of a gentleman to ascribe this to prejudice.  I'm tempted, but it's prejudice born of ignorance, not malice.

But how could a half decent businessperson fail to recognize that an investment of a thousand dollars could lure some customers?  Gas is cheap, the Loonie is in the toilet, retirement funds are overflowing, the Bay of Fundy is on everyone's bucket list, including Frommer's, nobody wants to get on an airplane.

When the owners of Fundy Highlands drive to Florida, as they probably have done, they pass hundreds, thousands! of accessible rooms in Holiday Inn Express hotels.  Not fancy, but a grab bar and roll-in shower makes all the difference. When returning North, after Calais starts the Gobi Desert of accessibility.

In the US, people are comfortable setting off on their driving vacation because a suitable room is sure to be found at the next exit.  Not so in the Maritimes.  People get discouraged, word gets around.  An email like the one I got can deep-six a whole plan: "I really wanted to get further up the bay, but I guess not.  Let's cancel St. Andrews and stay an extra week in Bar Harbor".  

It's like vaccinations: one unprotected idiot makes everyone vulnerable.

The Tourism Departments are falling down on the job.  Make accommodations be accessible.  For everyone's good.

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