A 2015 study by the Open Doors Organization in the US quantifies how much adults with disabilities spend on travel in the US —$17.3 billion annually, and adds that in the past two years alone, more than 26 million adults with disabilities traveled for pleasure and/or business, taking 73 million trips.
So that's 13 million travelers in the US spending $1330 each. $1773 CDN at today's rate of exchange.
According to NS Tourism Nova Scotia welcomed an estimated 1.8 million overnight visitors in 2013, down three per cent compared to 2012. In 2010, 9%, or 162,000 were from the USofA
As a wheelchair user, I can say unequivocally that travel in the Maritimes is a pain in the neck. novascotia.com lists 157 of 784 places to stay as 'wheelchair accessible'. That's 20% of places, not rooms. At the Blomidon Inn, a popular Victorian pile in Wolfville, just one room is wheelchair accessible. novascotia.com has a voluntary program called Access Advisor with standards that are so loose as to be meaningless. Here's their take on Fully Accessible Requirements:
- Minimum 1 designated parking space per 100 or adjacent legal street
- Firm/stable/slip resistant parking surface
- Space must be clearly marked with an upright or pavement sign
- Exterior & Interior
- Path of travel to entrance and throughout interior is firm/stable and slip resistant
- Areas are well lit and free of tripping hazards
- Level entrance, or threshold no more than 13 mm (.5″) beveled height
- Lever/push/pull door handles that can be operated using one hand without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist
- Doors require minimal force to open; 3.6 kg (8lbs) or less
- Clear, easy to read signage (directional & hazard warnings.
- If stairs are present:
- Uniform riser height, with closed risers
- Handrails installed
- Pull handle on both inside and outside of stall door
- Grab bars installed
- Controls for taps can be operated using one hand and do not require a firm grasp, pinching or twisting of the wrist
- Well lit
Our ADA-compliant rooms create the most hospitable environment possible for special needs guests. Bathrooms are equipped with many special details, including roll-in shower, lowered light switches and closet rod as well as a roll under sink and safety bars. We have five of these rooms available and some are connected to a traditional guest room in case you are traveling with an attendant. All of our hotel signage feature Braille in both English and French. The Holiday Inn Express Airport Dieppe is fully ADA-compliant. Our accessible rooms feature an extra-wide entrance door, extra maneuvering room and we have several ability items on hand if you need them (by request). Please specify your needs at time of booking.A modest goal might be to attract another 162,000 visitors from the US. At $1773 a pop, people with disabilities would be an interesting target group. So let's see, 162,000 x $1773 x 15% is $43,083,900 in HST revenue. All those aging baby boomers who have come to depend on well-laid-out washrooms would love Nova Scotia's charms. If only there was a place to stay.....
Let's be generous to our job creators and invest half that through forgivable loans to tourist accommodations that meet a useful standard for people with disabilities. Not fancy, just reliably useful. The Americans have done the heavy lifting - we know what an accessible room should look like.
An extremely generous $10,000 per room would increase the availability of accessible rooms by 2,154 every year. In a 100 day season, that's 200,000 visits. Word would get around. Here's a curve we can be in front of, instead of always playing catch-up ball.
Unlike Laurel Broten's bad deal with RBC, the $21 million won't end up in Bay Street. The money will all get spent here, on a rapidly growing segment of tourism.