Rick Hansen Foundation Launches Global Accessibility map

Rick Hansen, one of Canada's most respected pa...

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Twenty-five years ago, inspired by the dream of finding a cure after spinal cord injury and creating a more accessible and inclusive world, Rick Hansen set out on his Man In Motion World Tour- forever changing how the world views the potential of people with disabilities. The Rick Hansen Foundation has moved one step closer to realizing this dream through the launch of the Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map - an easy-to-use online ratings tool that offers the opportunity to submit and obtain reviews from a mobility, hearing and sight perspective, on accessibility of buildings and public services in communities around the world.

"While progress has been made, accessibility for persons with disabilities remains a barrier in communities across B.C., Canada and around the world.  We all have it in us to become powerful influencers of change, and I invite Canadians to participate in the first phase of this new initiative by submitting reviews of accessibility in their own communities," said Rick Hansen.  "Whether considering where to attend university, apply for a job, or simply go for dinner, people with disabilities, as well as their families, want to know what can be easily accessed and the Global Accessibility Map is designed to meet this need."

As part of the Foundation's ongoing commitment to improving accessibility and quality of life for all people - including people with disabilities, seniors, parents with strollers or caregivers with mobility aids - the Global Accessibility Map is similar in concept to consumer reviews commonly found on travel websites, but with a focus on accessibility criteria.

The online tool is available at www.rickhansenglobalaccessibilitymap.com, where visitors are invited to create an account, and begin rating venues from a mobility, hearing, or sight perspective.  Ratings are based on accessibility criteria provided within the tool. In this first phase, the web-based tool is accessed by desktop, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry Torch, and devices using Android 2.2 or above on the Opera Mobile browser. The long term goal of the Global Accessibility Map includes the development of a professional ratings tool as well as ongoing enhanced functionality that further meets the needs of all consumers.

"The information generated by the consumer tool has the potential to create tangible, positive change in the lives of many people across Canada, and around the world.  It will empower people to make informed decisions about accessible places to eat, work and play - while creating greater awareness about the economic power of people with disabilities. When accessible enterprises have more clients coming through their doors, it creates incentive," said Daryl Rock, Volunteer Chair of the Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map Steering Committee.

The launch of the Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map was held at the newly-revitalized BC Place Stadium, which showcased accessibility upgrades as part of its complete renovation.  Some noteworthy improvements include accessible seating areas throughout the stadium, thereby providing accessible seating at every price point within the stadium. In addition, airlocks that were previously problematic for wheelchair users have been removed, allowing accessible entry from any gate in the building; washrooms have been upgraded to include accessible facilities in each quadrant, including accessible family washrooms; and all suites now have the ability to accommodate accessible seating.

"We saw the recent revitalization of BC Place as an opportunity to bring the accessible amenities of the stadium into the 21st century," said Howard Crosley, General Manager of BC Place. "As well as improved access and amenities, we now offer many more accessible viewing areas - located in every price bracket of the stadium - for wheelchair users, and their companions."

The Global Accessibility Map is an innovation of the Rick Hansen Foundation, with financial support provided by the Province of B.C. through 2010 Legacies Now, Wallace McCain through the Mike Harcourt SCI Leadership Endowment Fund, the Blue Streak Endowment Fund and Rick Hansen Foundation fundraising.  With the aim of empowering people with disabilities to participate fully in society by improving information on access to buildings and services, the Global Accessibility Map will promote inclusivity as a social good and fundamental right in Canada.

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