Travel should be an option for everyone. But it’s a barrier for travellers with wheelchairs or mobility aids unless destinations are accessibility-friendly. And for travellers in a wheelchair or with mobility challenges, it’s important to plan ahead. If you’re looking for Canada’s most accessible cities to help you with your travel planning, here are our top choices based off of expert perspectives.
Please note: Some of the destinations and attractions listed below might not be open to travellers at the moment. Remember to always check the government guidelines and follow all local health and safety guidance before booking any trip.
What makes a city accessible?
There is currently no universal measure of accessibility across Canadian cities, but there are ways to identify what makes a Canadian city more accessible than another.
For starters, The Rick Hansen Foundation works to eradicate the barriers that individuals with physical disabilities face. They created The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification to rate accessibility fairly in commercial, industrial, and residential buildings in Canada. When a building or site in Canada has this accreditation, they are demonstrating not only meaningful access, but a dedication to removing barriers for everyone. This is especially important for travellers looking for wheelchair accessible cities.
When accessibility is a top priority, it means that you are typically planning any type of trip ahead of time to ensure that mobility won’t be a limiting factor when arriving at a new destination.
As blogger Cory Lee from Curb Free with Cory Lee puts it:
“The first thing that I always look into when I am planning a trip somewhere is transportation. Once I get to the destination, am I going to be able to find wheelchair accessible taxis, or is the public transportation accessible – buses, metros, things like that. If a city is really going to be accessible then they have to have accessible transportation.“
Top wheelchair accessible cities in Canada
With a wheelchair-friendly public transportation system and programs designed for people who need assistance, Montreal is one of the most accessible cities in Canada. Not only is the city filled with beautiful attractions and excellent food from all over the world, it also has a public metro system with 16 wheelchair accessible stations and an accessible city bus system. There is also a service where you can rent a van, which accommodates wheelchair users who want to explore more of Quebec.
Many of Montreal’s most popular attractions are also wheelchair accessible, including Mount Royal, the Notre-Dame Basilica, the Montreal Botanical Gardens, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
“Quebec as a province is doing a phenomenal job about accessibility. Canada is really great at accessibility, but with the company Kéroul in Quebec, the accessibility information is already out there. They’ve already done the research for you.”Cory Lee, from Curb Free with Cory Lee
Accessible travel tip
If you’re looking for an accessible hotel in Montreal, check out Hôtel de l’ITHQ. Features include an excellent location in downtown Montreal, spacious rooms, accessible outlets, and user-friendly showers.
Not only is Winnipeg an emerging must-visit destination in Canada, but one of the most wheelchair accessible cities in Canada. And in 2017, Winnipeg won an Accessible Cities Award granted by the Rick Hansen Foundation.
Winnipeg was recognized for having progressive policies and succeeding in making a large scope of accessibility improvements to the city’s infrastructure. They were especially rewarded with their proactive measures over the past 20 years to be an inclusive, user-friendly city.
One of the most notable examples of this is showcased in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. This top attraction in Winnipeg sets a high example for inclusive design: it’s accessible for everyone, and strives to ensure that your disability is not a barrier to enjoying a visit to the museum. Whether you are blind, deaf or in a wheelchair, the museum makes it possible for everyone to use it equally.
“I went to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and it was the most accessible museums I have ever been to. They designed it to be fully accessible and the public transportation was really great.”Cory Lee
Want to cruise around Winnipeg in style? Consider booking a wheelchair accessible limousine for the ultimate, luxurious ride.
Like Winnipeg, Edmonton also received the Accessibility Cities Award from the Rick Hansen Foundation in 2017 because of it’s pro-active accommodation measures and Accessible Advisory Committee.
“The City of Edmonton has made accessibility a priority in all areas. Three of the City’s six 10-year strategic goals specifically address improving accessibility for its citizens and outline ways in which Edmonton is striving to become an inclusive, accessible and affordable community.”Rick Hansen Foundation
Some accessible attractions in Edmonton include City Hall, the City Arts Centre, the Muttart Conservatory, and the Walterdale Theatre. Washrooms, entrances, and parking are all elements that make these sites more accessible for travellers with a wheelchair.
Pro-accessibility resources in Canada
Kéroul is a Quebec based organization focused on providing up-to date information for people with restricted physical ability within the realms of tourism and culture. Anyone heading to Quebec can check out the site and feel better prepared when it comes to matters such as tour operators, transportation, and personal assistance.
Tourist and Leisure Companion Sticker
The Tourist and Leisure Companion Sticker originated in Quebec. This accessibility incentive is open to residents of the province, and gives a person with a physical disability or mental health condition a companion of at least 12 years old free access to tourist, cultural and recreational sites. You can apply for the sticker with this form.
Laws for accessibility
In accordance with the One Person, One Fare requirement in the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations in the Canada Transportation Act, all carriers (this includes airlines and trains) are required to provide additional and adjacent seating for support persons free of charge on all domestic travel.
“Air Canada allows a companion to fly for free as long as it’s in Canada domestically. That’s something that I think no other country in the world has. That’s really way ahead of the game.”Cory Lee
Discover where you can go
If you’re wondering about the latest travel restrictions for Canadians, check out our interactive global map and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.