• Para athlete Ben Brown maps the Western Loop - Harvest Moon Trailway in Wolfville, NS (Photo: Paul Darrow)

Crisscrossing Canada from coast to coast, the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) is working to make its 27,000-plus kilometres of recreational trails more accessible with the help of many para athletes, including participants in the Paralympic Games.

This year, the TCT partnered with social startup AccessNow to encourage Canadians to map and evaluate the trail's accessibility status. Surveying user feedback on the AccessNow app (available on the App Store and Google Play), the TCT will remove identified physical barriers.

Mapping proceeded over 12 trail sections across all 10 provinces and one territory. Announced in February, the first iteration of mapped trails is now available. A second expansion is in the works.

“The first thing we set out to do was discover how accessible segments of the trail were for people with various disabilities, and how we can improve upon that to remove some of the barriers that might exist in the built environment for some people to enjoy the outdoors,” details Maayan Ziv, AccessNow founder and CEO. A wheelchair user herself, Ziv prioritizes disabled persons’ overriding voices in accessibility initiatives. “If we’re going to design solutions that improve accessibility or invest in infrastructure in any way, it should absolutely come from the perspectives of people who require access first,” she explains.

This first mapping phase was completed with the help of many Canadian paralympians and non-participating para athletes on behalf of the Canadian Paralympic Committee. While wheelchair basketball and para badminton athlete Richard Peter mapped in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, for instance, para ice hockey player Liam Hickey mapped the Quidi Vidi Lake Trail in St. John’s on Canada’s opposite coast.

“We engaged with the Paralympic Committee as a natural thought leader in terms of representing people with disabilities to do outdoor physical activity,” says Ziv. "We threw this at them and said, ‘We don’t know what we’re gonna expect yet, but we’d love to showcase some of the paralympic athletes who are not yet going to the games.’” Trail guides assisted the athletes for a quick “first pass” and preliminary review of the trail, after which users would review the trails for themselves and add to feedback for the TCT. The first update went live on June 23 and further updates are underway.

The TCT snakes through all Canadian provinces and territories. Spanning a myriad of different natural and urban settings, it is the longest network of multi-use recreational trails in the world. The TCT is a registered charity that relies on donations and input from partners across Canada. 

Here’s a list of trail sections that have been mapped, with links to the para athletes/paralympians that reviewed them: