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Progressive Oregon Coast initiatives
By Nancy Baye

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Early in 2023, eight Oregon destination management organizations (DMOs), received grants to partner with Wheel the World. The goal of the venture is to make the Oregon Coast and its activities even more accessible to travelers with disabilities. And that’s saying a lot. Long the envy of other areas, Oregon is known as progressive in its accessibility initiatives. This became apparent to me at the 2022 TravelAbility Summit, where I met many of these players. (If you missed out on that event, don’t miss the one in August 2023.)

The impressive Wheel the World is a global accessible travel company with a fearless edge. They help travelers with disabilities identify and book travel experiences, which they vet themselves, passing on the details to their specialized customer support staff. Their ever-growing database includes accommodations, activities and travel packages.

The awarded funds come through Travel Oregon’s 2022 Capacity and Small Project Grants. The eight recipients aim to give disabled travelers to their fair state complete and current accessibility information so they can make the most of their visit. The fund recipients are Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln City, Coos Bay-North Bend-Charleston Visitor & Convention Bureau, Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce, Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, Waldport Chamber of Commerce and Yachats Chamber of Commerce. Wheel the World will collaborate with recipients to perform a local tourism accessibility assessment, share accessibility training through their Academy and create a listing on their website.

Outside of this collaboration, two other funds were gifted. The Tillamook Coast Visitors Association’s funds will go an accessibility audit to identify accessibility gaps for recreation users with mobility challenges. Travel Lane County’s award will increase the number of hearing loops in local accommodations, venues and attractions.

At the core of all these projects and their funding, is the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA). They work diligently with their local DMOs and coastal partners to share best practices and updates on all tourism-related accessibility initiatives. This includes:

  • Recognizing and assessing the current accessibility offerings
  • Representing these offerings accurately to potential visitors
  • identifying improvements to increase accessibility through all Oregon communities, for travelers of all abilities
  • setting a new strategic vision to ensure that Oregon is a welcoming destination for everyone
  • expanding the vision and goal to be a destination renown for diversity, inclusion and equity

Oregon is making strides in the cause of accessible travel, which is a big deal because they had already made so many strides. Take for example, the accessible kayak launch that Jon Rahl, Assistant City Manager for the City of Seaside, casually mentioned to me—as if every seaside town has one—which they don’t. This joint project happened way back in 2015, funded by ODFW, Necanicum Watershed Council, City of Seaside, Oregon and the Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District. See the video of the public Broadway Park Watercraft Launch here.

When I asked Karen Olson, Industry Communications Coordinator at Oregon Coast Visitors Association, for local organizations forwarding the accessible travel movement, she immediately rattled off a long list. We don’t have space for them all, but here are a few.

Disabled Hikers

Founded by writer and nature-lover Syren Nagakyrie, the first thing that struck us about them was the element of justice, as cited in their motto, Building disability community and justice in the outdoors. The next thing we appreciated was their effort to make the user experience easy by adding the section, How to use this website!

Written by and for disabled hikers, the site offers a wealth of information: details on how to get there, trail conditions, elevations, trail heads, difficulty levels and other details the serious hiker wants to know. They also offer workshops and events, and welcome trail reports from across the U.S., adding to an ever-expanding resource base. See their virtual outdoor tours, recommendations for gear and hiking tips. Their Disabled Hiker’s Guide to Western WA and OR is a market first book that details 60 outdoor adventures suitable for hikers with disabilities.

David’s Chair

This nonprofit offers free use of their fleet of track chairs and para golfers to people with mobility challenges. They also offer excursions in the region, allowing people with mobility issues to use their track chair without having to transport it on their own.

Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS)

OAS offers state-of-the-art equipment, professional instruction, staff and dedicated volunteers. Knowing that Central Oregon allows adaptive outdoor sports all year, they want to ensure that everyone, regardless of ability level, has access to high quality outdoor adventures.

Access Recreation

This organization, out of Portland, has created guidelines demanding the minimum information that should be available on trails.

Adventures Without Limits

The objective of this nonprofit is to offer outdoor adventure access for everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic level and ability.

Becoming fully accessible is a goal for all DMOs who want to even the outdoor playing field and allow everyone to enjoy all its riches. Accessible Journeys looks forward to hearing about the progressive ones in your corner of the world.

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