tourism for all

tourism for all

“He was like Julius Caesar! Hail, Maximum! He took me out of my comfort zone because I tend to control my chair… Except that there I had to give instructions to the people who were taking me. »

Posted at 11:30 a.m.

Maxime Plante-Morin excitedly tells me about his first excursion in a joëlette, a single-wheel wheelchair that allows people with reduced mobility to go hiking. All it takes is for one person to hold the front of the boat and another the rear to make any terrain accessible.


PHOTO COURTESY BY BIVOUAQ

Maxime Plante-Morin (on the right, sunglasses) surrounded by other hikers during an activity in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, in Mauricie

Maxime could count on about fifteen hikers who were surveying a mountain in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc that day.

” I loved it! My only drawback is that it is quite flashy. There are no shocks for the joëlette, it is hard on the body… But creating a network, leaving home and living an experience that you would never have known otherwise, is worth the grief. ”

The expedition was organized by the BivouaQ agency, which enables disabled outdoor enthusiasts to explore places that are normally inaccessible to them…

Maxime may be a great athlete, but this is the first time he has walked such narrow paths.

When we met the hikers, we could see that their curiosity was aroused. Outings like this democratize activities for people with reduced mobility.

Maxime Plante-Morin, fan of joëlette excursions

And that is precious.

BivouaQ is a solidarity cooperative founded just over a year ago. The travel agency organizes outdoor excursions for everyone. Whether you have a disability or not, you can sign up for hiking, canoeing or Nordic skiing activities lasting between one and seven days.

For every group of a dozen participants, there are between two and four people with disabilities (whether visual, hearing or motor) and two guides. Others are invited to lend a hand, but without obligation. It’s up to each one if they want to get involved or not…


PHOTO SIMON CLARK, SUPPLIED BY KÉROUL

Winter activities are also offered. An adapted armchair called the Hippocampe replaces the joëlette.

“The beauty is that people rub shoulders,” explains Mathieu Néron-Toupin, co-founder of the organization. They meet and get acquainted with a reality different from their own in a super playful context! »

Mathieu Néron-Toupin caught the adaptive tourism virus while working as an outdoor activity guide in Kyrgyzstan in 2018. He was entrusted with a group of participants with disabilities and was blown away by the magic that unfolded during the tour. The excitement of the hikers was palpable; Maxime had the impression of doing good by working. Therefore, he specialized in inclusive adventures and traveled between Central Asia and Europe.

Back in Quebec, the pandemic requires, he discovered that there was no such offer here. He contacted several organizations that work with clients with disabilities to see if any of them would like to launch a project focused on the outdoors. The two founders of the Victoriaville-based nonprofit Réseau autonomie santé responded enthusiastically.


PHOTO COURTESY BY BIVOUAQ

The trails don’t stop the joëlettes from making their way… with a little help.

Since then, the 50-somethings and the 24-year-old guide have been business partners. “We make a great fun team,” slides Mathieu Néron-Toupin, all smiles.

(I wish I could describe the openness and positivity he displays, but I wouldn’t be up to the task.)

She explains that as a travel agent, you can now book places that aren’t suitable (think certain campgrounds) and then bring all the necessary gear to make the stay inclusive.

The BivouaQ gang has also transformed various tools for everyone’s convenience.

Participants have at their disposal tables with spaces for wheelchairs, toilet tents with adapted seats, modified camping chairs, panniers for transporting personal effects, etc.

Thanks to this approach, your leisure options become much broader. In short: they can go anywhere.

In July, a group will do a week of canoe camping in the Hautes-Laurentides. In September, seven days of hiking in the Rockies are planned. Even a first trip abroad is coming… probably in Bolivia.

And for people who do not have physical limitations, what is the advantage of using BivouaQ? Mathieu Néron-Toupin replies that they can travel together. “It is a new form of tourism! You can enjoy your day off and let someone else enjoy it…”


PHOTO COURTESY BY BIVOUAQ

Sébastien Moisan (left) helps carry a joëlette.

Sébastien Moisan participated last summer in an excursion to the Cap-Tourmente observatory. During the ascent to the ornithologists’ cairn, he helped carry a joëlette. However, for him it was a “normal walk”…

“And that’s not pejorative! What I want to say is that I went hiking with nice people… There was no emphasis on the limitations of people. No hassles! It was proof that you can enjoy the outdoors with people with disabilities like any other person. »

He tells me a story while laughing. A family accompanied a child sitting on a joëlette. In front of a more difficult rock face to cross, the parents of the disabled child have placed the adapted wheelchair to help hikers without limitations to climb.

They all needed help, deep down.

And the nice thing is that everyone was willing to help.

And it is with these words that I begin my vacation! I will return to you in August, with a rested head (but mostly full of inspiring ideas and people to introduce you to). In the meantime, any suggestions for a good book and relaxing movie are welcome!


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