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Olympic hopeful Ryan Straschnitzki gained a new sense of perspective after a serious injury sidelined his budding hockey career. In the five years since a highway collision left him paralyzed from the chest down, the Alberta athlete has become a prominent advocate and fundraiser for adaptive sport through his Straz Strong Foundation.

The twenty-four-year-old took a break from his busy schedule to enjoy time outdoors with some friends and explore different corners of the province. He spoke with Travel Alberta about travelling as a wheelchair user and how accessible design can improve experiences for all travellers.

Now, in a new inspirational video series, Ryan is showing the world the accessible outdoor adventures you can have around Alberta. In each episode, Ryan and his guests try out different adaptable activities, showing those living with accessibility needs the vast possibilities they can experience in Alberta.

To watch the full series visit

Accessible Canada Act (ACA)

The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) requires Canadian businesses and spaces to become barrier-free by 2040. A barrier is “anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society”. An impairment can be physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory.

Learn more
Ryan Straschnitzki with his friend, Chris Cederstrand (pictured in banner above), enjoying fishing and kayaking with Steve Holly, Executive Director at AdaptABLE Outdoors.

Last year, we connected with Ryan to learn about his new perspective on life and his travel experiences as a person living with different abilities:

Hi Ryan, thanks for making time to speak with me today. What do you want tour operators to know or understand?

Well, the biggest thing obviously is accessibility — understanding that true accessibility is not just for people in wheelchairs; it’s for all disabilities. At some point in everyone's life, there’s a high likelihood you will face a form of a disability, whether it’s broken arms or injuries or age related, so it's important to accommodate for as many people as you can.


The biggest thing I’ve learned is that there’s always fixes that can be made, and the more we can start talking about it, then we can start progressively making changes.

Ryan Straschnitzki, founder of Straz Strong Foundation

It takes some time and some knowledge from people in that situation, so accessibility consultants and specialists are the people you want to reach out to. As long as we can make progressive steps towards [universal design], I think everyone benefits.

How did your attitude toward “getting around” and travel change after your injury?

Personally, I didn’t quite have this accessibility lens before. Now, everywhere I go, I have to go through the precautionary measures to make sure that it's accessible and understand that if it isn't accessible, I'm going to have to make do with what I’ve got.

I was in Montreal a couple months ago and you can't take the train because there's stairs everywhere. There are no elevators, so my friends have to carry me up. Little things like that should be changed, and not just for people in chairs.

Ryan Straschnitzki with his friend, Cody Krebs, and Jamie McCulloch, Executive Director at Rocky Mountain Adaptive.

Right, elevators in that situation would also help people with young kids in strollers, someone with a broken leg, or someone carrying packages.

What are some things you see being done elsewhere that we could be doing better here at home?

The best trip I ever went on was actually in Arizona, down to Phoenix. They have everything sort of accessible as far as outdoor recreational things: paved sidewalks, and if they're on an incline, they have the right heights and requirements. They know what true accessibility is — getting around is super easy and convenient; it's not a hassle. The transportation and architecture and everything in between were really accessible.


The biggest difference was that in Arizona I didn't have to adapt to the environment around me. Here in Canada and in Calgary, it's like I have to adapt to what's around me.

Ryan Straschnitzki, founder of Stratz Strong Foundation

You mentioned hotels that say they’re accessible, but then they’re kind of not. What are the things they tend to mess up?

A big thing is doors need to have the right width. If you can't get into the room to begin with, it's going to be hard to access anything. And what an accessible washroom really looks like—It's not a bathtub, it's a roll-in shower. Grab bars, lower beds and just more room to move around. Those are most of the things that you need in an accessible room, and the rest is just bonus points.

What would you say to someone who’s maybe just getting their tour company started and they’re not sure they can afford special equipment or additional staffing to serve guests with disabilities?

I think the biggest thing is if you have questions, just reach out. There are multiple people out there who have consulting and specialist backgrounds in accessibility, myself included.

We try our best as far as accessibility architecture to keep the cost roughly the same if you’re constructing something new. It is a long-term investment, but once it's accessible, it's accessible.

If you have the architecture done and everything ready to go, you can have someone come in and audit the accessibility to tell you "OK, I'm ready to go" or "I need to make these changes first." And again, reach out if you have any questions. We're here to help and to make it better for everyone.

Ryan’s top 3 accessibility tips for operators

  1. Doors need to be at least 80 cm (32 in.) wide for most wheelchair users to pass through. “If you can’t get into the room, it’s going to be hard to access anything.”
  2. “Stairs are obviously a no-go. Zigzag ramps need enough space to turn a wheelchair around, including at the entrance and exit.” Turning radius for a wheelchair user is 150 cm (50 in.).
  3. “Ask questions. That’s biggest thing you can do. Increase your knowledge on accessibility and do what you can to progressively make changes. And we’re not talking big astronomical changes—any small step towards a universal design is the way to go.”

Accessible tourism is more than a competitive advantage

  • More than one in four Canadians (27%) has a disability. In a family or friend group of four, that’s one family member. Maximize the market value of your business by preparing to welcome visitors of all abilities.
  • According to marketing firm MMGY, US travellers with a disability spent an average of $3,546 on leisure travel during the past 12 months, 16% more than leisure travellers without a disability in the same timeframe ($3,058).
  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 call members to work toward healthy lives and wellbeing for all (goal 3), and cities and built environments that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (goal 11).

Learn more

Below is a list of additional resources you can access today:

  • The Straz Strong Foundation aims to provide those with physical and mental disabilities an improvement in quality of life through adaptive sports, social awareness through public speaking, and funding for rehabilitation needs. They also facilitate accessibility consultations (construction, supplies, vendors, equipment) to ensure your facility can accommodate everyone’s needs.
  • Scandic Hotels offers a downloadable accessibility checklist 159-point checklist for operators.
  • Travel Alberta offers existing businesses up to $125,000 (20% fund matching required) through its Innovation stream for "specialized equipment that allows the organization to serve a more diverse market”. Find out if your project is eligible here.
  • Wheel the World provides travellers with accessibility details including bed height, door width, sink height and more for hundreds of hotels and tour operators on their website. Having this information available online takes some of the burden off individual travelers, also making them feel more welcome.
  • Rocky Mountain Adaptive provides accessible adventures for individuals of all ages and ranges of physical and neurodivergent abilities. They also facilitate training for individuals and organizations who want to learn about adaptive sports, disabilities, and accessibility. Get connected.

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