Students and researchers at UNBC’s School of Planning and Sustainability recently received a large sum of funding to support research into more accessible outdoor recreational spaces.

Dr. Mark Groulx and his research team at UNBC received a $177,838 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development Grant earlier this year.

Dr.Groulx and his team partnered up with Spinal Cord Injury BC about 4 years ago to begin researching the issue.

“We started to do some work focused on accessibility standards and auditing outdoor nature-based spaces and thinking about how things like universal design can make these spaces more useable and available and equitable to all persons,” he explained.

He says their partnership with Access BC, and their passion for creating more accessible outdoor spaces fueled their research efforts.

“Also just knowing the health and wellbeing benefits that these spaces provide creates a real drive to ensuring all individuals can access those benefits to the same degree.”

The grant will allow the research team at UNBC to conduct a new research project, spanning over the course of about three years.

In the first year, they have already conducted a partners workshop, where about 36 different organizations gathered together to discuss and identify spaces across BC that need to be prioritized for accessibility efforts.

In the coming months, the team will be utilizing an accessibility auditing tool in different areas of the province.

“Later this summer and into the fall, we will take the accessibility auditing tool out to a whole bunch of tourism and recreation spaces across BC and document and collect information on how accessible the spaces are and provide that information along to partners.”

This information will then contribute to the work being done by partner organizations to make more recreational spaces across BC more accessible.

Dr.Groulx says plenty of their research will occur in more rural areas of BC including trail systems and park recreation sites outside of communities.