Disabled Camper Seeks Accommodation in Manitoba

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June 14, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Manitoba government could face a human rights challenge after a visually impaired woman complained the province has too few designated camping sites for disabled people, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

Jackie Denis, 43, of Thompson, Manoitoba, said those sites are often rented to able-bodied individuals. Often, the available sites are three times more expensive than seasonal sites.

"They're giving away what few disabled sites they have to non-disabled people and I have to pay $2,200 when everyone else can camp for the season for $632," Denis said. "That's not acceptable … not acceptable at all."

Denis has retinitis pigmentosa, which means she suffers total vision loss at night and has limited vision during the day. She and her husband have had seasonal campsites at the Paint Lake campground but they were unable to secure one in this season's draw.

Campground officials offered Denis a site in the transient section but that costs $2,200 from May long weekend to the September long weekend.

Denis said she and her husband decided to pay $1,345, which entitles them to camp until the end of July.

Denis said the only designated disabled camping site at Paint Lake is in the transient section, which is being rented to non-disabled campers. "That site would be perfect for me because it's totally flat … but instead of making it available to the disabled, they're renting it out to everyone."

Denis said the province should set aside a few sites at every campground for disabled individuals and offer them through a draw. If those sites aren't taken, then they could be offered to the public.

A provincial government spokeswoman said the conservation department has 44 sites at 18 campgrounds designated for disabled individuals. All of them are in the more expensive, transient, or nightly category.

Tracy Elbourne, head of recreation programming, said the practice is to have everyone — disabled and others — compete for seasonal spots and if the disabled aren't able to get one, then they must pay more for a site in the nightly category. However, the province will not hold a designated disabled nightly spot for a disabled person if an able-bodied person books it first.

Elbourne said the department is re-evaluating the number of designated disabled sites in the northwest region.

There are no plans to offer a separate seasonal camping draw for disabled individuals, she said.

Elbourne said the department doesn't believe there is a demand for more designated disabled camping sites, adding that before Denis made her complaint there hadn't been negative feedback about the policy.

The local chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians has taken up her case. It's preparing a discrimination complaint against the province.

Spokesman Eric Mackinder said he's working with Conservation staff to determine how the disabled spaces are being used. "If we don't hear back from (Conservation) by the end of this month, then we go to the (Manitoba) Human Rights Commission."

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