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Accessibility Training for Tour Guides

Currently, no AODA standards require tourism to be accessible. However, the Third Review of the AODA recommends the creation of standards mandating accessibility in tourism. In this article, we will outline the need for accessibility training for tour guides.

Accessibility Training for Tour Guides

Like other professionals whom tourists work with while planning or taking trips, tour guides should receive accessibility training specific to their roles. Tour guides could include guides on:

  • Excursions, such as on tour buses or walking tours
  • Tours of exhibits, such as museums or art galleries
  • Visits to colleges or universities, for prospective students or other guests

Training should give tour guides in these venues and in other locations the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of visitors with disabilities.

Accessible Communication on Tours

For example, tour guides should know how to communicate with visitors in different ways, including:

Some organizations that offer tours may wish to hire some tour guides who know American Sign Language (ASL) or Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ). These guides could be available for visitors to book private or group tours in those languages. In addition, guides fluent in ASL or LSQ could function as interpreters on tours led by their English- or French-speaking co-workers. Alternatively, tour guides could work closely with interpreters from third-party agencies.

In short, tour guides should be prepared to communicate with visitors who have disabilities. Guides should know how to work with visitors to find out what their communication needs are, and meet those needs. For instance, guides could provide some visitors with notes in advance about the topics they plan to cover on tour. Some visitors might use these notes to prepare for the tour, or identify topics they want or need to ask more questions about. Alternatively, some visitors might follow along with the notes while on tour.

Interacting with Visitors on Tours

Furthermore, tour guides should be comfortable interacting with visitors who have disabilities. For instance, guides should know how to interact with service animals and their handlers. Guides should know that service animals should accompany their handlers in most locations on tours. However, there may be some locations where service animals are excluded by law. In those locations, tour guides should be prepared to work with visitors who are temporarily without their service animals.

Likewise, guides should know how to interact with visitors who bring support persons with them. However, guides should realize that they cannot require a visitor with a disability to bring a support person, unless there is a proven health and safety risk. Similarly, guides should know how to interact with visitors using assistive devices while on tour.

Moreover, guides should also recognize that visitors may have accessibility needs that are not visible. For example, whether a visitor uses an assistive device or has an invisible disability, they may need to:

  • Take brief breaks
  • Travel from one location to another in different ways, such as using:
    • An elevator, instead of stairs
    • Stairs, instead of a longer route without stairs

Guides could learn to alert all visitors when there is more than one way to reach a location, or an opportunity for a break.

Working with Potential Visitors

Accessibility training specifically for tour guides would help them clearly understand the diversity of visitors’ needs, and how they overcome accessibility barriers when travelling. This understanding could allow tour guides to work with potential visitors who have accessibility concerns. For example, a potential visitor might wonder whether most of a tour will be accessible for them in their wheelchair. Alternatively, another visitor might have questions about how much audio or visual information they could access in alternate formats or with communication supports. These visitors could have discussions with a tour guide to find out how much of the tour would be accessible for them. In addition, the potential visitor and guide could discuss ways to remove or prevent any accessibility barriers.