Disability and travel: accessing the Glacier Skywalk in Canada
As a quadriplegic in western Canada, I was surprised and thrilled to come across an advertisement for the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper. The Skywalk is a clear glass walkway that jutts out over a cliff 900 feet above the valley floor, and it’s wheelchair accessible!
“Look at this!” I exclaim to my wife, pointing (as well as a quadriplegic does) at the TV.
“Looks scary,” replies my wife Terry.
“Yep,” I said.
“Looks dangerous,” she continued.
“Yep,” I exclaimed with excitement.
“Looks accessible,” her enthusiasm was mediocre.
“Yep,” I said one last time before she gave in.
“Ya wanna go, right?” she said.
So, the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper and a spot on a campsite in were promptly booked, and before we knew it we were off in our campervan to picturesque Jasper, 5 hours drive away.
It wasn’t long into our drive before we were surrounded by mountains, pine trees and wildlife. There were deer, mountain sheep, elk and even bears. It’s hard to believe that we live so close to all this beauty and yet we visit it so seldom.
Once we’d arrived, we checked in and setup our campsite.
The next day we made the 100km trip to the Skywalk. Once again, the mountain scenery was spectacular, and full of wildlife. We parked in the designated parking lot and went inside. You have to take a short bus trip to get to the Skywalk, so we lined up and purchased our tickets.
The bus ride only 15 minutes, and we were ushered to the front of the line, ready for the bus ramp to be extended. The bus driver, Robin, made even the trip to the Skywalk interesting with her commentary.
She highlighted pieces of the old highway alongside the Glacier Skywalk, which we hadn’t noticed before, and marks on the rocks from ancient glaciers. There was also a lot of beautiful wildlife, including a bighorn sheep. I’m grateful that she mentioned that the Skywalk itself is built to flex in the wind, and that we should not be surprised (ya right) if we felt movement!
Once we’d disembarked from the bus and our tickets were checked, we were offered free audio devices. These allow you to get information about different points along the walkway. All you have to do is key in the numbers at each point.
As we got to the start of the walk, I made sure we got up front. I was pretending to be as brave as I could be. I was excited, but nervous too. The views looked incredible, but the idea of rolling over glass 900 feet in the air was unnerving, to say the least.
There was a bit of a lump in my throat as we approached, but we summund up a; “we’re here now so let’s do it” attitude! I slowly rolled my chair onto the glass, peering down at the valley far below.
At first, it was a little tough on the stomach, but then the beauty of the whole situation took over as we soaked in the unbelievable view. We were suspended above this gorgeous mountain valley, the snowcapped peaks poking into the blue sky, and in one of the valleys there was this huge glacier with a river flowing from it.
The whole platform did move a little when people walked on it, but since we were warned about that, it did not seem to be a problem. Once we got used to it, we didn’t want to leave!
“There is something moving down there, is it a bear?” someone asked.
“No, it is a mountain goat! And there is a baby behind it!” came the reply.
Sure enough, way down on the rocks there was a mother mountain goat with her little baby following her. Soon, nearly everybody was looking straight down and watching the wildlife, not even noticing that we are several hundred feet above it all.
Using the audio descriptions, we discovered that the glacier we could see is 100m thick. At another point, we learnt about the birds found in the area – eagles, ravens and crows. I tried to listen, but my mind wandered around the views from the Skywalk.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Glacier Skywalk. It felt great to do something out of the ordinary that was so exciting! It is a fun experience that is completely wheelchair accessible, and the staff there went out of their way to make sure we had a great time. I would recommend this trip to anyone in a wheelchair who is looking for a safe, exciting, wheelchair-friendly adventure!
Just a few points to note. It’s located just a few minutes from the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper, in Alberta Canada. It costs $29.95 (around £24) for the trip and you can stay as long as you would like. The buses come to take you back to the Icefields Parkway every 15 minutes.
You can find more information about Jasper’s Glacier Skywalk by visiting the Travel Canada website.
By Kary Wright
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