Tourism for all | The press

“I was like Julius Caesar! hail, Maxim! It got me out of my comfort zone because I usually control my chair… Except there I had to give directions to the people carrying me. »

Posted at 11:30am

Maxime Plante-Morin enthusiastically tells me about his first outing in a Joëlette, a single-wheeled wheelchair that allows people with reduced mobility to hike. All it takes is one person holding the front of the boat and another holding the back to make any terrain walkable.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY BIVOUAQ

Maxime Plante-Morin (right, sunglasses) surrounded by other hikers during an activity at Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc in Mauricie

Maxime, he could count on about fifteen hikers overlooking a mountain from Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc that day.

” I loved it ! My only downside is that it’s quite flashy. There are no shocks for the Joëlette, it’s hard on the body … But to network, to go out of the house and have an experience that You wouldn’t have experienced it otherwise, it’s worth the bang.”

The expedition was organized by the agency BivouaQ, which enables outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities to explore places that are normally inaccessible to them…

Maxime may be a great athlete, but this is the first time he’s run on such narrow trails.

When we met hikers we could see that it piqued their curiosity. Outings like this democratize activities for people with reduced mobility.

Maxime Plante-Morin, fan of Joëlette outings

And that is precious.

BivouaQ is a solidarity cooperative that was founded just over a year ago. The travel agency organizes outdoor excursions for everyone. Whether you have a disability or not, you can sign up for one to seven day hiking, canoeing, or cross-country skiing activities.

For each group of a dozen participants, there are between two and four people with disabilities (whether visual, auditory or motor) and two guides. Others are invited to help, but without obligation. It’s up to you whether you want to participate or not…


PHOTO SIMON CLARK PROVIDED BY KÉROUL

Winter activities are also offered. An adapted armchair called Hippocampe replaces the Joëlette.

“The beauty is that people are shoulder to shoulder,” explains Mathieu Néron-Toupin, co-founder of the organization. Super playfully they get to know each other and get acquainted with another reality! »

Mathieu Néron-Toupin caught the adaptive tourism bug while working as an outdoor guide in Kyrgyzstan in 2018. The enthusiasm of the hikers was palpable; Maxime felt that she was doing good through work. He therefore specialized in inclusive adventures and traveled between Central Asia and Europe.

Back in Quebec, which a pandemic necessitates, he found there was no such offer here. He contacted several organizations that work with clients with disabilities to see if any of them would like to start a project focused on the outdoors. The two founders of the NPO Réseau autonomie santé from Victoriaville reacted enthusiastically to him.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY BIVOUAQ

The trails don’t stop the Joëlettes from making their way…with a little help.

Since then, the fifty and the 24-year-old mountain guide have been business partners. “We make a great, fun team,” enthuses Mathieu Néron-Toupin, beaming.

(I wish I could describe the openness and positivism he displays, but I couldn’t do it.)

He explains to me that as a travel agent he can now book places that are not suitable (think certain campsites) and then bring all the necessary gear to make the stay inclusive.

The BivouaQ gang have also revamped several tools for everyone’s convenience.

Tables with places for wheelchairs, toilet tents with an adapted seat, modified camping chairs, panniers for transporting personal items, etc. are available for participants.

Thanks to this approach, their leisure opportunities become much wider. In short: you can go anywhere.

In July, a group will go canoe camping in the Hautes-Laurentides for a week. Seven days of hiking in the Rockies are planned for September. Even a first trip abroad is in the offing… probably to Bolivia.

And for people who don’t have physical limitations, what’s the benefit of turning to BivouaQ? Mathieu Néron-Toupin replies that they can travel together. “This is a new form of tourism! You can enjoy your day off and let someone else enjoy it…”


PHOTO PROVIDED BY BIVOUAQ

Sébastien Moisan (left) helps transport a Joëlette.

Sébastien Moisan took part in an excursion to the Cap-Tourmente observatory last summer. During the ascent to the ornithologist marker, he helped transport a Joëlette. For him, however, it was a “normal hike”…

“And that’s not derogatory! What I mean is that I went hiking with nice people… There was no emphasis on people’s limitations. No complaints! It was proof that people with disabilities can enjoy nature like everyone else. »

He laughs and tells me an anecdote. A family accompanied a child seated in a Joëlette. In front of a rock face that is more difficult to cross, the disabled child’s parents have set up the adapted wheelchair to fully help hikers to climb.

Everyone needed help, deep down.

And the nice thing is that everyone was willing to help.

And with these words I start my vacation! I’ll get back to you in August with a rested head (but mostly full of ideas and inspiring people to share with you). In the meantime, any suggestion for a good book and relaxing movie is welcome!

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