The Tourism Establishment Accessibility Program: a feature on the Reford Gardens

Attractions to discover, March 8, 2021 2021-03-08

The Tourism Establishment Accessibility Program (also known as the PAET) aims to provide financial support to tourism businesses looking to transform or improve their infrastructures in order to make them accessible to visitors with a disability. The Reford Gardens took part in this program and told us how it helped make the attraction more accessible. This feature is produced in partnership with Kéroul and Événements Attractions Québec.

Accessible ramp at the Reford Gardens
Photo credit: Reford Gardens

Accessibility, a key concern for the Reford Gardens

North of the 48th parallel, halfway between Matane and Rimouski, lies this jewel of Quebec's heritage. It features some 3,000 species and varieties of plants divided into about fifteen gardens. The Reford Gardens are the story of a family, a horticultural passion transmitted from generation to generation.

It was in the mind of Elsie Reford, the founder, that the idea of this large garden was first conceived in 1926. In 1962, the site opened to the public. "Even then, the site was partially accessible to people with reduced mobility," says Alexander Reford, Director of the Reford Gardens and great-grandson of Elsie Reford. "My predecessors have always been committed to serving people with reduced mobility. Our tours are very popular with seniors. We quickly understood the need to welcome people with mobility challenges.”

Obstacles to overcome

There was however a rock obstructing the path to accessibility at the Reford Gardens: history. When the buildings separating the gardens were designed, accessibility standards did not yet exist. Today, these buildings are highly valued for their history and architecture, and it is important not to alter their nature: "It is a challenge to reconcile accessibility and heritage, but we proved it is possible. It costs a bit more, for example, when building a ramp, the materials shouldn't clash with the existing structure. That was our challenge when we wanted to install a new ramp on one of our historic buildings. But our contractor did a very good job, and we had a great support from Kéroul to help us do it as well.”

Extra costs are frequent when it comes to finding the right material that pays tribute to the existing structure. The grant from Kéroul allowed the Reford Gardens to add automatic door openers and build an accessible bathroom.

"It's continuous work, there will be upcoming projects" says Alexander. "We've had some comments from groups that have visited recently, and we’ve been attentive to those comments. As people get older, they express new needs, whether they are related to their vision, or even concerns over safety or anxiety. But from now on, whenever there are reconfiguration projects, restoration projects... accessibility is taken into consideration.”

See the Reford Gardens again or for the first time!

While the gardens are very popular with seniors, Alexander invites people of all ages to visit them: "It's good for our mental health. Nature has a calming effect on us, that's for sure.”

And if you’ve already visited the Reford Gardens before, you’re sure to enjoy visiting them again, and not just for the sake of the site’s new adaptations. “Each visit is different, each flower blooms differently from one year to the next, and our view of plants changes too as seasons go by”. A lovely way to take care of your inner garden.

Jardins de Métis
Photo credit: Reford Gardens

Other members of Événements Attractions Québec have also taken part in the Tourism Establishment Accessibility Program offered by Kéroul. You can also read our article about the Village du Bûcheron, our article about the Trou de la Fée Cavern and our article about the Ecomuseum Zoo.

In partnership with logo Kéroul

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