Why are you excited to join the #Access4All campaign?
Rick Hansen was one of my heroes growing up. I was born with a spinal tumour, which left me in a wheelchair by the age of seven. My dad actually ran with Rick when the Man in Motion World Tour came through Hamilton, Ontario. I enjoyed filming my spot in the gym for the campaign. It was a good workout for me!
How has your life been affected by barriers due to your disability?
My parents were always supportive and empowered me to go after anything I wanted. Some of my biggest challenges have been accessing public transit stations. In Toronto, I’ve had experiences with elevators in subway stations being out of service. But my most difficult experience with accessibility was in New York City. I decided to take the subway to meet some friends in another area of the city. On the way back to my hotel, I accidentally boarded the wrong subway line and ended up in a station that was completely inaccessible. I don’t like asking for help, but in this case, I had no choice and was lucky to find some friendly strangers to assist me down the stairs.
What can Canadians do today to help improve accessibility for people with disabilities?
Awareness is still the number one issue. Many restaurants and venues in Canada are still inaccessible. The fact that some buildings are older does not justify why we don’t remove physical barriers for those with disabilities. Accessibility should no longer be thought of as an option - it should be mandatory in our country.
What do you imagine Canada would look like if everyone had equal access to our public spaces?
More individuals with disabilities would have equal opportunities to work and live throughout our country. Disability unemployment rates would be greatly reduced. We could all move freely in any building or workplace, or when using public transportation.
Click here to learn more about Joel and his career as a Paralympic wheelchair tennis athlete.
And click here to see Joel featured in RHF's #Access4All video.