Raising awareness, changing attitudes and removing barriers for people with disabilities in the built environment

Rick Hansen Foundation celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities by announcing Interdependence 2012 Global Conference and Exposition

Published: December 02 2011


Vancouver, BC (December 2, 2011)

- In honour of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Saturday, December 3, the Rick Hansen Foundation, together with the Rick Hansen Institute, is pleased to announce the Interdependence 2012 (i2012) Global Conference and Exposition that will take place in Vancouver, Canada from May 15 – 18, 2012 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.  In keeping with the United Nations theme for 2011 of “Together for a better world for all: including persons with disabilities in development,” the i2012 program will build on the guiding principles and obligations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  i2012 will stimulate a global dialogue about creating accessible communities for all and advancing research towards a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury (SCI). 


“Since my Tour, significant advancements have been made in the fields of accessibility and SCI research, treatment and care – but there is still a long road ahead.  Our efforts moving forward must be focused, visionary and collaborative to support the impact of the world’s shift in population age and subsequent rise in disability, in order to build a truly global language of partnerships, harmonized standards and tools,” said Rick Hansen. 

Approximately 2,500 international leaders and influencers will meet to inspire, plan and set the agenda for mainstreaming accessibility standards and advancing SCI research.  A broad range of sectors will be represented including government, design, tourism, major games and events, information technology, standards councils, researchers, health care professionals and private sector.  The full conference program is available at rickhansen.com/interdependence2012

The conference will feature internationally renowned keynote plenary speakers including Dr. Charles Tator, Toronto Western Hospital and founder of ThinkFirst, Canada; Ray Kurzweil, American author, inventor and futurist who is involved in fields such as optical character recognition, text-to-speech synthesis and speech recognition technology;  Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the US Department of State;  Dr. David Suzuki, co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation; and Ron McCallum, Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Featured speakers will also include Rob Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft, Lilian Muller, President of the European Network for Accessible Tourism, and Klaus Meinel, Managing Director of the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities. 

The Interdependence 2012 conference comes at a critical time for shifting world demographics.  The World Health Organization and World Bank report that more than one billion people currently live with a disability.  The prevalence of disability is set to rise due to aging populations – currently 52.6% of people over the age of 75 have disabilities – and a global increase in chronic health conditions including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and mental health disorders. 

Among the topics of i2012 will be applied innovation in technology, including the Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map - which can be visited at www.rickhansenglobalaccessibilitymap.com.  Launched in Vancouver earlier this year, this free online tool allows users to submit and obtain accessibility ratings of buildings and public spaces, similar to user-reviewed dining and travel websites, but focused on accessibility criteria.  The Global Accessibility Map empowers all people - including people with disabilities, seniors and parents with strollers - to make informed decisions on everyday activities such as where they eat, shop, work and play. 

“While great progress has been achieved, accessibility for persons with disabilities remains a challenge around the world,” continued Hansen.  “In honour of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I encourage all to visit globalaccessibilitymap.com and submit reviews of accessibility in their own communities, and contribute toward a more accessible and inclusive world. “

The i2012 conference will coincide with celebrations around the 25th Anniversary of the Man In Motion World Tour.  This includes the conclusion of the Rick Hansen Relay that retraces the Canadian segment of the original World Tour, traveling 12,000 kilometres through 600 communities and engaging 7,000 participants from across Canada. The 25th Anniversary culminates with celebrations on May 22, 2012 in Vancouver.


For more information, please contact:
Erin Labbé
Manager, Media Relations & Communications
Rick Hansen Foundation
778.229.7532 (cell)

About the Rick Hansen Foundation:
In 1987, following the Man In Motion World Tour (MIMWT), Rick established the Rick Hansen Foundation to continue his quest for an accessible and inclusive society and a cure for SCI. Under Rick’s leadership, RHF functions as a social innovator – finding collaborative solutions to challenges in the community and the resources necessary to implement those solutions. RHF has been successful in leveraging the original $26M raised during the MIMWT to more than $245M in support of people, programs and research in pursuit of a healthier and more inclusive world. As part of the 25th Anniversary campaign, the Rick Hansen Foundation has launched a national public fundraising campaign to support ongoing programs and initiatives.  For ways to get involved, or to make a donation, please visit www.rickhansen.com.

About the Rick Hansen Institute:
The Rick Hansen Institute is a Canadian based not for profit organization committed to accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries. It does this by leading the collaboration of researchers, health care professionals and service providers across Canada and internationally. RHI has matched leadership and research collaboration with government funding to facilitate one of the largest interdisciplinary spinal cord injury research programs in the world. For more information, please visit: www.rickhanseninstitute.org.