“A day in the life of an eighteen-year-old and three and a half feet tall.”
This is how Caden Teneycke opens most of his short form social videos. With a TikTok following of over 800,000, Caden has been using his platform to advocate for accessibility. Across TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Caden seeks to spread awareness to his 1.2 million followers about living with his rare form of dwarfism and provide a sense of community for others who face similar accessibility challenges.
In May, Caden was a recipient of the Rick Hansen Foundation School Program (RHFSP) Difference Maker of the Year award.
Each year, RHFSP accepts nominations to learn more about the wonderful work youth are doing across the country. In 2024, nominations will be open from January 7th through April 7th. This year’s recipients are youth and classrooms or groups comprised of young people who have made a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities either in their school or community.
Caden was told about the Difference Maker of the Year award both by his family and his audience on social media.
“Rick is my dad’s hero, so I’ve grown up tuning in on the Foundation,” Caden said of the award. “It’s a huge honour to be recognized and receive the award.”
Beginning on YouTube
"My dad came into my room when I was around 11,” Caden said. “I was watching YouTube, and I think he would have preferred I was playing outside or something. But he suggested that instead of just watching videos, I make them.”
This moment is one that Caden credits with igniting the interest in becoming a creator.
“I actually don’t think I’ve told him that,” he mentions with a laugh.
From there, the research began. Caden shifted from only watching content to watching YouTube videos on how to make YouTube videos.
“I picked up a camera a few months after that and learned how to talk in front of a camera,” he explained.
At age 12, Caden began posting content. Beginning with 45 second videos on Instagram -- ‘instavlogs’ -- as Caden called them. Then, bringing the creator's journey back to where he began watching longform videos on the platform, Caden transitioned into YouTube, posting videos ranging from 3 to 5 minutes.
Over the last year, he has really amplified his work on TikTok, creating 45 second videos once more, as the newer platform has gained popularity, growing 100% between 2020 and 2022.
Building Awareness of Accessibility
Caden has always been interested in sharing his lived experience with his condition. It was never a decision for Caden about whether or not to talk about his disability – awareness was always at the forefront of his mind.
When he began making content on TikTok, his face was never visible, he rather showcased aspects of his life such as his modified jeep. But after a month or so, and seeing the impact he could have, he morphed into more content about modifications he makes in his day-to-day life that help him live as an average 18-year-old.
“It’s always important to me to showcase my life. For not only a child with my condition, but to upcoming parents. It can be scary to be told in the hospital room that there are medical issues that could come up in the future. And I've had a lot of medical appointments,” he explained. “But it doesn’t define you. I'm still an 18-year-old kid who drives a jacked up lifted jeep.”
Making Social Media a Career
Caden decided in April of 2022, that he wanted to make content creation his career. At seventeen, he sat down and built a strategy in order to make that happen.
He was already building a base across his channels – YouTube, Instagram and TikTok – now he just had to determine how to best continue to do so.
Now, at 18, Caden has moved out of his home in Ladysmith, B.C. and is living in an on-campus apartment at the University of Victoria, where he creates content and studies business in an effort to help learn how to make his work a career. Part of this process is diversifying the type of content and reaching different audiences across platforms.
“Going forward I want to transition back to YouTube,” he explained. “I want to do more long-form content that really shows off the accessibility features and barriers that are in my day-to-day life.”
Creating a Community
Through creating his videos, Caden has cultivated an online community of individuals who enjoy his content.
“The best part for me is the opportunity to be a role model and the DMs [direct messages] I receive that tell me I’ve helped them in some capacity,” he said with a big smile.
Caden explained that he receives lots of messages from individuals not only with his condition, but others with disabilities unrelated to his at all.
“I think it’s the power of awareness of just showing people that you can still be an average kid,” he said. “I get messages and comments saying that my videos help them learn about accessibility.”
While his content is about himself, what Caden has built is so much more. It’s a platform that presents access and inclusion for an 18-year-old and he shows exactly what access means to him: being able to go out and feel included in all aspects of life.