How we're changing the conversation about disability

Renee By Renee On September 30, 2015 Community Spotlight

Words are powerful, aren’t they?

Let’s take a minute to think about the word “disability.”

During a recent Angus Reid poll, Canadians reported that they don’t like to use the word “disability” when describing their own health challenges. Instead, we prefer phrases like “I have a mobility challenge” or “I have problems with my eyesight” – to name a few.

That’s because our society has long-held negative attitudes and assumptions about disability. And many of us connect disability with a limited quality of life.

The reality though is that more than 4 million Canadians have at least one form of disability – physical, visual, hearing or cognitive. That’s 1 in 7 Canadians. These disabilities can be visible or invisible. They can be temporary or permanent. And with our aging population, the disability community will continue to grow.

By 2030, over 9 million Canadians will have a disability.

And we’re not ready. Many buildings, public spaces and transit systems aren’t accessible for those with mobility, vision and hearing challenges. Our local restaurants, theatres, and stores aren’t accessible. And that limits what 9 million Canadians and their friends and family can do in their daily lives.

As a supporter of the Rick Hansen Foundation, you made such a positive impact on others. Please join us once again and let's change the conversation. Imagine a Canada where each of us asks “How accessible is my community?” and the answer is “We’re accessible!"

Canadian icon, Paralympian and disability leader Rick Hansen and his Foundation team are developing innovative programs to make that conversation a reality. And you can be part of this change!

Rick Hansen Accessibility Specialists, a talented team of people with disabilities, are piloting an exciting program to help businesses welcome customers of all abilities by becoming more physically accessible and create awareness about barrier-free design. As the program grows, the Accessibility Specialists will assist government and other organizations to ensure physical spaces are accessible.

How do they do this? Our Accessibility Specialists visit each business site (from restaurants to public parks) and provide an accessibility audit. The audit shows if the physical buildings or public spaces are fully accessible for people with mobility, vision or hearing challenges. With partners like you, we will expand this program across Canada.

Two people measuring the length of a curb cut.Above image: Rick Hansen Accessibility Team members Mallaz (left) and Marika (right) measure a curb cut.

Our Quality of Life Program provides grants to individuals or disability organizations to help buy special equipment or adaptive devices for those with mobility challenges.

And to help change attitudes about people with disabilities, the Rick Hansen School Program reaches 500,000 youth across Canada each year. Our School Program includes course work and classroom events that help kids learn that all of us have different abilities and that an inclusive society means that all are invited.

Rick greeting a student.Above image: Rick Hansen greets a student at Rick Hansen Secondary School in Abbotsford, British Columbia.



Why does accessibility matter? Why should we strive to be an inclusive society?

I’d like to share a supporter’s story to show you why: “A friend attended an event recently where all the chairs and tables were set at bar height. This arrangement would make it impossible for people with mobility challenges who use canes, walkers, scooters or wheelchairs to be a part of the event. When my friend asked the event coordinator if she considered accessibility, she replied: ‘Oh- no, those kinds of people aren’t attending this event.’”

You can change stories like this one by changing the conversation! People with disabilities face barriers every day, from Canadian icon Rick Hansen to our own friends, co-workers and loved ones.

Please consider making a donation today. You’ll continue being a key partner with Rick Hansen and his Foundation team in creating solutions where everyone has an equal chance to participate fully in life.




If you want to help people with disabilities reach their full potential, you can support the Rick Hansen Foundation by clicking our Donate Now button below.




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