Learning to change the world, one small action at a time

Rick Hansen has said, “I honestly believe that my best work is in front, not behind me.” I think that his statement epitomizes the determination and drive he has put towards making our country more accessible and inclusive. One of his latest initiatives was hosting the Rick Hansen Foundation Youth Leadership Summit, a three-day event in Ottawa where 50 youth from all across the country gathered to learn about accessibility, inclusivity, and leadership in order to become the next generation of champions for change. 

During Victoria Day weekend, I was lucky enough to be one of those participants. I and 49 other youth got the incredible opportunity to participate in activities and discussions around issues of accessibility and inclusivity for people of all abilities. It’s truly an incredible thing when you can meet 49 new friends who share the same interests and goals as you do. Each of us has different backgrounds and abilities and came from different places in Canada, but we all share one common dream: an accessible and inclusive country. 

Meeting all these new people and hearing their stories, ideas, and unique perspectives was a true blessing. Seeing how each and every one of us aspired to make change in our respective communities left me believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this dream of ours that entails an accessible and inclusive Canada is easily within our grasp. Just like Rick Hansen said, “If each one of us choose to change one small thing - together we can make a big difference.”

I believe it’s safe to say that the person I was going into the Summit as is different from who I am today. Fighting against ableism was always something I’ve been passionate about, and I had always tried my best to get the necessary information and tools to advocate for people with disabilities. However, the knowledge that the Rick Hansen Youth Leadership Summit has equipped me with certainly tops anything that I’ve learned from a book or the internet. 

I got to participate in various activities, all which provided me with facts about the prevalence of disability in our country; physical and mental barriers that one with a disability may face; and how to break down barriers and systemic ableism. 


Guest blogger Alejandra Van Dusen is 14 years old and lives in Regina, Saskatchewan. She was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis when she was 18 months old, but never let it define her or stop her from pursing her dreams. She loves sports, especially swimming, and volunteering in her community. 

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