Do you remember 1985? I sure do. I was embarking on a 20-year-long career as a chef at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver, B.C. It was also the year I met a woman named Kim, who became my wife.
We visited Vancouver’s Expo 86. It was an incredible experience as the world’s fair showcased accessible transportation – the first kneeling bus and the then-new SkyTrain.
This meant a lot to us. Kim was a new wheelchair user; she had injured her spine two years earlier, and I have hearing loss. Hearing loops were not part of the experience, but wheelchair ramps were. Even though ramps were often found at the back of the pavilions, Kim and I were thrilled that Expo 86 organizers even considered inclusion.
Accessibility generally wasn’t on the menu at the time. Public buses weren’t accessible. Healthcare was minimal at best for spinal cord injury patients, and specialized doctors were hard to come by. Expo 86’s accessibility efforts were just the beginning of what was needed.
Speaking of 1985, who can forget Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion World Tour? As Rick wheeled around the world for two years, two months, and two weeks to raise awareness about people with disabilities, along with fundraising for spinal cord injury research, Kim and I became increasingly hopeful that an inclusive country could be created for the 1 in 5 Canadians with disabilities.
That’s precisely why I chose to work at the Rick Hansen Foundation as a specialist on the Accessibility Certification team after retiring from my chef career. The Foundation’s Accessibility Certification program rates and certifies the meaningful accessibility of buildings from the perspective of people with varying disabilities. It makes a huge difference for millions of people in Canada as it eliminates the stress of not knowing what barriers will prevent them from accessing places like workplaces, recreational centres or schools. Think of the countless social and economic benefits!
We’re making significant strides in ensuring the built environment is accessible through our programs. We’re leading an industry-wide culture shift that prioritizes access as part of the typical design process. And with your help, we can break down all barriers so everyone can go everywhere.
Please consider giving the gift of access today by donating to RickHansen.com/Donate. Your support will help make our communities more inclusive for everyone!