Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24 weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

Rick Hansen is founder and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation)

I was recently in Ottawa for a meeting, and arrived at the main entrance of a brand new high-profile public building, which one would think would be fully accessible. In order for me to get where I needed to go, I had to go up a short flight of stairs with an electric lift next to it. The lift required me to call security who arrived with a special key to operate it.

While the whole process took approximately 10 minutes, it was an unnecessary inconvenience. A person with a disability should be able to independently operate a lift and get to where they need to go as quickly as their able-bodied counterpart.

Story continues below advertisement

My story isn't unusual. Stairs instead of a ramp, and buildings without braille signage are common daily realities that confront the world's largest minority group, representing over a billion people with disabilities.

In Canada, one in seven people live with a disability, and as baby boomers age, the forecast is for the number to grow to as high as one in five in the next 20 years.

"Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want" is the theme that marks this year's United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3. As we look toward our future, one of the most significant barriers that people with disabilities still face is the built environment – essentially all the places we live, work and play.

The Angus Reid Institute, in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation, recently conducted a national survey that highlights the problems facing people with disabilities today. The data, gathered from a randomized sample of 1,330 people, reveal Canadians identify accessibility for people with disabilities as a top priority for new public buildings, with nearly nine in 10 surveyed saying a LEED-style program to rate building accessibility would be "worthwhile".

With the goal of universal access as a priority for all Canadians, we are currently developing an accessibility certification program to drive adoption and recognition of inclusive design in the built environment. This program will simultaneously provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities, helping individuals reach their potential, while delivering a value-added service to developers, landlords and building owners.

Canadians see a large gap between how accessible private buildings currently are and how accessible they ought to be. The public also views one of the biggest obstacles to making accessibility a reality as the cost and difficulty of either designing fully accessible new buildings, or renovating those that aren't.

While 92 per cent of Canadians agree that accessibility for people with physical disabilities is a basic human right, not a privilege, half of Canadians also agree with the statement "it's understandable that employers feel it is risky to hire people with physical disabilities".

Story continues below advertisement

Among those currently responsible for hiring decisions, 45 per cent cite expense of making a workplace accessible as one of the main reasons employers might have this opinion.

This perception needs to be disproved. We have a role to play to change attitudes and remove barriers so that employers are confident and comfortable hiring people with disabilities. Often it is a case of not knowing what they need to do to accommodate – and the answer may be a simple, low-cost change such as adding a ramp, adapting a workstation or incorporating large signage and braille.

With support from the Government of Canada, our Access4All Canada 150 Signature Initiative is helping by offering grants for accessibility infrastructure improvements.

Measuring awareness and attitudes toward people with disabilities allows us to see how far we have come, and also shines a light on areas where we still have room for improvement.

Canadians with a disability shouldn't have to settle with being "lucky" to get into the building, they should be included in the building – period.

As we approach Canada's 150th birthday in 2017, join us in leaving a lasting legacy of creating an inclusive and accessible country where no Canadian is left behind.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies