Monday 27 Feb, 2017

Innovation, Inclusion and Accessibility for All

As we lead up to Vimy 100, we will be sharing some of the incredible, immersive, and experiential activities you will participate in during your tour, specifically at the Artois Expo in Arras, France. Our second educational partner highlighted is the Rick Hansen Foundation who is facilitating activities designed to promote empathy for those with disabilities and learn to see the potential innovations to make everyday life more accessible for everyone.

Rick Hansen didn’t always dream of changing the world. As a 15-year-old living in rural British Columbia, though, his life took a path he didn’t expect. One day when Rick was returning home from a fishing trip, the truck he was in spun out of control, throwing him from the back, causing him to hit his spine on a metal tool box, paralyzing him for life.

After his injury, Rick struggled to adjust to his new reality. Over time, however, he realized it was still possible to do everything he loved, including athletics, and he soon became actively involved in parasports. During his time as a Paralympian, Rick noticed that everywhere he went, he saw people with disabilities being marginalized. He knew something must be done to show the world that people with disabilities could participate and contribute as productive members of their communities. He decided to be that someone.

People with mobility, vision, or hearing disabilities should be able to easily and independently access any community place or space. Click To Tweet

Inspired to educate the world about the potential of people with disabilities, Rick set out on his Man in Motion World Tour. For 26 months, Rick wheeled 40,000 km across 34 countries, raising awareness and $26 million for spinal cord injury research and rehabilitation. His journey would make Canadian history and set the stage for his life’s work. After the Tour ended, Rick’s desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others continued to grow. He founded the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), a charity to raise awareness, change attitudes, and remove barriers for people with disabilities. Today, the Foundation’s vision is to create an accessible and inclusive world where people with disabilities, including our wounded soldiers and veterans, live to their full potential.

The 100th Anniversary of the Battle at Vimy Ridge occurring in April, 2017 offers a unique opportunity to understand the history of war, disability, and innovation and how they have always been intertwined. A great number of Canadian soldiers were injured in the First World War, and a need to treat these injuries in new and improved ways led to advancements in assistive technologies. For example, the huge number of soldiers returning with amputations meant prostheses now needed to be produced on an industrial scale, with new, better-working materials, like lightweight metals. This gave birth to the field of prosthetics.

One of the greatest challenges for wounded veterans is reintegration into society, especially when communal spaces, like churches or grocery stores, are literally, physically inaccessible. People with mobility, vision, or hearing disabilities should be able to easily and independently access any community place or space. Recognizing the power of youth in creating lasting social change, the Rick Hansen Foundation’s School Program teaches students across Canada about the potential of people with disabilities, how to identify barriers, and ways to make their schools and communities more accessible – creating a culture of inclusion for future generations.

The Rick Hansen Foundation is partnering with EF Education First for the Vimy 100 commemoration, educating our next generation on important topics like diversity, accessibility, and inclusion. Members from the RHF team will help participants learn about what it means to be a Canadian today, specifically from the perspective of inclusion and acceptance. Students and teachers alike can gain insight into the challenges people with disabilities must confront daily by interacting with objects especially designed. Through these empathy promoting challenges and group exercises, everyone can discover how they can make a difference in Canada, and around the world, for people with disabilities.

For more information about the Rick Hansen Foundation and their School Program, visit Educators can sign up for free bilingual curriculum materials and educational resources for K-12 students.


Start thinking about and planning your next educational tour!