Yesterday the Rick Hansen 25th anniversary Relay rolled through Trenton. I was very lucky, I didn't plan on being there, I just happened to be stepping out of the Skyline restaurant after having lunch when the commotion started.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Rick Hansen, he rode his wheelchair on a world tour 25 years ago in his Man in Motion tour, raising awareness and funds to make the world more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. In 792 days he spanned the circumference of the earth riding through 34 countries on 4 continents. It was an amazing achievement.
This year, he started another tour, this time across Canada, and this time 7000 Canadians will participate.
I will be absolutely honest, I had heard about it and seen snippets on the news, but it had completely failed to capture my imagination. It seems that every month someone else is doing this or that to raise awareness for this or that cause. Slogans and phrases seem to lose all meaning sometimes, going green, raising hope, together we can, cycling for this, across Canada for that, the messages seem to blur into one another, and it really seems as if it will take something absolutely spectacular to grab our attention. Every month main street is blocked off and the police escort someone through who is raising awareness and funds for something or other.
I'm glad I stopped for a while and listened to the message, because it did rather shake me out of my apathy. I thought about all the changes that have occured in Canada over the last 25 years. We still have a very long way to go, but disabled people certainly do have a voice in society today. Disabled people do have much better access to businesses, restaurants, government offices, shops, etc. If I were to build something today, it would be unthinkable not to make it wheelchair friendly. It would be an additional cost that I would be happy to incur.
The world is probably still not a very friendly place for people in wheelchairs or who have other disabilities, but really, we have come a long way, and I'm positive that it's much better than it was back in 1986. We have much better laws in place, we have developed many technologies to assist people, and above all I do believe that we are learning to judge people by what they can do and not to discount them because of what they can't do.
The Rick Hansen 25th anniversary relay will be travelling through over 600 communities in Canada, hitting every province and territory. Check out their website, and if they are coming through your town, make sure to go out and cheer the participants on. This really is a very worthwhile cause that does deserve our attention and support.