'It hit me like a ton of bricks': Vaughan acknowledges need to make Halloween more accessible
Oct. 13, 2021
Tuesday, Oct. 5 marked a historic win for all children with disability when Vaughan became the first municipality in Canada to “recognize officially” the need to make Halloween more accessible to children with disabilities.
“They're the first municipality that put a binding resolution in place that supports Treat Accessibly to that degree,” Rich Padulo, who founded Treat Accessibly North America in 2017, and later became an appointee for Ontario Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, told the Vaughan Citizen Oct. 6.
Following the resolution, Vaughan urged its residents Oct. 6 to download a free accessible trick-or-treating sign to place in their windows or create a trick-or-treating station at the end of their driveway, for example.
The city also said to make sure the path to their trick-or-treating areas is well lit and clear of any hazards, and ensure pets are kept safely away from the front of their homes.
On Oct. 5, Padulo made a heartfelt presentation before Vaughan’s council following an invite by Regional Coun. Linda Jackson, who is behind the member’s resolution and chair for the city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.
“Linda Jackson's team emailed me last week as we were preparing for Halloween village. I was covered in sweat and moving things around,” Padulo said, adding how the email he received was the “the most beautiful note about the movement.”
Saturday, Oct. 2, Treat Accessibly hosted an accessible trick-or-treat event for children with disabilities at Halloween Village. Children from the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital joined others from Weston Village in on Queens Drive for the inclusive experience.
“We spoke within 24 hours, and within another 24 hours, they had sent me the binding resolution to approve,” he said. “I haven't seen a binding resolution before.”
Historically, mayors of Toronto, Hamilton, and St. Catharines have posted about Treat Accessibly. “We've had Brampton and Mississauga help us get into schools,” he said.
So far, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board teaches accessibility inclusion to more than 10,000 students. “But we've never had a city champion us and offer this much support.”
In its statement, the city said the Treat Accessibly initiative is “consistent with the city’s mission to foster a barrier-free community and the goal to create a completely accessible city by 2025.”
“I encourage all citizens to download a free accessible trick-or-treating sign to place in their window this year,” said Jackson, who attended the Halloween Village event alongside her team.
It all started at Padulo’s previous home in south Etobicoke when he was placing his Halloween pumpkins on his stairs, and noticed a boy on a wheelchair looking at him.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks that he wouldn't be able to treat my home because of the stairs,” he said. “I looked at every other house in my street and they all had stairs, every single one,” he said, vowing to make a difference right after.
In Canada, there are 6.2 million people that identify with a disability.
“That's a huge number and all of them were once kids, and they missed out on Halloween” added Padulo.
Currently, there are 400,000 children with disability, said Padulo, who wants to have all homes participating in an accessible Halloween by 2025.
In 2019, 40,000 homes participated in the event. The organization hopes to reach 100,000 across Canada by the end of the month.
Padulo’s family has moved to Burlington after his private business took a hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic but his wife kept egging him on.
“My wife Natasha Mackow has been just the most incredible supporter. For her to just say ‘Rich, keep going to run a grassroots movement’ was the kind of support every partner wish they had in their life.”With the support of his wife and his young daughter, Padulo wants to help U.S. children. In the U.S., it’s estimated that there are four million children with disability.