Alberta advocate urges Halloween accessibility for all children

Click to play video: 'Ensuring kids of all abilities can trick-or-treat this Halloween in Edmonton'
Ensuring kids of all abilities can trick-or-treat this Halloween in Edmonton
An initiative born out of a father's realization that his home wasn't accessible to a child in a wheelchair has now spread across the country, encouraging people to make their Halloween setups more inclusive. Sarah Ryan reports – Oct 6, 2023

Halloween is almost upon us and soon trick-or-treaters will head to the streets for a hauntingly good time. But not all the little ghouls and goblins will be able to take part unless people make changes to their candy setup.

“Barriers such as stairs, closed doors, nighttime, even cold can make Halloween inaccessible and the trick or treating experience inaccessible,” explained Rich Padulo. He’s the co-founder of Treat Accessibly, a grassroots initiative to make Halloween more inclusive for children with mobility challenges and special needs.

Padulo got the idea in 2017 while decorating with his daughter.

“All of this was done because of one little boy who lived in our neighbourhood who used a wheelchair. We were putting pumpkins on stairs and we realized he couldn’t treat at our home,” he explained.

That year, the Padulos decided to hand out candy on their front sidewalk and make a sign letting their community know their setup would be accessible.

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“That night we had seven families come to our home because they’d seen the sign. It spanned intellectual, mobility and sensory disabilities. They shared with us: ‘Nobody’s ever done this before for us.'”

Click to play video: 'Trick or treating accessibility movement gains momentum'
Trick or treating accessibility movement gains momentum

The movement has spread across the country. Padulo expects 200,000 homes to take part this October.

Thanks to sponsors Remax, Canadian Tire and Kinder, people can pick up free signs at any Remax office or Pumpkins After Dark event.

Click to play video: 'Making Halloween accessible for children'
Making Halloween accessible for children

In Edmonton, people can register to have signs delivered, and also to have their home marked on a map, so families can easily find them.

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“We just set up a table at the bottom of our steps, right at the sidewalk line,” explained mom Tina Hendrickson.

Last year was her family’s first year participating.

“There was quite a few kids in wheelchairs and wagons that normally wouldn’t be able to walk up the stairs,” she explained.

Her son, Saavin, has autism and a complex health history, so she knows how challenging trick-or-treating can be.

“Saavin’s mobility is a little bit impaired and so it was really hard for him to go up and down the stairs.”

If setting up outside for the evening isn’t possible, volunteers in Edmonton will also drop off string and a bell or horn that can be displayed in an accessible location for children to alert you if they can’t get to traditional doorbells.

This is also the first year Edmonton is hosting a Treat Accessibly Halloween Village, one of nine cities across Canada doing so.

Ahead of Halloween, on Oct. 21, Summerside’s Grande Boulevard will be shut down to traffic in the afternoon to allow children with special needs and mobility challenges to experience trick-or-treating designed specifically for them.

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Participating homes will set up their treats so they’re accessible, and the number of participants will be limited so children aren’t overwhelmed.

Last year, homes on Grande Boulevard saw more than 3,300 kids on Halloween night.

Click to play video: 'Halloween events that are accessible for all Calgary kids with disabilities'
Halloween events that are accessible for all Calgary kids with disabilities

There are also Halloween Villages this year in St. Albert, Calgary, Surrey, Oakville, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

Families with children who would benefit from Halloween Villages have to register for the free, timed event here.

“It means so much, you know? My son and children like my son, they lose a lot. They don’t get the same experiences as typical children,” Hendrickson said.

Treat Accessibly hopes to have 400,000 homes join the movement by 2025 – one house for each Canadian child with a disability.

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