CBC National News Interview - 2021

Transcript

<audio description> Parents and children dressed for halloween, trick-or-treating at decorated houses.

HEATHER HISCOX: Sunday... watch out! You're probably going to get a visit from some creature or another looking for treats and candy. Halloween is back this year.

We were just talking to Dr. Bogash.  It is considered much more safe this year although, yes, protocols are in place. Still keep the safety in mind. Masks and distance. Don't go into crowded spaces. 

For some kids though, Halloween has always been a challenge and there have been barriers to celebrating the best spookiest time of year.

There's a dad who is on a mission to change that and make Halloween accessible for all children and he's with us this morning.

Rich Padulo is the founder of Treat Accessibly.  It's an organization that really makes sure that everyone can trick-or-treat and Rich is with us this morning.

Welcome to our program we're so happy to meet you.

RICH PADULO: Happy Halloween, Heather.

HEATHER: It's a fantastic story.  The story behind Treat Accessibly goes back to 2017 and something that you saw in the street.  Tell us what sparked this whole movement.

RICH: My daughter and I were putting out pumpkins on stairs, as people do, and we looked up and 
there was a family across the street and one of the little ones was using a wheelchair and it occurred to me that he couldn't treat at our home because of our stairs and I panned out and saw that every house on the street had stairs and it really hit me like a ton of bricks.

I just wanted to do something for that little boy and his family, so we thought: "how could they know they'd be welcome at our house"? I then wanted to build a bat signal sort of thing and my wife wouldn't give me a 50 000 dollar budget so we went with a lawn sign.

We put a lawn sign up because we figured okay, they'll go back and forth for their times out of the house and they'll see it.  The sign just said "accessible trick-or-treating": it had the iconic wheelchair symbol and it had a cape blowing in the wind. 

Originally the cape was static, then my daughter said "No, it needs to blow" and we were like, okay.  It was perfect. That year we had seven families attend.

HEATHER: So that was it one sign, one idea, seven families and a very empathetic daughter and father and then since 2017 how has it grown?

RICH: We realized quite quickly that printing signs ourselves wouldn't work so we started speaking to local government, and that got into provincial government.  We had mayors: John Tory supported it in 2019 and Premier Ford.  Government ministers made a video about it and the private sector started creating signs for us and sharing them through their distribution cycles.  We had agents from RE/MAX actually in 2019 distributing signs.

We had 25 000 signs up in 2019 and this year we look to have 100 000 homes participating thanks to more signs being produced by RE/MAX and Kinder.

HEATHER: Woah, woah, woah... one to 100 000, I mean that's incredible!

RICH: It's pretty cool.

HEATHER: That is just wonderful and I mean this is not the last year, I mean this has become something so huge, you have big plans for the future: what's the goal?  What's the dream Rich?

RICH: My daughter believes that we can be across North America.  There are 400 000 children in Canada that identify with having disabilities so we want to have 400 000 homes by 2025 in Canada but there are four million children in the US that identify with having disabilities.  We want to have four million in the US by 2025 and we're actually having wonderful conversations with our partners come the first day of November to start talking about it.

HEATHER: This is Halloween but there's a whole lot of Valentine's Day in this because there's a whole lot of heart, which I love, because your daughter is not disabled this is just based on what you saw and obviously, it has taken off.

It's Friday and this year Halloween is Sunday.  Is there time between now and then to make a home accessible? Tell us how?

RICH: Absolutely. Any home can be accessible.  It's literally just take your treat station to the end of your driveway or in your garage and put a sign up.

You can go to our website and print it at home so that people will know that your home will be accessible.  Just treat from your driveway and everything else happens organically.

It's so simple to do.

HEATHER: All you have to do is just make it in place that everybody can have access to.

So tell me what you have seen in your neighbourhood or other places you've gone to see, to see firsthand the impact that what you thought of is having.

RICH: Well, there's three different audiences I'll share. In October 2nd, we created a Treat Accessibly event.

We piloted the first Treat Accessibly Halloween Village on Queen's Drive in Weston Village.  We sent 50 letters out to homes on a little section of the street.  30 homes got back to me within two days saying they would fully decorate their home on October 2nd to have this event for the children of Holland Bloorview. So that's homeowners, they love it.

We invited people from Holland Bloorview, families from Holland Bloorview.  Within two days we were at full capacity for the event.  We could have 700 people there over the span of the day based on the city permit bylaws.

Everybody came and then afterwards when people were there, they decided to have their own Halloween Village.  The town of Caledon and a gentleman named John Row are having their own Halloween Village. The second you do this it enters your DNA and you start opening your eyes to how inaccessible our world is, how our institutions are, because of something as simple as Halloween being inaccessible.  It kind of creates that same moment that we had and you become a champion for accessibility in your daily life.  It's really had an impact.

HEATHER: Well just to hear about it is having an impact. Have you heard, has there been a child, has there been a parent who said something to you, like that tell me, tell, share that.

RICH: We received a text after our Halloween Village event from a mom of an eighteen-year-old boy who had a mobility disability and she said he hadn't treated, and he was 18 years old, ever in his life.

So...

<audio description> Rich is visibly emotional.

HEATHER: No, I get it I mean it's incredible you gave him that opportunity just by... 

RICH: Sorry Heather...

HEATHER: No, it's wonderful.  You know, we try to celebrate and salute the heroes and the helpers on this show and I think you are in that category for us today Rich, so really thank you for telling us about that.

Canada: you want it to be home to the first accessible holiday tradition.

RICH: Yes, that's right. That's the aim.

HEATHER: We'll check in with you Rich to see how this grows.  What a wonderful idea.  Thank you for sharing it with us today.

RICH: Thank you. Happy Halloween everyone.