The Rick Hansen Foundation puts the focus on accessibility

The non-profit wants to keep the issue top of mind and promote a program that can help.

It is National Accessability Week, and The Rick Hansen Foundation has launched a year-long campaign to make sure Canadians can see all the ways in which accessibility can be a problem for one in five people.

One of the focal points of the campaign is a digital poster that used a range of tech and sensors to detect when someone might have difficulty reading the creative, and dynamically adapting to be more accessible to them. The poster also shows able-bodied people the ways something like reading text on a public sign can be inaccessible. The poster also features a mural on Toronto’s Ossington Avenue (seen above), designed by typographer Jordan Metcalfe, with an image meant to illustrate the “better and more beautiful world” that is created when everyone is fully able to move within it.

More creative is set to roll out in the months to come. The campaign launched last week, with creative appearing in print, digital display and other digital billboards across Canada. Radio elements will launch in July, with a TV and online spot coming in September for what Laura McBride, director of marketing at the Rick Hansen Foundation, describes as the second phase of the campaign. The foundation worked with Taxi on the campaign, and in-kind media space was provided by Outfront Media, The Globe and Mail, Rogers Media and Corus.

The Rick Hansen Foundation was founded in the 1980s to raise money for programs and research related to spinal cord injuries, carrying the momentum from Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour. But roughly three years ago, the organization shifted to focus more on the issue of broader accessibility for all disabilities, be it ones related to mobility, vision or hearing. McBride says that after the Rick Hansen Institute was spun out to focus more on research, it was looking to tackle “the next biggest barrier,” which was physical barriers preventing people with disabilities from “reaching their full potential.”

“A lot of people think we have building codes and they are good enough,” McBride says. “But if they don’t have lived experience with a disability, they don’t realize how difficult it can be for some people, who have to go into the back door of a building or through the kitchen of a restaurant. And especially as our population is aging, accessibility is something that is really going to touch even more people.”

McBride says in addition to keeping the issue itself top of mind, the campaign is meant to help the foundation stand out among other non-profits, and continue the momentum of a campaign it ran during Canada 150, celebrating our nation’s birthday in 2017, to encourage Canadians to apply for grants related to accessibility that were available.

The new campaign is also timed with national expansion of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program. The program, created through partnerships with post-secondary institutions across Canada, trains people to designate and rate buildings for their accessibility. Over the last three years, 1,100 buildings have been rated in British Columbia alone, and an Ontario grant will add an additional 250 buildings in the province to that list. As it is rolling out the program nationally, the foundation is – much like the Canada 150 campaign did for grant applications – making more Canadians aware that the program exists.

“The first step is building awareness,” McBride says. “There’s so many competing charities and issues that people care about, but this is a really important issue in our country. Our buildings are not accessible for everyone. We wanted to keep that fact top of mind and important. And what people can do once they realize it’s important is participate in our certification program to make their workplace more accessible.”