The Padulo family © Photo Courtesy of Treat Accessibly

By Allie Murray

As October 31st approaches every year, there comes a chill of excitement in the air. From preparing costumes to making plans with friends to, of course, trick-or-treating, Halloween brings so much fun to be had.

However, for children using a wheelchair, the evening can be more of a trick than a treat.

One Ontario family recognized a need for change and began a movement to make Halloween accessible to everyone.

“In 2017, a week before Halloween, I was putting pumpkins on my stairs to my front door. I looked across the street and saw a little boy using a wheelchair. It hit me like a ton of bricks that he wouldn’t be able to trick-or-treat at my home because of my stairs like other kids,” says Rich Padulo, founder of Treat Accessibly. “It hit me harder when I looked at all the homes in my neighbourhood and how they all had stairs. That night, our family devised a plan to treat from our driveway and we made the first Treat Accessibly lawn sign to let families know in advance that our home would be accessible.”

Four years later, more than 40,000 homes across Canada participate in Treat Accessibly, donning the lawn sign and sharing the message that the happiest Halloween is one where everyone gets a treat.

As the initiative continues to grow, the family plans to offer the Treat Accessibly School Pilot annually on October 7 to schools across Canada to share the importance of providing a more accessible alternative to trick-or-treating.

Since beginning their movement, Rich, his wife Natasha and his daughter Siena, have dedicated countless hours to finding ways for Halloween to be accessible to everyone. Their efforts have been recognized by Canadian athlete Rick Hansen, who awarded Siena with the Rick Hansen Difference Maker Award for her work on the Treat Accessibly School Pilot.

“Siena and I speak about Treat Accessibly all the time,” Rich said. “She was five-years-old when we first came up with the idea for the movement. Even then, her empathetic nature shone through and she devoted herself, often staying home versus trick-or-treating herself to spend extra time explaining to people why we treated from our driveway and spending extra time with the families with children with disabilities.”

This year, Siena was asked to speak at the Rick Hansen Foundation’s 2021 Accessibility Professionals Network Conference. Hoping to make the most of the experience, Siena created the “There’s No Can’t in Canada” t-shirt to showcase the message that if we come together as Canadians, there’s nothing we can’t do.

“We believe that in a post- COVID North America, Halloween is primed for a reset,” Rich said. “We believe homes and entire streets can rally to practice Treat Accessibly at Halloween.”

The Treat Accessibly lawn signs are free of charge and available through participating RE/MAX offices in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic regions. The signs are also available at Kinder grocery stores in Ontario, the Atlantic provinces and Quebec. Or, you can create your own sign using the design on the website, which is available in both English and French.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN TREAT ACCESSIBLY:

Visit treataccessibly.com for tips on how to practice Treating Accessibly at home this year and get a free lawn sign. Share with your neighbours to get the whole street involved!

Rally your local councillors, mayors, and school boards to participate and spread the message.

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