This year, even something as small as a single step up to a front door will prevent hundreds of Calgary children from trick or treating on Halloween.
Kensington’s 10A Street NW is being transformed this Sunday, Oct. 23, into an accessible Halloween Village, giving kids with disabilities an opportunity to take part in the annual activity.
The goal, said Treat Accessibly founder Rich Padulo, is to get communities thinking about how to make their own neighbourhoods more accessible on Halloween night.
“When you think about institutions in our society, you don’t think about things as fun as Halloween, but it is a tradition, it is an institution,” Padulo said.
“To segment a group, like kids with disabilities, or even parents with disabilities, to not be able to enjoy it… the majority of houses have a step at least to the front door, and that single step can create an insurmountable barrier to actually having that experience from that institution.”
Calgary is being added this year, along with St. Albert, Alberta, in an international expansion of Treat Accessibly locations worldwide.
Children will be able to experience barrier-free trick or treating from 2 to 5 p.m. on 10A Street NW, while taking in decorated homes and Halloween experiences.
Parents can pre-register their children at www.eventbrite.ca/e/calgary-treat-accessibly-halloween-village-made-possible-by-canadian-tire-tickets-410929219357.
Homegrown connections for kids and communities
The Padulo family began Treat Accessibly in Toronto in 2017. They realized someone from their neighbourhood who used a wheelchair wasn’t able to access their home during Halloween.
He said that all of the spots across the country have been organized as a grassroots community movement between his family, and local volunteers in Canada, The United States, The United Kingdom, and New Zealand.
Calgary’s Halloween Village was organized by community members in Kensington.
“We contacted some parents of kids with disabilities, and wonderful woman named Alison, and she suggested this street,” Padulo said.
“I actually flew out to every one of the cities in August, knocked on doors, and when I shared what I was hoping to do we had 10 to 15 homeowners that day said they wanted to do it, and they would get the other neighbours doing it, too.”
Padulo said that being able to visit communities directly continues to increase his desire to help children have the best possible Halloween.
“It just strengthens the resolve every time when you see the kids treating together, and it’s kids with and without disabilities,” he said.
“Like it’s a shot of 15 espressos with a follow chaser of five Red Bulls, you’re just like, ‘oh, my God, this is awesome.'”
The difference between being able to take part in Halloween after previously being unable to makes a world of difference for participants, he said.
“I don’t have a disability, and I can’t say what it feels like, but I can share with you a note that I got from a mom that said the Treat Accessibly Halloween Village was the first time their son has ever been able to Trick or Treat in his life,” Padulo said.
“He was so positive afterwards, he didn’t feel negative that he missed out in his earlier youth, he felt so positive.”
Helping the 22 per cent of Canadians with disabilities
Padulo said that he has three goals in mind for Treat Accessibly. The first, he said, was to create the best possible experience for children across the nation.
The second and third are bigger goals. He’s encouraging local homeowners to change the way they engage with children during Halloween. Padulo also wants local politicians to champion greater accessibility.
“We grew from one event last year in Toronto, to seven across the country this year, and that’s the Treat Accessibly Halloween Villages,” he said.
“Then we have the actual core of the movement, which is intended to make any home accessible at Halloween… to get them to take their treats to the street and actually, treat from the end of their driveway or out of their garage.”
He said you can bring treats outside in front of the step, in front of garages or other accessible locations. It reduces the need for movement and lowers the fear level as parents can go with them.
Padulo pointed to the 22 per cent of Canadians with disabilities as a group that would otherwise be left out this year.
He said that for children with mobility challenges, surmounting stairs can be a challenge. For children with sensory issues, those same stairs at an unknown home can also be a major barrier. And for children with intellectual disabilities like Down Syndrome and Autism, it can be very difficult or even scary to approach a door and communicate with a home owner.
“By bringing the treats to the end of the driveway, the child gets to stay with their parents.”
“But to be able to walk up to a home where you see the homeowners at the end, waving at you smiling at you, cheering you on to come and get some candy—just by going to the end of the driveway, you’re bypassing so many of the barriers that the kids face.”
The end result is a boon on the candy giveaway in an area.
“If an entire street does it on Halloween, you’ll have kids coming from upwards of four or five kilometres away because they know they will be able to be treating with everybody else on that night,” Padulo said.