Extra candy not helpful on Halloween, teen with disability says

Story by CBC Kids News • 2019-10-31 07:51

How Halloween is different with a disability

When Halloween comes around, Tai Young has to get creative.

Although Halloween costumes can be tricky when you have a disability, the 15-year-old from Toronto has always found a way to add whimsy to his wheelchair. 

When he was eight, he and his dad made his chair into a Hippogriff.

And even though he’s a little too old for trick-or-treating now, he still remembers how different it was for him.

Tai Young is an ambassador for Holland Bloorview Hospital’s Dear Everybody movement and is vocal about accessibility. (Chris Young)

Giving extra candy sweet, but doesn’t help

For example, Tai said he used to get more candy than other kids.

Although he “didn’t mind," Tai said he's starting to understand why it might not be such a good thing.

"I think I got more candy because people felt bad and believe those with disabilities are struggling and want to help, but that’s not necessarily the case."

He thinks it has a lot to do with the way people with disabilities are represented.

"In TV and film, it’s always a trope. The person with a disability is always the one being saved; they’re never the one’s doing the saving. Giving extra candy sort of just reinforces that, so we need to change the way people think."

Orange lawn sign says Accessible trick or treating and shows image of person in a wheelchair with a cape.

Homes with these signs signify that a house is accessible for kids with disabilities, and blue pumpkins signal that a house is accessible for kids with autism. (Treat Accessibility/Twitter)

Getting to the candy a challenge

Going door to door on Halloween wasn't easy, Tai said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a house besides my own that was accessible, so I’d always wait by the curb while my friend got the candy or the people would walk down to give me the candy,” said Tai.

“It wasn’t like Halloween was ruined, but I definitely missed out on saying 'Trick or treat' and seeing people’s decorations."

When he goes to a friend’s house, Tai almost always has to have someone bring his chair inside for him while he crawls up the steps.

But he said it doesn’t have to be that way.

"Since most homes have two entrances, why not have one of them be a ramp entrance when building new houses?" said Tai.

Disability is likely to be a part of everyone's lives at some point, he said.

"I mean, it’s not like you're never going to have a relationship with someone with a disability, and a lot of people experience disability at some point in life."

Close-up on pile of Halloween candies including Aero, KitKat and Rockets.

Yasmin Ingram, who has low vision, says trick-or-treating is tough when the lighting is poor because she can't see the candies in the bowl. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

Lighting can be tricky

Of course, there are many kinds of disabilities that present their own challenges on Halloween.

Nine-year-old Yasmin Ingram of Toronto has low vision, which can make it difficult to trick-or-treat in the dark.

"Some houses have lots and lots of steps and poor lighting so I used to fall over a lot in the dark," she said.

"Also, I don't think I always get the best candies because I can’t see what's in the bowl."

Yasmin said that although making mazes and walkways treacherous can be fun for some kids, it’s more important that everyone is safe.

"I think houses should have clearer and well-lit walkways so that people don't run into anything, and people should sweep their leaves."

Yasmin Ingram in a gauzy black witch costume with hat and cape.

When she was nine months old, Yasmin lost a lot of her vision because of a brain tumor. (Sarah Ingram)

For 13-year-old Rosie Hill, who has epilepsy and chronic pain, lighting presents a different issue.

"I can’t really go out anymore because a lot of houses have strobe lights, which can trigger my epilepsy. If people stopped using them, that would be great,” said the Torontonian.

"Because I have chronic pain in my legs, I mostly just hand out candy now, but I love seeing the looks on kids' faces when I give them candy."

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