'Accessible trick-or-treating': Toronto designers help all kids experience Halloween

Two Toronto-based designers are trying to remove barriers that typically haunt children with a physical disability when they go trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Etobicoke resident explains initiative offers a 'good life lesson to teach our kids'

Two Toronto designers have crafted a pumpkin-coloured lawn sign that reads, 'Accessible trick-or-treat' to be placed outside homes that are inclusive for children with a disability. (Submitted by Padulo X)

Two Toronto-based designers are trying to remove barriers that typically haunt children with physical disabilities when they go trick-or-treating on Halloween. 

Rich Padulo and Pat Lore have crafted a pumpkin-coloured lawn sign that says: "Accessible trick-or-treating." 

Homeowners can place these signs in front of their homes signalling to parents and children with a physical disability that they can take part in the Halloween tradition without having to navigate obstacles that might prevent them from ringing a doorbell. 

"It's a movement about helping to empower children," Padulo said.

Barriers can range from stairs, a steep-sloping walk-up or driveway, dropped curbs, and a dimly lit entrance, explains Heather Keating, team leader for transitions, recreation and life skills at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. 

For people with a learning disability, trick-or-treating can be a sensory minefield. Props such as flashing lights and loud noises can keep them from taking part, said Keating. 

More inclusive

Padulo came up with the idea last year while outfitting his waterfront home with spooky props, carved pumpkins and Star Wars-themed essentials. He told CBC Toronto when he looked up from decorating, he saw a boy in a wheelchair coming down the sidewalk with his family. 

"We locked eyes for one second and you know when you see a whole world of experiences through the windows of soul and I realized that child can't trick-or-treat at most people's houses just because of stairs," he said. 

Padulo says that interaction empowered him to do something. He had Lore help him draft a design, which he hung on his garage during a neighbourhood gathering a week before Halloween. 

So far, Rich Padulo and Pat Lore have handed out more than 150 signs to residents in Etobicoke. (Submitted by Padulo X)

Seven families with kids with a physical disability came by. 

One family who attended had a daughter in a wheelchair, Padulo says.

"They cried, and I cried. It was very special." 

Now Padulo and Lore, through their event marketing company Padulo X, are trying to build on the concept. They are offering free, "Accessible trick-or-treating" signs to residents throughout Etobicoke's Long Branch neighbourhood who want to make Wednesday's spooky celebration more inclusive. 

So far, they've given out more than 150 free signs. 

'A good life lesson'

Thomas Longo got a sign and is ready to welcome a troupe of little Spidermen, Mr. Incredibles and Wonder Women on Wednesday night.

His wife, 18-year-old son dressed in a pumpkin costume, and he will be standing outside their home, handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. 

"I think it's a good life lesson to teach our kids as they grow older as well ... just be inclusive and open minded, and also not everyone is fortunate to do the simple things in life, so just help each other out," he said. 

It's a movement about helping to empower children.- Rich Padulo

Longo, who only moved to the area a year ago with his family of three, also views the initiative as a way to further connect to the community.

"We will be on the street with the community, so we'll probably be talking with neighbours, and enjoying the evening with each other. Otherwise you would be indoors and just kind of waiting for people to knock on the door," he said. 

"It's such a minor gesture but I think it goes a long way."

How Keating says you can make your home more inclusive on Halloween:

  • Make sure the entrance to your home is cleared and well lit.
  • If you have steps, meet the trick-or-treater out on the driveway or walkway.
  • Avoid using strobe lights and machines or props that make loud noise.
  • Have alternatives to candy on hand, such as stickers or markers.
  • Allow children to move at their own pace.


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