The Current

30 years after Man in Motion tour, Rick Hansen still fighting for accessibility

"Right now there's over a billion people on the planet living with a disability according to the World Health Organization — that is one in seven people."
A man in vest rides with a bike for paraplegics in front of a vehicle amid rain.
In 1987, Rick Hansen completed his remarkable journey around the world — the Man in Motion Tour. You can read about his epic marathon in a new book called, Rick Hansen's Man In Motion World Tour: 30 Years Later — A Celebration of Courage, Strength, and the Power of Community. (Rick Hansen Foundation)

Originally published on September 21, 2017

Thirty years after his Man in Motion World Tour, Rick Hansen says Canada still has miles to go before people with disabilities have full accessibility to public spaces.

"We need a wake-up call," Hansen tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Rick and the crew reach their last provincial border, from Alberta back into B.C. (Rick Hansen Foundation)

"We need to actually see our built environment — you know, the place where we live, work, play and learn — they have to become completely inclusive. And we got to move from a potpourri of random responses to accessibility, to a professionalized, accredited lens in the entire development chain, from architects, to engineers to city planners, to advocates — all using the same viewpoint and standards." 

Hansen says the need to make public spaces accessible is becoming increasingly urgent as the baby boom generation grows older.

Terry Fox (back) and Rick Hansen at the 17-Mile Labour Day Classic road race in Prince George, B.C. in 1979. (Rick Hansen Foundation)

"Right now there's over a billion people on the planet living with a disability according to the World Health Organization — that is one in seven people. That will be like one in five by 2035," he tells Tremonti.

"In Canada that will be nine million Canadians. It will affect everybody. So it's also now becoming an economic and cultural imperative."

Rick Hansen is greeted by his mother, Joan Hansen, at the B.C. border. (Rick Hansen Foundation.)

Hansen became a world-wide celebrity in 1987 when he completed his Man in Motion tour, in which he travelled through 34 countries and rolled over 40,000 km. The 26-month marathon raised $26 million to bring awareness around issues of living with disabilities.

Related: A day on the road of the Man in Motion Tour

The Rick Hansen Foundation continues to raise millions of dollars for research and advocacy work on behalf of people living with disabilities.

Rick Hansen at the Badaling Great Wall, the most popular section of China's famous wall and has been visited by more than 300 foreign leaders and celebrities. (Rick Hansen Foundation)

Hansen says that when he lost the ability to walk after a truck accident when he was just 15, he felt hopeless. The world, he says, was a very dark place. Today, he looks back at that time differently. 

"I would have sold my soul back then for the use of legs, and I thought my life was over," he tells Tremonti.

"And looking back I would never trade my life for the use of my legs. I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet."

This segment is part of our season-long series Adaptation looking at the surprising, innovative, and sometimes ill-advised ways we accommodate a rapidly shifting world. 

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.