Groups aim to make frights and delights of Halloween more accessible

In Halloweens past, 10-year-old Emile Laliberte struggled to find a costume that wouldn’t be hidden by his wheelchair.

But Emile looks to be the envy of all the children on his block as he sets out trick or treating on Oct. 31 as a green dragon with 3D-printed scales, motorized wings and glowing animated eyes to watch over the Styrofoam castle that surrounds his wheelchair.

“I will impress the kids,” Emile said. “Kids with special needs have (a) right to wear a costume with their wheelchair.”

Handyman Robert Murphy said the costume, made in collaboration with Concordia University’s Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology, is the first in what the group of Montreal crafters hope will become a holiday tradition. Next year, Chad the dragon – a name picked by Emile – will be passed on to another kid as the team embarks on its next wheelchair-customized Halloween creation.

The project, which is called Rolloween, is part of a growing push in Canada to make the frights and delights of Halloween more inclusive for children with disabilities and special needs.

In a Vancouver suburb, Lucille Ayers said thousands of people flock to the Coquitlam Halloween House over 12 days of wheelchair-accessible thrills including a pumpkin patch, graveyards, fortune tellers and eerie effects.

Ayers said it’s her 19th year of turning her home into a house of horrors, and all proceeds have been donated to Variety, a charity for children with special needs, which is why it was important to her family that the spooky attractions were accessible.

“All of the children in the charity that Variety helps have disabilities, so we want to emulate that,” she said. “We take the extra time with them. They come out; they’re just beaming. It’s just things they don’t ever get to do.”

That mission extends to the adult volunteers who help out with the event, said Ayers, many of whom have special needs.

“So often, (people with disabilities) are isolated,” she said. “I think every opportunity they can get to participate in the typical community, and be a part of it, is really important. I think that should be happening all the time.”

In Toronto, Frolic’s Haunt aimed to accommodate as many visitors as possible — recruiting ASL interpreters, ensuring there’s enough light for visually impaired guests, and avoiding ableist props like straight-jackets — for its one-day event, which was cancelled Saturday on account of bad weather.

Allan Marriage, who works at Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, said a haunted house would be too much for his scare-sensitive eight-year-old son, Liam, who spent the summer making a costume inspired by the video game Minecraft that would work with his mobility device.

“It’s something he looks forward to. More than the candy even, I think he likes the dressing up, and the celebration of it,” said Marriage. “I think for a lot of kids with special needs, Liam included, you need to adapt your costumes to be able to participate.”

Marriage said there are simple adjustments parents can make to ensure that kids with disabilities can enjoy the sugar rush of Halloween, such as bringing the bowl of treats down to the driveway where children in wheelchairs can reach them, and going easy on the effects so as not to overwhelm those with sensory issues.

But more than costumes and candy, Marriage said children with disabilities want to trick or treat with other kids.

“I think being invited … is like the biggest thing that other families can do for families of kids with special needs on Halloween,” said Marriage. “We’re a part of society, and we need to be included.”

Just Posted

Trial stalls for man accused in fatal Canada Day 2016 crash

Defence lawyer argued relevant information received only hours before trial to begin

Sylvan Lake council passes 2019 budget

Tax rate increase of 2.74 per cent set for this year

Big-time entertainers to perform in Red Deer during the 2019 Canada Winter Games

Musicans announced include Strumbellas, k-os, Brett Kissel

WATCH:2019 Canada Winter Games torchbearers announced

Sixteen torchbearers announced with others to be revealed during Opening Ceremonies

Police chief confirms all three Ottawa bus victims were on board when it crashed

OTTAWA — All three people killed in last week’s deadly bus accident… Continue reading

UPDATE: Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Theresa May wins no-confidence vote after Brexit deal rejection

UK PM can keep her job, after House of Commons voted 325-306

Alberta doctor accused of sexual assault asked to voluntarily give up practice

College says Dr. Barry Wollach should discontinue his practice, given the seriousness of the allegation against him

Speedy acceptance of Saudi shows refugee system’s flaws

Who would not wish Rahaf Mohammed well? The 18-year-old Saudi wants to… Continue reading

Hertl’s hat trick leads Sharks past Penguins 5-2

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tomas Hertl needed just three games to get… Continue reading

Starring role beckons for Canada’s Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich

BERLIN — Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies could be thrown in at the… Continue reading

Bus singer gives voice to Venezuela’s growing diaspora

LIMA, Peru — A year ago, Venezuelan migrant Reymar Perdomo was singing… Continue reading

Most Read