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Defenders for Human Rights
Rick Hansen

Rick Hansen Inclusion for All

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GRADE LEVELS = 5 to 12  /  SUGGESTED TIME = Five 60 minute class periods

Rick Hansen is a Paralympic athlete and the founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation, an organization that removes barriers for people with disabilities by changing attitudes, creating accessible spaces and inspiring an inclusive society.

Born in 1957 in Port Alberni, British Columbia, Hansen grew up with ambitions for professional sport. On his way home from a fishing trip, 15-year-old Hansen suffered a spinal cord injury when he was thrown from the back of a pickup truck. The accident left him paralysed from the waist down. With support and motivation from various mentors, Hansen returned to sport less than a year later, and attended the University of British Columbia, where he became the first person with a disability to graduate with a degree in physical education. 

Between 1979 and 1984, Hansen won 19 international wheelchair marathons, four world titles, and nine Pan American Wheelchair gold medals. In 1984, he represented Canada at the Summer Paralympic Games. He was named Canada’s Disabled Athlete of the Year three times – in 1979, 1980 and 1982. Along the way, he played alongside friends Terry Fox and wheelchair athlete mentor Stan Stronge.

In 1985, Hansen embarked on the Man in Motion World Tour, a two-year journey through 34 countries around the world to raise awareness for the potential of people with disabilities. Through the tour, Hansen promoted accessibility and inclusiveness for all, and raised $26 million.

Hansen founded the Rick Hansen Foundation to continue the work of the Man in Motion World Tour, in 1988. The foundation’s entities include the Rick Hansen Institute, which focuses on spinal cord injury research, and the Rick Hansen School Program, which provides resources to empower young people and raise awareness.