Rick Hansen

Rick Hansen

Man in Motion | Champion for Accessibility and Inclusion

Rick Hansen, C.C., O.B.C., is a Canadian icon who has dedicated his life to awakening the world to the potential of people with disabilities. He is best known as the “Man In Motion” for undertaking an epic 26-month, 40,000 km journey around the world in his wheelchair. Now the Founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation, an organization committed to creating a world without barriers for people with disabilities, Hansen uses his presentations to encourage everyone to be a difference maker and a legacy leaver.

When Hansen was 15, his life changed forever. On the way home from a fishing trip, he was in a car accident and thrown from the back of a pickup truck. Hansen injured his spinal cord and was paralyzed from the waist down. His new reality came with a lot of challenges, but with determination, a sense of humour, and a lot of heart, he found a way to keep doing the things he loved, and began to make new dreams.

In 1976, Hansen enrolled at the University of British Columbia, becoming the first person with a disability to graduate with a degree in physical education from that university. Between 1979 and 1984, Hansen turned his focus to track and marathoning, winning nineteen international wheelchair marathons, nine gold medals at the 1982 Pan Am Games, and three world championships in wheelchair racing. He also won six Paralympic medals between 1980 and 1984 — two gold medals and one silver at the 1984 Paralympic Summer Games and a gold, silver, and bronze at the 1980 Paralympic Summer Games. Hansen also competed for Canada in the 1984 Olympic Games in the 1500m wheelchair track event.

As a young athlete in a wheelchair, Hansen had a vision to show the world that anything is possible. On March 21, 1985, Hansen pushed his wheelchair out of Vancouver to set out on a journey that would make history. The Man In Motion World Tour was fueled by Hansen’s two original dreams of a world without barriers for people with disabilities and a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury. Over two years, two months, and two days, with nothing but a trailer and a passionate team of supporters, Hansen traveled across 34 countries, wheeling 40,072 kilometres before returning to Vancouver on May 22, 1987. The Tour raised $26 million and marked the beginning of an ultramarathon of social change, it altered attitudes and created a more positive image of people with disabilities.

The Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) was established in 1988, following the completion of the Man In Motion World Tour. To date, the Foundation has raised over $360 million dollars and has delivered programs that have heightened awareness, changed attitudes, and improved the quality of life for people with disabilities. In 2008, Rick and the Foundation led the creation of the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, a global collaboration of researchers and service providers dedicated to generating life-enhancing solutions for those with spinal cord injury.

For over three decades, Hansen and his team have been focused on the removal of barriers. Now RHF is rethinking how people of all ages and abilities access the spaces where we live, work, learn, and play. The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) is the only program that rates, certifies, and showcases accessible buildings based on their level of meaningful access for persons with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities. To date, more than 1,350 sites across Canada have been rated through the program.

Hansen is the recipient of many accolades and notable achievements including the Lou Marsh Trophy for Outstanding Athlete of the Year (an honour he shared with Wayne Gretzky in 1983), induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Honourary Colonel of the Joint Personnel Unit of the Canadian Armed Forces, torchbearer of the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Ambassador of the 2017 Invictus Games.

Hansen is also a contributor and catalyst to a number of books. In 1987 he co-authored Rick Hansen Man in Motion and in 2017 he collaborated on Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion Tour, a book celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Tour. He is also the inspiration for four children’s books: Boy in Motion, Roll On, The Boy Who Loved to Move, and Tale of a Great White Fish: A Sturgeon Story.

Leadership: Becoming A Difference Maker

Through the power of his own story and the inspiration he’s found in others, Rick Hansen encourages us all to recognize the Difference Makers in our lives and to see ourselves as Difference Makers.

Difference Makers are leaders by example, catalysts – those whose passion and courage ignite talent and action in others. Their energy empowers them to believe in their own potential and find solutions to barriers.

Who amongst your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors create an impact? What can you do to make others around you better?

Hansen shares his vision and inspires audiences to join his journey to create an accessible, healthy, and inclusive world where people of all abilities can fully participate and contribute.

Resiliency: Overcoming Barriers and Navigating Challenging Times

When Rick Hansen was 15, his life changed forever. He was thrown from the back of a pickup truck and he sustained a spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the waist down. He would never walk again.

Lying in the hospital bed on his 16th birthday, Hansen recognized that his new reality interfered with all his goals and dreams — he had wanted to become a professional athlete and thought this was no longer possible. But with the incredible support of those around him, he learned to move forward.

Hansen went on to win four World Championships and six medals as a Paralympian. He also competed for Canada in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Hansen is best known as the “Man In Motion” for his epic 26-month, 34 country, 40,000 km wheelchair trip around the world to make the world inclusive for people with disabilities and to find a cure for paralysis.

Through Hansen’s personal journey, we learn that overcoming barriers and navigating through challenging times builds resiliency. Hansen looks back on his amazing experiences since his injury and he will be the first to tell you that he wouldn’t trade his life for the use of his legs.

Accessibility and Inclusion: Unleashing the Potential of People with Disabilities

When Rick Hansen set out to wheel around the world in 1985, he had two missions: to raise awareness about the potential of people with disabilities and to raise funds for Spinal Cord Injury research.

Currently, 15% of the world’s population live with a disability — the largest “minority group” in the world. And because of age-related disabilities, or even temporary disabilities, it is the only minority group that everyone can, and in fact, will someday probably be a member of.

Technology and science are slowly improving health outcomes, but we need inclusivity and accessibility to be at the core of our laws and innovations. And, in addition to removing physical barriers, we must acknowledge and tackle the stubborn invisible ones, too.

By reflecting on our own actions and beliefs, we can challenge existing standards and dream up new ones — ones that foster hope, inspiration, and acceptance. Hansen encourages us all to fight for accessibility as a human right as an accessible and inclusive world will only be achieved when we all work together.

Anything is possible if we have the courage to try.

Innovation: The Business Case for Accessibility

One in five Canadian adults currently lives with a disability, according to Statistics Canada. These Canadians struggle every day to grab coffee with a friend or interview for a job because of physical barriers to accessibility. This number is growing every day as our population ages.

Today, there are more than 1.8 billion people in the world with disabilities, representing an untapped economic potential worth $13 trillion in disposable income. This is an emerging market the size of China, and one that all forward-thinking businesses should be paying attention to.

Rick Hansen shares his vision of universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible public spaces, ensuring that everyone is able to participate and live to their full potential. The expertise and responsibility to not invest in new barriers lies with all of us. Hansen shows us why the public and private sector must work with all levels of government to normalize a harmonized approach to establishing common metrics for all significant barriers that people with disabilities face.

When everyone can participate in and fully contribute to our society, we prove it’s not only the right thing to do, but that it provides a positive impact on our economy, community, and people.

Rick Hansen’s Fishing Journey: Salmon and Sturgeon Conservation

Rick Hansen’s earliest memories are of fishing adventures with his grandfather, father, uncle, and cousins. At the age of 15, he sustained a spinal cord injury after a truck accident on his way home from a fishing trip. Following his injury, Hansen used adapted equipment to venture out on fishing trips with family and friends. Spending time on the water and out in nature was therapeutic for him, and it reconnected him with his childhood passion, affirming that he was still an adventurer.

For Hansen, his passion for conservation, the environment, and sportfishing are inextricably tied to his advocacy for accessibility. As a result of his life experience, conservation of sturgeon and salmon ecosystems have been a strong priority for Hansen throughout his life. For over 20 years, he has been an advocate of environmental stewardship. He has worked closely with government, fisheries scientists, enforcement personnel, students, and academics, plus commercial, sport, and aboriginal fishermen to ensure that these species have a healthy future.

Today, Hansen continues to spend much of his free time on the water. Many of his experiences continue to involve conservation initiatives related to Fraser River White Sturgeon and BC’s Pacific Salmon. Through fishing, Hansen inspires others to join him in the removal of barriers and accelerate progress in creating a healthy and inclusive world.

Celebrity Services

Rick Hansen is represented by The Spotlight Agency for sponsorships, endorsements, public relations and media spokesperson campaigns, product launches, voiceovers, celebrity appearances, and more.  Please visit The Spotlight Agency for more details.