Based on an interview with Brad Bartko, Accessibility Champion, Founder of Disability: Accessibility By Design
Accessible home design is an affordable consideration whether you or a loved one have a disability, mobility issues or are planning for aging-in-place.
Brad Bartko was born prematurely to his 16 year old mother who thought she was going in for an appendix. He was so small he could fit in the palm of a hand. He spent his first 76 days fighting for his life in an incubator, with only one fully-developed lung and a cyst on his brain that was irremovable. Brad was then diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 2. His muscles and bones grew at different rates and although he ranks on the less severe side of the cp scale, he still uses a wheelchair full-time and has some difficulty moving around.
“We’re all human beings and we all have 3 things in common: death, taxes and a disability. We will all have a disability of some sort at some point in our lives; mental, physical, age-related, invisible. We need to think proactively and for the future, for the generations to come.”
Living on the brink, with “an inactive volcano that could erupt at any moment” led Brad to the importance of making an impact every day, never knowing if it will be his last. His parents played a big role in developing Brad’s world view. “They did a great job raising me, regardless of circumstances. You can be whatever, the world is yours!” His wheelchair never impeded Brad from making new friends and talking to people. He went to regular public school and hung around ‘normal’ kids that didn’t treat him any differently for “four wheels strapped to my ass”. Brad has had 20 surgeries in as many years, including a massive surgery at 18 that involved having both his legs broken to help him move better, reducing the 45 degree angle his knees were bent at, over the course of a year which completed in only 8 intense months of rehabilitation. Brad had his non-negotiable goal: he would walk across the stage and accept his high school diploma. After tremendous effort, both physical and mental, Brad managed to achieve his goal, despite having just had this huge surgery. Two thousand people, friends, schoolmates, parents, and Brad’s grandfather all clapped for him as he took those symbolic steps representing hope, tenacity, motivation, resilience and strength. It was a golden memory for Brad, forged forever in his heart when his grandfather passed shortly after that day.
Brad went on to apply himself to a career in finance at the age of 21 and for 8 years dedicated himself to helping others through financial literacy. His next defining moment unexpectedly occurred in an Edmonton bar. Brad needed to use the washroom and as the establishment was underwhelmingly unprepared for any disabled patrons, the experience for his accommodation was degrading, humiliating and a wake up call for Brad. Disability needed a voice.
“There are a billion disabled people in the world…and the number continues to climb. It’s the largest minority outside of race. We deserve a seat at the table. Why aren’t people talking about us? It doesn’t affect them? Or they don’t care? Or they don’t know any better. Awareness and Education are key.”
And so Brad founded Disability: Accessible by Design and thus far, has teamed up with close to 30 restaurants to improve accessibility in restaurants, bars and lounges. He didn’t do it alone though and attributes any success to his beloved wife and team exclaiming, “ Our company wouldn’t be what it is without them!”
Brad is spreading H.O.P.E. – the Help One Person Everyday campaign will be launching soon and Hillview Master Builder is part to be partnered with the initiative that will see one disabled person helped every day for 365 days, with the campaign crescendo being a Hillview Home that is fully accessible, will be given away on December 31st, 2023 to someone who is disabled. All proceeds will be donated to a local Edmonton charity to further help those with disabilities.