It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Holiday songs are piped through the malls, decorations abound, and the anticipation of holiday parties, friends, family and school breaks are all part of what makes the season joyous. However, many parents of children with disabilities may be dreading these activities rather than looking forward to them, due to barriers to accessibility that exist for their children.

“Many parents used to throw out the Suncor children’s holiday party invitations, myself included,” says Christine Godby, co-chair of our newest Employee Network, enABLE. “Due to our children’s disabilities, we knew they would not be accessible.”

As a parent of a child with complex disabilities, Christine knew how much her child would love to participate. She decided to act and reach out to the Inclusion and Diversity manager at the time, Charlene Waugh, to explain her ideas and the barriers her daughter and others like her face at these events.

Charlene took immediate action, engaging event coordinators to work together with Christine to identify the obstacles that exist and brainstorm how they could overcome them so that every child, regardless of their abilities, would be actively included in all Suncor family events. The result was an initiative for our events called Sun Hugs. The Sun Hugs pass is an accessibility pass intended for guests with physical and cognitive disabilities (and their immediate family members) to help improve the event experience. “Pass holders are identifiable to volunteers who can provide extra assistance. Signage is also visible throughout the event so everyone in attendance is aware and can be as inclusive as possible,” says Christine.

“We’ve received great feedback from other families have experienced accommodations for their children at recent events. They’ve never had someone challenge the need to provide extra space, move ahead in a line or receive extra care,” says Jacqui Parlee, Tours & Events Advisor in Wood Buffalo. “It’s great that everyone is aware and kind, supporting each other at work and in the community.”

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on December 3 is an opportunity for everyone to better understand the challenges and celebrate the successes that persons with disabilities experience in our workplaces and communities. IDPD promotes an understanding of disability issues and mobilizes support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

Sun Hugs is an example of how we are working to ensure full inclusion of all persons with disabilities. For more information on Suncor's employee inclusion networks, click here.