At RE/MAX, we strive for inclusivity by offering equal opportunities to all communities, doing our best to educate our network and continuing to educate ourselves. Agents who are champions of accessibility aim to spread awareness to fellow REALTORS®, share their knowledge on how to remove barriers in the home buying and selling process, and ensure their clients know that you’re there to support them in their search for the perfect home. 

RE/MAX Broker Aaron Lillie has been with the brand since 2015. In 2007, Aaron was swimming with friends when he dove into the water and broke his neck. He had to have his spine fused, spending two months in the Toronto Western Hospital and another five months in the Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Hospital. Aaron is now quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair.

Following his accident, Aaron moved back into his parents’ home and discovered all the barriers an average home presents to someone in a wheelchair, such as a floor plan that didn’t accommodate an accessible shower or sleeping area, a carpeted area that was difficult to maneuver, and no entry ramp to the home.

Aaron received great support from family, friends and his community. Over $100,000 was raised by the local community to offer him financial support, and many people came to help build an accessible addition to the home, which included modifications and an elevator. When Aaron moved from his parent’s home to Barrie, it was then that he realized the lack of accessible housing available, and how little REALTORS® knew about accessibility.

Since starting his career, Aaron has always been committed to spreading knowledge about accessibility within the real estate industry and throughout his community. Aaron has served as a member of the City of Barrie Accessibility Advisory Committee, and he has worked with organizations such as Stop Gap, which builds and distributes ramps for businesses. He has also worked to modify the universal Symbol of Access, changing it to put more emphasis on the person, rather than on the disability.

Aaron is dedicated to ensuring that people living with disabilities can live full lives. As a REALTOR® with a disability, he offers his clients the knowledge to help support them in finding a home that is accessible.

“When dealing with clients with disabilities, it’s important to listen to their needs. No two disabilities are the same.”

While Aaron knows that there is still a lot the industry can do to become more accessible, he is happy to see that more homes and condos are being built with accessibility in mind.

Aaron is joined by fellow RE/MAX Agents, who are dedicated to spreading this messaging throughout the industry, such as RE/MAX Team Leader Susan Taylor.

An Agent of 14 years, Team Leader, and a 2020 Chairman’s Club award winner, Susan Taylor of RE/MAX Prime Properties is a champion of accessibility. Susan is a mother of two teenage boys. Her eldest, who is now 17, was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was two years old.

“When he was young, he had some difficulty walking. He was mobile, but it is a progressive condition. As he got bigger, it became more difficult for him to get around. Living in a two story subdivision home with multiple staircases presented a lot of barriers.” 

Having experienced an inaccessible home and the barriers it posed for her son, Susan applied her knowledge and understanding of accessibility into her business of selling homes. She is dedicated to offering her clients the comfort of knowing that the house they buy is a one they can live in, independently and comfortably.

“We ended up building a new home from the ground up that is fully accessible. It’s wonderful for my son’s independence, and it also taught me room-by-room what features can be – and should be – considered when designing a home that’s accessible to everyone.”

Susan’s knowledge of accessibility is something that she shares with fellow REALTORS®, and she is dedicated to spreading awareness within the real estate industry and her community.

“Starting to make Agents aware will make the industry more aware. What makes an accessible house? If they renovate, how can they make it more accessible? Having the conversation and being committed to learning more about accessibility in a home is something all Agents can do.”

Even small modifications can make a big impact on accessibility. Susan suggests ensuring that your RE/MAX office is accessible by adding ramps and removing all possible barriers.

Broker & Lifetime Achievement Winner of 2019, Jeff Kerr of RE/MAX Unique has been with the brand for over 22 years and joins Susan and Aaron as a dedicated advocate for accessibility. As a child, Jeff’s mom was a physiotherapist and his aunt, whom he was close with, had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and used a wheelchair for mobility. Growing up with two strong influences in his life, Jeff learned a lot about accessibility at a young age.

Earlier in Jeff’s career, his aunt had purchased a pre-construction condo, with the assurance from the builders that it would be accessible. However, the first time she saw the condo, she knew could not live there independently. She immediately handed Jeff the keys and asked him to sell it for her. It was then that Jeff realized the lack of available resources for selling an accessible home, and to help find someone with a disability a safe and comfortable living space.

“When I started researching accessible real estate, and how to properly market the condo, I quickly realized that there was no one in the GTA that was focusing on this niche. I decided that I would fill that need and quickly became the go-to REALTOR® for accessible homes in the GTA.”

It was then that Jeff shifted his career focus to “barrier-free” real estate.

Since then, Jeff has continued to champion accessibility in his everyday life and in his business. He has had the opportunity to share his knowledge on accessibility with fellow REALTORs. He is a regular columnist for Spinal Cord Injury, Ontario’s Outspoken! and Community magazines, and has a published book, Barrier Free Real Estate ~ Achieving Freedom At Home, 2nd Edition with Foreword by David Onley.

Jeff helps encourage REALTORS® to also become advocates for accessibility, even by easily making a few conscious decisions within their business, or when chatting with clients.

“Not all disabilities are visible so it’s important to talk with your clients. It can be as simple as “does anyone in your family have mobility challenges or disabilities that you need to accommodate in your new home?” 

While these Agents all have different stories, they continue to advocate for the same cause – equality, inclusion and the right for everybody to buy or sell a home without barriers.

“There is an important saying among people with disabilities: “Nothing about us, without us.” – REALTORS® should ask how they can help, and then listen to their clients. Every client will have unique needs and it’s important to make sure those needs are met.”

To learn more about accessibility in real estate, please visit our Accessibility Awareness post, where we share resources and information that can help you eliminate barriers in your business.