Friday, December 2, 2016

Recognizing Calgarians who improve life for people with disabilities

With upcoming Federal Government accessibility legislation and the increasing need for more accessible services, what can we do to make Calgary a more inclusive city?

Today we celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities by recognizing local organizations and innovators who are leading the way to improve life for people with disabilities in Calgary.
2016 ACA annual award recipients and special guests.

“People with disabilities have so much to contribute to our communities and our economy,” says Nabeel Ramji, a member of the Advisory Committee on Accessibility (ACA). Nabeel works as the Manager of Strategic Atlantic and Real Estate Finance at Strategic Group. He also has cerebral palsy. “This is why we chose the theme of ‘Live, play, work and thrive in Calgary’ for this year’s event. Regardless of one's ability, as a community we can collaborate to ensure that everyone has access to equal opportunities towards a full and active life in Calgary.”

Awarding Calgarians who make a difference

Mayor Nenshi recognized the contributions of those who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in Calgary. The winners of the ACA’s annual awards are:

  • The Access Recognition Award was awarded to Darlene Boyes of Calgary Recreation for her expertise in supporting the Recreation Accessibility Study. The study audited 45 City-operated facilities and recommended improvements to increase accessibility. Darlene’s passion, advocacy and expertise help ensure City facilities are physically accessible, welcoming and inclusive.
  • The Advocacy Award recognized Mark Burzacott of Between Friends, an organization dedicated to creating social, recreational and self-development opportunities for people with disabilities to connect, grow and belong. Through Mark’s work, he removes barriers of isolation and participation. He recently developed a Sensory Room, a therapeutic space for members, at the Between Friends Camp Bonaventure.
  • The Ella Anderson Accessible Transportation Award was given to Stephen Hansen for the formation of Access Calgary, now Calgary Transit Access. A visionary in accessible transportation, he was instrumental in creating Access Calgary in 2001 to ensure people with disabilities could use transit to meet their diverse needs. Today, Calgary Transit Access provides over one million trips each year to nearly 15,000 Calgarians that are unable to use Calgary Transit services due to a disability.

Sandra Jansen provided greetings on behalf of the Government of Alberta and Sheila Serup presented two 2016 Awards of Excellence to Ms. Lynn Wheadon and Dr. Dorothy Badry on behalf of The Premier’s Council on the Status of People with Disabilities.

These awards acknowledge only a small fraction of the total contributions by Calgarians to support the well-being of people with disabilities in our city.

Making accessibility a priority for everyone

Minister Kent Hehr spoke about the importance of developing an upcoming Canadian Accessibility Act. Nicole Jackson of Accessible Housing talked about Accessible U which includes toolkits and practical information about accessibility in the residential environment. Councillor Druh Farrell concluded the formal portion of the event by sharing how The City is improving accessibility. Attendees had the opportunity to meet with local organizations who support a variety of disabilities in Calgary, including Deaf and Hear Alberta, CNIB, Accessible Housing, Between Friends and March of Dimes Canada.

The City of Calgary’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility provides advice on important issues that impact the needs of people with disabilities, including building design, transportation and services.

Happy #IDPD2016 everyone! For more information about what The City is doing to improve accessibility, visit

Watch footage from the ACA annual awards and International Day of People with Disabilities event.

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