Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC)
Accessibility Award Finalist
Details: Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation
Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC) is a community-based, tenant and member directed non-profit housing organization whose mission is to create, maintain and promote housing for low- and moderate-income people. They embrace diversity in their tenant population, including people who live with disabilities and need independent, accessible, and supportive housing. CCOC works collaboratively with support agencies and tenants to develop the independent living skills and equipment needed to manage and maintain their housing. This means that individuals can achieve successful tenancies and better life outcomes.
CCOC has gone above and beyond the accessibility standards in the Ontario Building Code as they will modify a client’s unit to accommodate their unique needs. They are also willing to work with their clients living with disabilities to provide them with experiences that people who are able-bodied take for granted such as the garden in their Beaver Barracks complex. CCOC worked with their clients living with disabilities to plan, construct and maintain a fully accessible garden for them to work in and enjoy. In addition, CCOC is unique in the city in that 20% of all its units are fully accessible, which in turn helps to reduce the waiting time for people living with disabilities who need a home of their own.
Advocacy Award Finalist
Details: AnaLori Smith
AnaLori Smith is a passionate and driven woman who works to make Ottawa a more inclusive and equitable city. Through her work with several organisations, she advocates for greater accessibility through universal design and inclusive planning in Ottawa institutions. Through education, she raises awareness on topics including ableism, sex and disability.
She has been a vocal advocate in Ottawa on such issues as improved snow clearing on Ottawa streets and sidewalks and the sexual and reproductive rights of people with disabilities. AnaLori breaks down stigmas and through her advocacy, she contributes to a greater understanding of the issues facing people living with disabilities.
Artistic Excellence Award Finalist
Joel Dazé is a trail blazer – he was one of the first students with a visual impairment to attend the School of Music at the University of Ottawa. He is also an exceptional piano teacher and composer.
During his time at university, he led the way for other students as he required different types of accommodations to complete his Master’s Degree of Music, Theory and Composition. He became a mentor to other students and from 2010-2015 was hired by the university as a support staff to visually impaired students. He learned and later developed a training curriculum using various music software applications. Over the years, Joel has persevered to become an accomplished musician and composer by learning to use tools that accommodate his visual impairment and assist him in composing music for modern dance pieces, videos, chamber works and pieces for piano.
Joel has been teaching piano to students, including those with disabilities, since 2006. He has made accommodations for many by developing some of his own tools to enable his students to learn piano, history, theory, composition and improvisation.
Career Award Finalist
Details: Susan Forster
Susan Forster’s career has focused on issues which impact people with disabilities.
The passion she brings to her current role is evidenced by her ability to continuously encourage new employers, service providers, and stakeholders to join the conversation and get involved with the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN). Her willingness to share her experiences as a person with a disability and her knowledge has engaged more businesses to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Throughout her career in not-for profit and the independent living movement, Susan has pushed barriers when advocating for people with disabilities around employment issues. She advocates and creates change by including people in a conversation they have not thought of before and breaks down barriers that are often unconscious for others. Susan also uses her strong writing skills, public speaking opportunities and broadcasting to effect change and improve the lives of those with disabilities.
Community Leader Award Finalist
Details: Anna-Karina Tabuñar
John C Maxwell defines leadership as one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.
Anna-Karina Tabuñar is a person who has lived with disability and who has certainly demonstrated her exceptional leadership in showing us the way. Her mission is to open doors of employment for individuals living with disabilities so they can contribute to our community and economy.
At mid-career, Anna-Karina was diagnosed with a neurological disorder and subsequently found herself among one in seven Canadians living with a disability. Unable to work and in recovery, she found herself being supported by others with disabilities. She quickly realized that the common thread among them was widespread unemployment.
As an experienced journalist and broadcaster, she had the communications expertise to give voice to this demographic. Anna-Karina did this by making the documentary film Talent Untapped which highlights the capability and innovation of people with disabilities. The film brings much-needed awareness and education to employers.
In March of 2012, she founded Iona Street Media Inc. Part of its mission was to proactively hire talent with disabilities and become an example to other employers. At the same time, she was reaching out to others with lived disability experiences to tell their collective stories and change the community’s perspective of disability.
Anna-Karina has positively shifted the perceptions. As the host of the award-winning current affairs programme Canada in Perspective, she has taken leading edge topics related to disability and brought them to the forefront for her viewers. She included topics like dying with dignity and medicinal marijuana and addressed these contentious issues way ahead of others. She has drawn attention to what matters for persons living with complex medical conditions and disabilities.
Anna-Karina invests much of her personal time helping other individuals with a disability in her community. Her is a volunteer Ottawa mentor with Dolphin Disabilities Mentoring Day which assists young job seekers to explore career possibilities with corporate leaders.
She currently works at Sodexo Canada as Director of Corporate Affairs. She sits on Sodexo’s Global Disability task force which works to improve work inclusion for 420,000 employees worldwide.
Employee Award Finalist
Details: Christine Malone
Christine Malone currently works as a Specialist, Diversity and Inclusion, at the City of Ottawa. She is part of the team responsible for developing the Corporate Diversity Plan and assisting nine departments to develop their own specific plans for each four-year term of Council. In addition, she supports departmental diversity and inclusion-planning initiatives to meet corporate diversity objectives and provides support to employees and managers to resolve issues based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination. She also creates and facilitates training programs that raise awareness about human rights and equity, and promotes inclusivity in the workplace and community through leading, developing and participating in numerous initiatives.
Christine has a long-time commitment to championing the rights of persons with disabilities: a disability-rights activist, Employment Consultant, Accessibilities Initiatives Coordinator, and Accessibility Training Coordinator are some of the roles she has held. She has demonstrated leadership, passion and commitment to promoting accessibility and inclusion in both the public and non-profit sectors, formally and through ongoing volunteer work. For example, Christine has championed the voice and agency of people with disabilities and ensured that the lived experience of disability is a driving force in considering and shaping accessibility and inclusion in the office and in the neighbourhood.
Special Hockey Heroes
Sports Award Finalist
Details: Special Hockey Heroes
Special Hockey Heroes (SHH) is a not-for-profit that supports young people aged six years plus, who have physical and intellectual disabilities and who are not able to play community hockey in Ottawa. The group is run solely by volunteers, in collaboration with the Ottawa Police Association. SHH provides ice time, instruction, games and tournaments. The program emphasizes learning, confidence, team building and respect. Teaching, play and safety are the priority for all the coaches and volunteers.
SHH works year-round to put on events and to solicit corporate sponsors to pay for expenses like jerseys, jackets and awards. Events such as Christmas parties, police/fire station tours, beach parties, banquets and baseball games are also held throughout the year to allow families to get together to have fun and make new friends.
Volunteer Award Finalist
Details: Aditi Sivakumar
Aditi Sivakumar has always possessed a strong philanthropic drive to help those with disabilities. She was inspired by her younger sibling who lives with a developmental coordination disorder. Aditi assists her sibling with strength building exercises, has volunteered at Inspiration Camps for children living with autism and has started her own free tutoring initiative for students with developmental disabilities, including those living in local shelters. Aditi has helped plan fundraising events for the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, raising over $2,000 herself.
She is an active volunteer at the Perley Rideau Veterans Health Centre and the Dementia Society of Ottawa. In addition, she is a volunteer researcher at both
CHEO (juvenile arthritis) and the Ottawa Hospital (retinal pathology -Spinocerebellar Ataxia 7).
Through her own personal challenges, Aditi has learned that she has the courage and perseverance to overcome any future challenges, and she uses her experience in overcoming adversity to help others in need.
Joanne Small Greenall
Volunteer Award Finalist
Details: Joanne Small Greenall
Joanne Small Greenall has been actively involved in creating activities in the community to support individuals with special needs/disabilities and to provide them with opportunities for socialization and learning in a safe, fun and accepting environment.
Joanne created and runs the Around the Campfire socialization group for children and youth with special needs which operates in two locations across the city. She was the visionary and main fundraiser behind the Safety Village at the Crystal Bay Centre for Special Education – a mock village to teach students with special needs how to safely navigate roads and traffic. Another of Joanne’s initiatives is Tuesday Church, a sensory-friendly worship for everyone. She also volunteers with the Just for Kicks soccer program for children with special needs.
Joanne is very proactive and when she sees a need or gaps in our community, she takes steps to improve accessibility and promote inclusion to help create a welcoming and accepting society that embraces people whatever their abilities.
Volunteer Opportunity Award Finalist
Details: Rebecca Sun
Rebecca Sun is the Co-Curricular Record & Volunteerism Coordinator at Algonquin College. Through her work, she ensures that every opportunity created for students to increase their skills and experience through volunteerism, is accessible and available for all students, including those who live with disabilities. She works closely with the Centre for Accessible Learning and Counselling Services to plan the College’s volunteer activities so that they are accessible for all students.
Rebecca truly sees the ability in each student and helps them to build their skills, experiences and resumes through volunteer opportunities. If a situation arises where a student makes her aware that there is a barrier to their participation, she will ensure that it is eliminated so that everyone can participate.
Youth Award Finalist
Details: Jonathan Pitre
Jonathan Pitre was born with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a rare and genetic skin disorder that causes blistering and shearing of the skin from the gentlest friction or minor trauma. Jonathan was 17 years old when he succumbed following a valiant battle with his disease.
Jonathan became involved with the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association (DEBRA) Canada in 2012 when he was invited to be a guest speaker on the patient/parent panel at the DEBRA International Congress. Following Jonathan continued his involvement with DEBRA Canada as an EB Ambassador. Through his own experiences and the loss of many friends to EB, he had become even more determined to help spread awareness in the hopes of one day finding a cure. He made himself vulnerable to the world exposing the open wounds that resembled third degree burns that covered more than 85% of his body and how it impacted his life. The thing that was the most staggering about Jonathan was his joie de vivre, his smiling face and seeing how he enjoyed life. He loved to live despite the challenges he faced, and he did it so gracefully. He is remembered as a strong, determined advocate who worked to raise awareness and pushed for better understanding of EB.
Accessibility Award Finalist
BuildAble is the only nurse-managed construction company in Canada that provides innovative, accessible design, renovation and consulting to provide custom modifications, tailored to each of their client’s unique needs. BuildAble works not only with individuals with disabilities to modify their residences. They also work with allied health professionals to support funding of motor vehicle accident claims, and they partner with agencies, such as the MS and Parkinson’s, to provide support and education presentations. They also provide barrier-free renovation and consulting services for businesses and community spaces.
The team at BuildAble works directly to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities. Whether through home modifications, working with businesses, seeking funding from insurance companies, or advocating for policy change, BuildAble’s lofty vision for Ottawa is to “make life more accessible for every age and ability.” Inclusion is a key focus of every project and they themselves are proud to be inclusive employers who provide an accessible workplace.
Advocacy Award Finalist
Details: Michael Lifshitz
Michael Lifshitz’s life is about “shining light on abilities”. This is the tag line of his company, ILLUMABILITIES. Michael uses motivational speaking, comedy and writing to advocate to a broad audience in Ottawa, with a focus on the abilities of people with disabilities and on what they can do, or do in a different way, rather than on what they cannot do. He advocates for increased inclusion by being active on social media, through coverage on local TV stations and by acting as an emcee at the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN) annual conference.
Michael is collaborating with a fully-accessible entertainment venue in Ottawa for an accessible comedy show. This venue will enable performers and patrons with disabilities to have access to a club just like their able-bodied peers. In addition, he uses his own life experience to illuminate the barriers that many people with disabilities continue to face in our community. With all that he does, Michael conveys to a broad audience a strong message of inclusion – that people with disabilities want to and can participate in all aspects of life. He emphasizes that an accessibility and inclusion lens must be what drives supports and services for people with disabilities.
Artistic Excellence Award Finalist
BEING is a unique art studio for people with developmental disabilities where they can explore and express their creative side through visual art and creative writing. The studio provides the artists with a space to create art, a community to exchange ideas and develop friendships, and an opportunity to commercialize their art. The artists own their works and are free to keep or sell each piece they create.
The artists find inspiration through everyday life, and through group discussions or presentations on various subjects that the BEING staff facilitate. They have become quite literate about art, and various artistic techniques and styles. Each day at BEING includes time to do creative writing. Art has given many of the artists a voice and a place to contribute as productive members of society. One artist summed up how their involvement made them feel in these words – “equal to other people”.
Career Award Finalist
Details: Yazmine Laroche
Yazmine Laroche has forged a long and successful career in the federal public service while giving back to the community and being a passionate activist for persons with disabilities and accessibility in Canada.
One of her roles was as the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility with a mandate to design a strategy to make the Canadian public service the gold standard of accessibility and inclusion. She is currently the Deputy Minister Champion for Federal Employees with Disabilities, Deputy Minister Champion for her alma mater, Carleton University and is the past Chair of the Board of Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
Her boundless energy, work ethic, integrity and respect for others has helped her rise through the ranks of the federal public service to become the first visibly disabled Deputy Minister in the Canadian public service.
Welcome Centre Team - Student Support Services, Algonquin College
Education Award Finalist
Details: Welcome Centre Team - Student Support Services, Algonquin College
The Welcome Centre Team is the first point of contact for students with disabilities to access the services of the Centre for Accessible Learning, Counselling and Employment Services.
The team members understand the fundamentals of integration, de-stigmatization, professional service methods, confidentiality, non-judgmental attitudes, and all that it takes to ensure that learners with disabilities receive the services they require to succeed.
The impact of the Welcome Centre’s approaches to accessibility for people with disabilities is one of pushing the boundaries of integration at Algonquin College. They ensure that people with disabilities not only have equal access, but that processes and procedures are in place to guarantee that the unique barriers and challenges they face in accessing services are addressed in a seamless manner.
Employer Award Finalist
Diane Conroy is the Specialty Services Manager for Aramark Sports & Entertainment at the Canadian Tire Centre. Aramark operates the food and beverage concessions as well as a private lounge and a special events department. Throughout the years, people with special needs have been employed in the concessions. Until Diane’s involvement, however, none had been employed in the private lounge or the special events department.
In 2017, Diane recruited an employee named Julie whose goal was to work in the entertainment industry. Diane created a position that accommodated Julie’s skills, created and encouraged a positive, safe, caring work environment and supervised and mentored Julie to succeed. With the help of a job coach, Julie has become a valued team member, someone who is paid the same wage as other employees at her level and is offered a true opportunity to shine.
Employer Award Finalist
Kinaxis has an inclusive, diverse and rich company culture. They launched their Autism at Work program in April 2016 with a goal of ensuring that 1% of their employees were individuals living with Autism. With help from Specialisterne Canada, Kinaxis began recruiting individuals on the spectrum and went through a specialized process which allowed the individuals to use their skills over a period of weeks, rather than through a typical selection interview. This allowed the four selected individuals to shine and be hired. Each individual was offered coaching from a life coach, and this assistance contributed to successful working relationships.
Kinaxis and the community have benefitted from this program: individuals with specialized skills are contributing to the business; and the community is learning that people with differing abilities are truly valued.
Kinaxis has taken its support for those living with Autism to the community by choosing QuickStart as one of its charities of choice. Kinaxis employees also participate each year in the awareness event – Autism on the Hill. The company also sponsored employees to attend the Autism Speaks to Young Professionals inaugural Sensesations event in Toronto.
Volunteer Award Finalist
Details: Divya Massilamani
Divya Massilamani started volunteering at Sienna Senior Living – Madonna Care Community in 2008 and has contributed over 3,000 volunteer hours. She has strong social and interpersonal skills and uses them to great effect as she interacts with the residents, who have differing physical, social, emotional and cognitive abilities and needs. Divya goes above and beyond. For example, she has taken several courses to enable her to help the staff to better serve the residents as well as helping her to practice self-care.
She has also volunteered at CHEO’s Development and Rehabilitation Unit (formerly the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre) and in their Oncology/Hematology Unit. Other volunteering includes English language tutoring through Literacy Partners and she is the treasurer of the World Vision club and the treasurer/secretary of the Abhilasha Project at the University of Ottawa.
Divya has overcome several obstacles in her life and has never let her personal situation affect her volunteering. She has been a role model to her younger sibling and friends and encouraged them to volunteer too. On visits back to India, Divya goes above and beyond to help people – adults and children with special needs, and people living in orphanages, psychiatric units and homes for the elderly. Her long-term goal is to build a much-needed hospital in her parents’ home area.
Volunteer Award Finalist
Details: Veronica Anderson
Veronica Anderson is both a volunteer and a Friend (person living with a disability) at Citizen Advocacy Ottawa (CAO). She has been a member and chair of the Consumers’ Advisory Committee at CAO. This committee provides advice and guidance to the board and staff at CAO and is the voice for the people with disabilities that the agency supports. She is always the first one to volunteer for upcoming events and has assisted with silent auctions, fundraisers, recruitment and information fairs and training sessions for new volunteers. She has raised more than $7,500 for CAO on her own initiative.
Veronica is a role model for others, showing how someone can use their abilities to help the community. She has been an advocate for services and supports for people living with disabilities, attending many meetings with city staff, councillors and federal and provincial ministers. Veronica is also a great friend and neighbour to many, helping them with day-to-day tasks that contribute to their quality of life and allow them to continue to live independently.
Youth Award Finalist
Details: Anne Leslie
Anne Leslie has always been someone who focuses on helping others. She volunteered at Ronald McDonald House, Rotary House and CHEO. Her empathy is evident in her kind and respectful manner in all her interactions with peers and patients. Anne is also the Philanthropic Coordinator for the Health Sciences students at the University of Ottawa, raising money for several great causes. Her life goal is to be an Occupational Therapist. She believes that her life challenges will help her understand the needs of people recovering from a stroke or other neurological episodes and will inspire them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
Anne is involved in conducting research at the University of Ottawa (adolescent health and creating an app for pregnant mothers). She is also a gifted equestrian and competes in both para and able-bodied competitions.