Accessible City

Accessible beaches

The Accessible City Award recognizes outstanding leadership to enhance accessibility, inclusion, and elimination of barriers to full participation for persons with disabilities.

2018 recipients

Michael Blondé

Individual category

For over ten years, Michael Blondé has been creating opportunities for Special Olympians to feel like the sports stars they are through his involvement with motionball’s Marathon of Sport.

As a volunteer leader with the not-for-profit that introduces the next generation of donors, volunteers, and sponsors to the Special Olympics movement through integrated sporting and social events, Michael has dedicated countless hours as a volunteer leader to growing awareness, participation, and donations for Marathon of Sport Vancouver. He is personally responsible for increasing involvement in the volunteer committee and was key to achieving a milestone $126,000 raised in a single year through motionball Vancouver to directly support the Special Olympics Foundation. 

The 2017 motionball Vancouver Marathon of Sport event saw 24 teams of young professionals joined by 33 local Special Olympics athletes in high energy days of exciting sports, and Michael went to great lengths to ensure the athletes’ experience was as positive as possible.

One way he and the volunteer committee made it more meaningful was with an autograph signing brochure which made the athletes feel like celebrities; it underscores how Michael always keeps top of mind who motionball is ultimately working for. When he isn’t volunteering with motionball, Michael serves as the Global Director, Strategic Customer Program with Hootsuite.

Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Organization category

With roots stretching back sixty years, the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WIDHH) is dedicated to creating a society in which people who are deaf, deafened, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing are able to participate fully.

Each year, over 12,000 British Columbians are provided with the support they need through the services at WIDHH. By focusing on the strengths and talents of people who are deaf and hard of hearing, WIDHH assists these individuals as they continue to face the daily challenges in all aspects of their lives including issues of exclusion in the workforce, education, and public life due to communication barriers.

WIDHH provides tens of thousands of hours of client services to the people of BC through an Employment Counselling Program, Seniors Outreach Program, Sign Language Interpreting Services, and a Communication Device Showroom.

Thanks to the efforts of the professional staff, volunteer Board of Directors and ongoing support from donors, WIDHH continues to strive to achieve an inclusive province where all citizens can communicate fully and freely with each other and enjoy equal access to their communities.

2017 recipients

Trevor Mills, individual category

For Kitsilano Secondary School teacher and mental health advocate Trevor Mills, accessibility means breaking down the barriers that can get in its way. At his school, he uses hip-hop to debunk the stigma of mental disorders and ultimately unmask the topic so students feel free to discuss what it means to suffer from mental illness.

Trevor openly admits he became passionate about the subject since losing his older brother to suicide after a long struggle with depression. From that point forward Trevor committed to making a positive and impactful difference, resulting in him helping to raise more than $25,000 for mental health initiatives throughout the province and the creation of an album that went to benefit the VGH Mental Health Foundation.

Within his community, Trevor volunteers with Jarrod Cook, a severely-disabled George Pearson Centre client who needs accessibility assistance with mobility, speech, and sight. Presently, University of British Columbia electrical engineering students and Trevor meet regularly with Jarrod to build a customized device that will allow Jarrod to write and speak independently.

When Trevor isn't teaching, recording, or working with Jarrod, he can be found volunteering his time as a basketball and rugby coach at his school.

Physical Activity Research Centre, organization category

The Physical Activity Research Centre (PARC) is a community-based research facility that is part of the University of British Columbia's spinal cord injury research centre at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (I-CORD). Their goal is to advance research to create the best strategies for providing opportunities for people with complete or partial paralysis due to spinal cord dysfunction to participate in physical activity.

PARC is the first facility of its kind in Canada, featuring an innovative research gym equipped with fully-accessible, state-of-the-art exercise equipment. A beacon to those who suffer from spinal cord injuries (SCIs), PARC allows participants to exercise and improve their well-being in an inclusive and supportive environment. 

PARC’s mission is to engage Vancouver’s SCI community through exercise and science. Since opening in 2013, PARC has become a community hub, serving as an educational resource and meeting place where those living with SCIs share experiences and learn from each other. There are now more than 250 participants enrolled and the centre is completely run by volunteers. PARC offers students and young professionals opportunities to learn from this community, participate in bettering the lives of others, and to create a new generation of researchers and health-care specialists.

2016 recipients

Sarah Fletcher, individual youth category

Sarah has volunteered several hundred hours with a variety of inclusive recreation programs in Vancouver. This includes teaching adaptive swimming lessons and assisting weekend family camps with the Canucks Autism Network, as a buddy at the Challenger Baseball program at Trout Lake Little League and as a peer mentor at a social program for youth with disabilities at Britannia Community Centre.

Sarah has also volunteered with the Canucks Autism Network at community events helping to raise awareness and educate the public about autism.

Additionally, Sarah has spent the past two summers working as a day camp support worker. In this role, she works one-on-one with children with additional needs to integrate them into the day camp setting so they can successfully participate with their peers.

Sarah strives to educate her fellow volunteers, other members of the day camp staff team and people in her everyday life about autism and other disabilities so that Vancouver becomes a more inclusive and accessible place to live.

For her efforts, Sarah was chosen as a recipient of the Hammer's Hero Award from the Vancouver Canucks last year. Sarah was also chosen to receive a joint scholarship from the Canucks Autism Network and Autism Community Training BC to be used towards further training opportunities, and she was a recipient of the Overwaitea Food Group Diversity Scholarship for her efforts with inclusive recreation programs in 2015.

Peggy Assinck and Learn to Play Sledge Hockey Program - Hillcrest Community Centre, individual category

Peggy Assinck is currently working on her PhD in Neuroscience at UBC. She was born with Spina Bifida and has always been involved in different sports opportunities geared towards people with disabilities. She has a wealth of experience playing sledge hockey as she grew up in Ontario where there are >2000 registered sledge hockey programs and has brings both coaching and athlete experience to the table. Peggy currently plays on the Canadian Women’s National Sledge Hockey team and the Provincial Men’s BC sledge hockey program.

The Learn to Play Sledge Hockey Program has been running for more than 4 years now with the goal of providing accessible programming to youth and adults with and without physical disabilities. The program runs Friday nights from 5:15pm-7:45 and includes both a youth program and an intermediate program. This program is run by dedicated volunteers and Hillcrest staff members who work together to ensure athletes learn to play this exciting ParaSport in a safe, competitive and fun atmosphere. Peggy works closely with Mike Lee and Doug Brown to manage the Learn to Play Sledge Hockey Program at Hillcrest Community Centre. She has been involved (either in a paid or volunteer capacity) in running this program since its initiation and has been able to serve as a role model for many of the athletes participating in the programs.

Outside of her role with the Learn to Play Sledge Hockey Program, she presents for the Canadian Paralympic Committee to health care professionals about the importance of sport participation for people with physical disabilities, plays several different Parasports and contributes to both spinal cord injuries based research and knowledge translation activities within the disabled community.                                 

Centre for Accessible Post-secondary Education Resources BC (CAPER-BC), organization category

The Centre for Accessible Post-secondary Education Resources BC (CAPER-BC) provides accessible learning and teaching materials to students and instructors who cannot use conventional print because of disabilities.

CAPER-BC serves clients who cannot use conventional print due to visual impairments (including blindness), learning disabilities, physical limitations, neurological impairments and multiple disabilities.

The organization provides alternate formats for all print material including textbooks, course packs, journal articles, online sources, tests & syllabi and library material. CAPER-BC is a service delivered by Langara College and funded by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, and serves over 20 of BC’s top post-secondary institutions.

2015 recipients

Jeanette Andersen, individual category

Jeannette Andersen is a widely respected leader within the disabilities community. She has been an outstanding advocate on issues ranging from accessible housing and transit, to de-institutionalization and expanding the definition of disability to include mental illness.

Active in the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities and her housing co-op, Jeanette strives to improve access for the disabilities community. Her work has led to many changes in policy including the City of Vancouver’s Building Code.

Jeannette knows first-hand what it's like to live with a disability. She has been quadriplegic for 60 years, having contracted polio as a child in 1955. She uses a wheelchair and ventilator, experiencing daily how accessibility affects someone with a disability.

The Accessible City Award (Individual) recognizes Jeanette Andersen’s contribution to making Vancouver more accessible.

Realwheels, organization category

Realwheels has been bringing the disability experience to Canadian stages since 2003. This professional Vancouver theatre company works to break down barriers people with disabilities face in the arts. From ensuring workplace equity for performers and technicians with disabilities to engaging in continuous community outreach, Realwheels is working to create an inclusive and diverse arts world.

Creative, collaborative and committed, this award-winning company has earned a reputation for innovation and excellence, as demonstrated in its nationally-acclaimed show, Skydive. By incorporating aerial choreography into the production, a quadriplegic actor was able to fly, free from the restrictions of his body. To date, more than 700 other people with disabilities have found a similar sense of freedom through Realwheels' “Wheel Voices” projects, engaging in theatre, music, wheelchair dance, and digital story-telling.

The Accessible City Award (Organization) recognizes Realwheels for its sustained efforts to integrate people with disabilities into the performing arts.

2014 recipients

Darwin Balino, individual youth category

Darwin Balino is a Grade 12 student leader at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School with a passion for inclusion and working with special needs students.

He is part of the Best Buddies Club program that works with special needs students, and has been working with physically and mentally challenged children for the past several years.

Balino is also a founder of the Canucks Autism Network Club where he contributed to raising over $3,700 through a series of innovative fundraisers.

Greg Pyc, individual category

A member of Vancouver's Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, Greg Pyc was instrumental in securing $9 million from the federal government to fund employment programs for people with disabilities in six cities in Canada — including 150 people in Vancouver — and improve workplace access for people with disabilities.

Pyc has helped Vancouver become a recognized world leader in the areas of accessibility and inclusivity. He has directly impacted important issues such as accessible infrastructure, de-institutionalization, and accessible public transit (HandyDart).

A leader in the disability community in Ontario and Vancouver for more than three decades, Pyc has advocated for and improved services and increased access at the national and local levels.

The Kettle Friendship Society, organization category

The Kettle Friendship Society provides support to more than 3,600 individuals with mental illness. The Kettle has a holistic approach that views physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of life as interconnected and equally important.

The Kettle helps people live healthier lives, providing housing, including a transition house for women and 200+ units of supported housing, employment and advocacy, and support services, including a drop-in open every day of the year, Christmas Day dinner, dances, and camping trips.

The society's goals are to raise awareness of mental health issues, break down barriers, and promote the inclusion of people living with mental illness in all aspects of society.

2013 recipients

Jill Weiss, individual category

Jill Weiss, a long-time disability advocate and chair of the City’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, received the award for her tireless efforts and commitment to improving the lives of people with a wide range of disabilities. Her work has supported individuals with mental health issues, developmental disabilities, seniors, Aboriginal people, and those who have been marginalized, victimized, and neglected.

Cerebral Palsy Association for British Columbia, organization category

The Cerebral Palsy Association for British Columbia was recognized for its tremendous and sustained contribution to individuals and families touched by cerebral palsy. For the past 60 years, the organization has provided supportive and accessible programs, offering physical and emotional development, and assisting with meaningful strategies and tools to access needed services.

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity), organization category

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity), a value-based financial co-operative, was honoured for its leadership in creating and maintaining a diverse, accessible and inclusive environment. Vancity has adopted new integrated policies, improved hiring practices, and physically renovated their locations to eliminate and prevent unintentional barriers for the community and staff.

2012 recipients

Paul Gauthier, individual category

Paul Gauthier is a four-time Paralympian and has been involved in many initiatives to improve the lives of people with disabilities and has united a variety of organizations and provided individuals with the supports they need to fully participate in society.

Paul is the Network Coordinator of the British Columbia Personal Supports Network, and has been involved in the Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI), which provides a source of funding for assessment, trialing, acquisition and/or training with equipment and assistive devices for people with disabilities who have employment or voluntarism goals.

Most impressive is how much Paul has given to the community despite many personal challenges, and of the inspiration that Paul provides to the budding young athletes.

Computer Comfort Program at Neil Squire Society, organization category

The Computer Comfort Program at Neil Squire Society provides knowledge and computer skills development to people with significant physical disabilities across the Lower Mainland as well as anywhere in Canada via distance learning technology. Computer Comfort participants develop skills that enable them to participate more fully and equally in Canadian society and transforms their ability to enter the work force and experience new opportunities.

This free program offers one-on-one computer tutoring in a supportive, volunteer driven, client-centered environment, a refurbished computer for the home, and ongoing technical support. While the Computer Comfort Program educates participants on the use of computers, participants also have access to an Assistive Technology Specialist. People with disabilities are among those least likely to have access to a computer, the Internet and its potential benefits.

Most impressive is the significant dedication and role that the Neil Squire Society has played in the betterment of lives of persons with disabilities.

Honourable mentions

Kim Calsaferri has worked tirelessly with the Vancouver Community Mental Health Services, where she has built a legacy of recovery-oriented services, including supported education and employment, family involvement and support, consumer-run projects and peer support. Kim has been a pioneer in recognizing the importance of the work done by family caregivers of people with severe mental illnesses. Kim's leadership has been instrumental in bringing a vision of recovery into the mental health system, and improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses and the lives of the people who support them.

The Cleaning Solution is unique in its ability to provide an innovative and sustainable business model for employing persons with mental illness while acting as a vehicle for change in the community through inclusion, understanding, and awareness of what it is like to live, work, and thrive with a mental illness. Through their Employment Support Program, employees are encouraged to talk openly and manage their mental illness and their wellness needs with full support of the organization. The Cleaning Solution has grown with services delivered in the Downtown Eastside, and continues to make a significant contribution to the lives of marginalized people.

2011 recipients

Bruce Gilmour, individual category

Bruce Gilmour’s long standing contributions to the community, both public and private sector, have greatly enhanced accessibility and inclusivity for people with disabilities. Bruce brings a deep sense of commitment and unique perspective to improving lives of all people with disabilities. He has generously contributed his considerable knowledge, expertise and time, in a consistent and sustained manner. Bruce is a long-standing advocate promoting healthy and active living for people who are blind and visually impaired, and for people of all abilities.

Developmental Disabilities Association, organization category

Developmental Disabilities Association (DDA) is a community living agency that provides over 50 community-based programs and services to children, adults, and families with developmental disabilities in Vancouver and Richmond. The DDA creates extended networks of support, invests resources in individual needs, and strives for an inclusive and safe community. Over 1,600 individuals and families in the Vancouver and Richmond area are serviced by the DDA every year.

Honourable mentions

As a Community Developer, Devon MacFarlane has demonstrated remarkable commitment and leadership in increasing access to addiction and mental health services for lesbian, gay, transgender, two spirits, and queer (LGBT2SQ) people in Vancouver. Devon’s significant achievements include the creation of Prism Alcohol and Drug services, and the Shelter, Housing and Residential program (SHARP) Access project to ensure safety and inclusion for LGBT2SQ people with addiction and mental health issues.

The Learning Disabilities Association provides effective programs and services throughout the years, from preschool intervention, social skills development, tutoring, advocacy and public education. LDA Vancouver has helped over 4000 children to read. LDA offers inspirational and innovative programs designed to connect isolated children and their families.

2010 recipients

Heather McCain, individual category

As the Executive Director of Citizen’s Accessible Neighbourhoods (CAN), and through her other volunteer work on committees and boards, Heather McCain has been an exemplary role model for the community of persons with disabilities. CAN BC’s mandate is to support full inclusion within communities, including sport and recreational programs for those with a disability, improve access to information for those living with a disability or those who support someone with a disability, and work towards creating barrier free communities through the education, implementation and promotion of Universal Design.

Canadian Barrier Free Design Inc (CBFD), organization category

was founded by Brad McCannell in 1990 and improves access for persons with disabilities by minimizing physical barriers during all stages of construction. CBFD was an early adopter of Universal Design and instrumental in bringing improvements to design and construction to benefit all communities including persons with disabilities. CBFD has helped make Vancouver one of the most accessible cities in the world, and has worked with the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Sky Train’s Millennium Line rapid transit expansion, the redevelopment of Vancouver’s international Airport, and the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority.

Honourable mentions

Greg Travers is a leader in the field of rehabilitation, and has worked diligently to improve the lives of thousands of persons with disabilities for the past three decades. Greg has worked for the BC Paraplegic Association, Neil Squire Foundation, Thompson Rivers University, and currently works for Canadian Council of Rehabilitation and Work as an Employment Coordinator and Manager. He also continues to volunteer a great deal of his time as an accessibility expert to different municipalities.

Serving the needs of over 26,000 students, Vancouver Community College (VCC) has demonstrated its commitment to access and inclusion through many of its initiatives and programs. These include, but are not limited to, the following: VCC Diversity Network, VCC Mental Health Group, VCC Human Rights office, VCC Disability Policy, programs for the Visually Impaired and Deaf and Hard of Hearing and VCC Positive Space Campaign. VCC recognizes that a flexible and a creative response to the unique needs of students with disabilities is necessary to overcome barriers that may hinder success.

How Vancouver is improving accessiblilty in the city

Coal Harbour sidewalks

Accessible city

We are committed to removing barriers and creating equal opportunities for all residents.