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Ontario's David C. Onley Award Recipients

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Ontario's David C. Onley Award Recipients

The David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility was created in 2014 to recognize Ontarians who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to improving accessibility for people with disabilities. 

This year's award recipients are:

Role Model Award: Linda Crabtree, St. Catharines

Linda Crabtree is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and works diligently to improve accessibility. In 1984, she founded CMT International, a registered charity dedicated to sharing information and raising awareness among thousands of individuals, medical professionals and families around the world. She wrote her first article on accessibility in the 1970s and for the past 20 years has written the Access Niagara column, which appears in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and online. Linda has personally audited more than 200 venues for AccessibleNiagara.com, a website she created in 2002. It helps increase tourism in the region, while breaking down barriers for visitors and residents with disabilities. She holds the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.

Youth Leadership Award: Maayan Ziv, Richmond Hill

Maayan Ziv is a visionary young leader, activist and social entrepreneur. From a young age, Maayan challenged norms and worked within her community to increase awareness of disability issues and improve accessibility. Whether it was paving ramps at her schools, promoting awareness through her photography, or acting as an ambassador for Muscular Dystrophy Canada, Maayan has broken down barriers and advocated for inclusion. After obtaining her Master's degree, Maayan founded AccessNow, working out of the DMZ, Ryerson University's incubator. AccessNow harnesses the power of crowdsourcing to pinpoint the accessibility status of locations on an interactive map. Maayan's innovative solutions and media outreach continue to improve the lives of people of all abilities and ages.

Employee Engagement Award: Mark Wafer, Ashburn

Mark Wafer is a tireless advocate, employer and champion of people with disabilities. For more than 20 years, he has engaged businesses, labour organizations and government to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Mark practices what he promotes, having hired more than 130 people with disabilities. His message that inclusion is good for business has resonated across the country, making him sought after as a keynote speaker. One of his initiatives to educate businesses about the benefits of inclusive hiring resulted in jobs for more than 1000 people over six years. Mark serves on Ontario's Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, the federal government's Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and as board member for several community organizations. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award.

Champion Award: Abilities Centre

The Abilities Centre opened its doors in 2012 with a commitment to promoting inclusion and enriching the quality of life for people of all ages and abilities. Four years later, it continues to raise the level of discussion, policies and practices on accessibility in Durham region and beyond. Recognized as a Community Hub, the Centre serves local, national and international communities by providing resources and research tools that promote inclusivity and accessibility. Staff have helped members follow their passions, explore their creativity and connect with their community.

Champion Award: Cohen Highley LLP

Cohen Highley LLP is a well-established law firm with offices in London, Kitchener, Sarnia, and Chatham. Their track record of supporting accessibility for more than 25 years comprises inclusive hiring practices, a positive workplace culture and community involvement. Their talented team of nearly 100 employees, consisting of lawyers, paralegals and support staff, include several individuals with a disability. Staff members have helped to raise nearly $400,000 for Community Living London. By advising clients and organizations on Ontario's accessibility standards, Cohen Highley is helping to strengthen inclusion in legal circles and communities in southwestern Ontario.

Champion Award: Communication Disabilities Access Canada

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) has worked for the past 15 years to support the needs of people with speech and language disabilities. Their research, education and outreach have highlighted the barriers these individuals experience when accessing goods, services, health care and justice supports. As a trailblazer in inclusive communication, CDAC published the world's first research project defining what accessibility means for those with speech and language disabilities. Today, their online training module is being used by businesses, hospitals, city services and justice personnel to help break down communication barriers throughout Ontario.

Champion Award: County of Wellington

The County of Wellington's work to promote accessibility has consistently met or exceeded the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act's requirements. Their innovative policies, training, and funding programs have helped make them a model of accessibility in action. The county's Accessibility Fund Incentive Programme has helped local municipalities complete more than 20 projects to improve access for people of all abilities. They are also dedicated to expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the area. Canada's Safest Employer Awards honoured the county in 2014 as the most psychologically safe workplace in the country.

Champion Award: Durham Region Employment Network

Since 1993, the Durham Region Employment Network (DREN) has been committed to making workplaces and hiring processes accessible to people of all abilities. They have created a network of 35 community organizations that share leads, research best practices, and boost business awareness. DREN's awards programs and conferences inspire local businesses to expand their talent pool and increase inclusion. Their website brings thousands of job seekers together to find opportunities and services tailored to their skills and needs, making employment more accessible and achievable across the region.

Champion Award: Durham Region Police Service

The Durham Region Police Service is dedicated to helping children with disabilities participate in sports, while promoting accessibility in the community. For the last 31 years, they have partnered with the City of Pickering, the Campbell Children's School, the Grandview Children's Centre and now the March of Dimes to host the annual Durham Regional Police Children's Games. This popular event gives local youth with disabilities the chance to discover new inclusive sports, challenge and overcome barriers, and participate as organizing volunteers. By engaging children, their families and the broader community, the Durham Region Police Service -- in collaboration with its partners -- is helping to break down barriers and strengthen connections among people of all abilities.

Champion Award: Hand over Hand

Hand over Hand (HOH) is a not-for-profit dedicated to creating a community where young adults with developmental disabilities can feel safe, accepted and supported. It was formed by a group of high school students in 2005 to address the shortage of services and recreational programs available to those who have completed high school. Their growing team of volunteers have partnered with local businesses and organizations to host social activities, sponsor networking events and share resources with families and individuals. By increasing access to networks and support systems, HOH is helping more youth with developmental disabilities feel connected to their community, while promoting inclusion across York region.

Champion Award: Town of Innisfil

The Innisfil Accessibility Advisory Committee was created in 2002 to raise awareness of disability issues and educate the public on ways to build a more accessible community. This active group of volunteers has been relentless and creative in pursuit of their goals, painting town curbs yellow, developing an awareness program for elementary schools, building an accessible garden, and consulting regularly with organizations on accessibility requirements. Their wheelchair and sensory obstacle challenge has become a popular part of Innisfil's annual Family Fun Day, highlighting the benefits of accessibility for people of all abilities.  

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