The Chatham-Kent accessibility advisory committee handed out its annual awards during a presentation at the Oaks Retirement Village in Wallaceburg on Feb. 20.
The Sid Ebare Perseverance Award was presented to Ashley Gialelem, for her steady persistence in living beyond limitation.
“When they asked me to accept this award, I didn’t know what to say because this award is not only my award, it is my family’s award,” Gialelem said.
“They have gotten me to where I am to who I am today. There is one person in this room, and they might not like what I’m going to say, but she is the best person I could have in my life and that is my mom.”
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope said Gialelem has been a constant advocate for accessible transportation in Chatham-Kent.
“It is a priority of ours,” Hope said. “We’re going to get through it. We’re going to make the changes. We have a committee out there working on this. There are many others that don’t have the ability to get around Chatham-Kent as easily as they’d like to. What we need to do as a community is make sure we live up to the standards.”
The Sheila Lindsey-Powers Accessibility Advocate Award was presented to Daniel Whittal and Rachel Schwarz for their dedication to people of all abilities through their programs offered at the Brio Academy.
“This award, it means a lot to the team,” Schwarz said. “It is an acknowledgement of the work we’ve been trying to do, but it is also something that we are going to use to hold up to what we are doing in the future, and say does this meet the standards that we have set for ourselves and the trust that the community has put in us and our families have put in us, because that is what it is all about.
Schwarz added, “Our students are our family as well. Every student that comes through our door is unique and they are full of unlimited potential. We want to make sure that is something we are always keeping in mind.”
The host business was also one of the award recipients, as they were presented with the Dr. Veronica Vaughan Most Accessible Business Award, for their exceptional customer service to people of all abilities
Ralph Roels, the chair of the Chatham-Kent accessibility advisory committee, said the mandate for the committee is to try to assure that municipal properties and services are accessible to people of all abilities.
“This is part of my role that I really, really enjoy,” Roels said about handing out the awards.
The committee is a working committee of Chatham-Kent council and it advises and assists municipal departments in promoting and facilitating a barrier-free Chatham-Kent for citizens of all abilities.