9 Incredible YYC Advocates for People with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on December 3 is a special day to recognize the contributions made by individuals to build an inclusive and equal country.

In celebration of IDPD this year, here is a list of remarkable Calgarians making an impact in our city to make it more inclusive for individuals with disabilities. This list highlights professionals from a range of sectors including education, healthcare, interior design, government and non-profit. Whether it’s designing beautiful and inclusive spaces, to developing an accessibility smartphone app for young adults with disabilities; these individuals are paving the way for a vibrant, inclusive community for all.

Our city has many amazing advocates for people with disabilities and we have only touched on several. 

Dr. Sarah MacEachern, MD PhD | Pediatric Resident, University of Calgary

Individuals with disabilities face unique challenges participating in physical activity. It is especially hard to find information about adapted and inclusive local resources. To help Calgarians, Dr. MacEachern is researching the local barriers to getting active in our city so that she can continue advocating to make the city a more active, healthy, and inclusive place. She partnered with Jooay, a free Canadian smartphone app, which lists sports, facilities, arts programs, and camps for children, adolescents, and young adults with disabilities.

Proudest Accomplishment: Being interviewed by CBC Calgary to help spread the word about the importance of physical activity and making our city more inclusive.

Visit: Jooay.com / Twitter: @SarahJosephette / Facebook: /JooayCalgary 

Barry Lindemann | Spinal Cord Injury Peer Liaison, Alberta Health Services

After working as a community affairs advisor for over 15 years with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Barry now works as a volunteer with Alberta Health Services as a Patient Experience Liaison with the Calgary Spinal Cord Injury Program at the Foothills Hospital helping newly injured individuals patients begin to get their lives back on track. Barry is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tetra Society of Alberta who help find solutions to real-life problems that people with disabilities are having and build projects he hopes will make his community a better place.

“I am extremely grateful to be living in a city, province and country that truly supports people with physical disabilities. I’m proud to say for over 20 years, I’ve tried to steer folks to answers to any problems that might be limiting their enjoyment of life and have enjoyed trying to make my community an even better place to live for people with special needs.”

Erin Novakowski | Advocate & high school student

Erin Novakowski is a 15 year old high school student who has used a wheelchair her entire life. She enjoys getting involved with local organizations and events where she can share her ideas about how to improve accessibility in Calgary. Over the past two years, Erin has had the opportunity to participate in events like “Mayor for a Day”, where she spent the day with Mayor Nenshi discussing wheelchair accessibility around Calgary, and the Rick Hansen Youth Summit in Ottawa, where she met with other youth and learned about how to effectively create a more inclusive Canada for all.

My vision for an ideal Calgary is that everyone, regardless of ability or disability, can recognize and fight against barriers which exist that prevent every Calgarian from being able to explore and thrive in our city!

Instagram: @erinmaarie

Colleen Huston | Co-ordinator, Disability Action Hall

Colleen is a co-ordinator with a group of outstanding activists from the Disability Action Hall. In 2018, Disability Action Hall will be celebrating 20 years of telling stories, taking action and changing lives. The group strives to ensure people with disabilities tell decision-makers firsthand about disability-pride, culture and the systemic barriers that need to be tackled together to make the world a better world for all. It takes a group of talented people to make all these changes, and Colleen is instrumental in that work.

Disability Action Hall’s proudest accomplishments: Advocacy! The community efforts of raising Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), the low-income transit pass and sliding scale, changes to the marriage act and walking down the streets of Calgary celebrating disability pride and culture.

Visit: actionhall.ca / Twitter: @actionhall / Facebook: /ActionHall / Instagram: @dactionhall / Youtube 


Dayle Sheehan | Lead Designer, Dayle Sheehan Interior Design Inc. (DSID)

Dayle’s own experience as a wheelchair-user plus her design expertise has allowed her to offer unique consulting to anyone who struggles with mobility in their home or office. Finding solutions that are tailored to each person’s specific needs is Dayle’s passion. Dayle Sheehan Interior Design (DSID) is a full service Interior Design Firm, and the DSID Gives Back allows Dayle to give back to her community to create safe, barrier free and beautiful spaces for anyone with mobility challenges.

Dayle has teamed up with is Synaptic Rehabilitation Centre to help people with new injuries and co-founded. Girls that Give, a group that focuses on charitable gift giving over the holidays

“I’m most proud of the work done through DSID Gives Back. It is truly a blessing to create a space that makes someone’s life easier. If your home is safe, barrier free and beautiful, it allows you to fully participate in your community and family life.”

Visit: daylesheehaninteriordesign.com/ / Facebook: Dayle Sheehan Interior Design / Instagram: @dayle_sheehan_interior_design 

Nabeel Ramji | Manager, Strategic Atlantic and Real Estate Finance at Strategic Group; Accessibility Infrastructure Specialist at RK Access

Nabeel lives with Cerebral Palsy and has merged his unique personal and professional experience to develop Accessibility for all Albertans in 2014 to increase accessibility awareness across sectors. To further this work, Nabeel recently joined RK Access as an Accessibility Infrastructure Specialist. Nabeel has been a committee member with The City of Calgary’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility for the past three years, and was recently appointed to the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons.

Proudest accomplishment: Received the Canada 150th Medal from the Senate of Canada in November 2017 for dedication and volunteerism towards the creation of a more accessible and inclusive province.

Visit: rkaccess.ca / Twitter: @nabeelryyc / LinkedIn

Dr. David Legg | Professor & Chairperson of the Department of Health and Physical Education, Mount Royal University

Dr. Legg has been instrumental in improving the access for persons with disability throughout Mount Royal University including helping create the only wheelchair basketball intramural program in Canada, having students spend a day in a wheelchair, an innovative children’s adapted physical activity (CAPA) program where students work one on one with children, and the enhancement of the fitness centre through accessible equipment. As a volunteer, he has been involved with Paralympic Sport as Past President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, a member of the International Paralympic Committee’s Sport Science Committee, and a board member responsible for oversight of the Paralympic portfolio for the 2015 Pan Parapan American Games.

Proudest accomplishments: Receiving the Gary McPherson Leadership Award from the Province of Alberta.

Visit: MRU Article

Leanne Squair | Issue Strategist, Access & Disability, City of Calgary

Leanne provides leadership for the 11 community members who make up The City of Calgary’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility. With her support of the City of Calgary’s Council’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility (ACA), the members work with The City to make sure all City projects have universal design components for people with hearing, vision, cognitive and physical disabilities.

She supports scholarly achievements through her involvement with the Alberta Parks & Recreation Association for individuals studying in the field of sport, recreation and rehabilitation for people with disabilities. For 30 years, Leanne has worked with Rick Hansen on the vision of an accessible society.

Proudest accomplishment: Receiving The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association ‘Community Development and Community Relations National Award’

Sean Crump | Head Chair and CEO, Universal Access

Sean sustained an injury in 2004, rendering him a quadriplegic, and noticed quite a few discrepancies between life now, and how it was before his accident. One major difference was accessibility, and having the ability to confidently go to a destination knowing that it will be accommodating to his needs.

Sean has created a company looking to broaden peoples’ life experiences called Universal Access. To do this, he imagined a system to help make people aware of locations that are accessible so that people feel comfortable going out and participating in different social events, job opportunities, and any other day-to-day outings without the anxiety or apprehension regarding the accessibility of the venue. This also helps businesses capture a larger part of the market, as well as allowing them marketing opportunities showing their corporate social responsibility and inclusiveness.

Proudest accomplishment: Awarded the Community Economy Leader Award in REAP’s 2017 Be Local Awards in the first year of Universal Access’s first year of operations

Visit: www.universalaccess.me / Twitter: @uaccessme / Facebook: /UniversalAccess.me