Pictured from Left to Right: the Honourable Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable David C. Onley, 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Deanna Miskie, and the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Clarington woman is Ontario accessibility hero

A remarkable Clarington resident has been honoured with the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility by the province.

“Deanna Miskie is a local accessibility champion who identified a barrier in communication in her workplace and found a way to overcome it, making her workplace more accessible and inclusive,” said Clarington Accessibility Coordinator Laila Shafi.

Miskie is a long-time employee of the Foodland grocery store in Newcastle. One day while working at the deli counter, Miskie realized a regular customer was deaf, and she decided to learn American Sign Language. When her first self-taught attempt to learn sign language was unsuccessful, the team member enrolled in a course with Durham Deaf Services, said a Clarington statement.

The customer was grateful for the worker’s extra communication efforts. Later, when Foodland was hiring, the customer applied for the job, and Miskie acted as her translator for the interview. After the customer was hired, Miskie began organizing sign language classes in the lunchroom for the rest of the Foodland staff.

Her efforts meant that staff could better communicate with their colleague who is deaf, and it made the grocery store an accessible environment where other deaf customers could shop and be understood.

On December 6, the Government of Ontario held a ceremony to recognize Ontarians who have gone above and beyond to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Newcastle’s Deanna Miskie was honoured with a David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility for her employee engagement at Foodland Newcastle.

“Congratulations to Deanna Miskie, who has taken a leadership role in our community promoting accessibility,” said Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster. “Our ultimate goal is to create a more inclusive and caring Clarington. It’s important to recognize accessibility success stories to inspire others to follow suit.”

The David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility commemorates the legacy of Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor by recognizing Ontarians who have gone above and beyond to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

In 2020, Foodland Newcastle owner Ryan Ormiston and his staff received a Region of Durham Accessibility Award for being an inclusive employer. Clarington Council and the Accessibility Advisory Committee

Durham gives out disability accessibility awards

December 3 is proclaimed as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) in Durham Region. In honour, the Region of Durham awarded nine local champions the Accessibility Award. This award recognizes their dedication to removing barriers and making the region more accessible for people of all abilities.

Each year, the local Accessibility Advisory Committees (AACs) nominate individuals, businesses or organizations based on their efforts in identifying, removing and preventing barriers for individuals living with a disability.

Town of Ajax: Barb Dowds was an Ajax AAC member from 2010 to 2022. Throughout her tenure on the committee, Barb served as Committee Chair for several years. Barb led numerous accessibility initiatives in her community, including conducting facility site assessments, reviewing site plans, and helping staff set up mobility device obstacle courses at the bi-annual Library Accessibility Fair for children. Barb was an exemplary advocate for people with disabilities and her thoughtful work touched many people’s lives. Barb’s efforts proved what can be achieved through collaboration to identify and break down barriers with the goal of equitable access for all municipal services and programs.

Township of Brock: The Brock Township Public Library is a three-branch system with facilities located in Sunderland, Cannington and Beaverton. Throughout the pandemic, Brock Libraries have shown their dedication and commitment to accessibility for their patrons and community members. They quickly and seamlessly responded to meet the needs of their community by pivoting to online programming, which included virtual children’s story times, curbside book pickups and Wi-Fi hubs for public use. The Brock Township Public Library continues to play a central role in meeting the educational, informational, cultural, recreational, health and social care needs of their community. The vibrant team at the Brock Libraries continues to create welcoming and inclusive programming, which honours and celebrates diversity.

Municipality of Clarington: Kingsway Hardware owner, Naveed Chico Khanis known for providing exceptional customer service at Kingsway Hardware in Clarington—particularly to those who have mobility issues or use mobility devices. Customers can call the store from a parking spot outside the business or go to the customer service desk to request their items and have staff bring the items to their car. Many residents say that although the store itself is not barrier-free, the owner, Naveed Chico Khan, goes out of his way to assist people and make their shopping experience easier. Khan’s consideration of the needs of his community continues to bring people together in creating lasting friendships at their reliable one-stop shop.

City of Oshawa: The Back Door Mission for the Relief of Poverty, with the support of Simcoe Street United Church, began Project Mission United when it opened available spaces to be used as a collaborative and centralized service hub for people living unsheltered or marginally housed with limited access to essential supports. Project Mission United is a low-barrier access hub for essential services, social supports, and primary health care. This project provides wraparound client support services to individuals in Durham Region who are experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity, mental health and addiction concerns, and food access challenges. The dedicated team at the Back Door Mission for the Relief of Poverty continue to create a safe and welcoming space for everyone looking for a warm meal or a caring friend to talk to.

City of Pickering: Peter Bashaw was appointed to the Pickering AAC in 2013. Peter was a high-performing member who has passionately advocated for accessibility in the areas of accessible housing and expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Peter’s wisdom, judgement, technical expertise, and networking skills have been invaluable to the City of Pickering. Peter continues to advocate for his local community in many ways and enjoys the art of painting.

Township of Scugog: Two Blokes Cider owners Matthew Somerville and Andrew Paulincorporated the Scugog AAC’s comments into the plan for Two Blokes Cider. This included an accessible pathway with a minimum width of one-and-a-half metres, having the entire structure at grade level to allow accessible access, and incorporating automatic doors to the facility and washrooms. Two Blokes Cider has created a gathering place for the community with sustainable farming practices at the centre of it all.

Township of Uxbridge: The Uxbridge Lions Club is committed to creating spaces that are accessible for families of all ages and abilities so that everyone can participate together. They embarked on an ambitious project of creating a universal playground at Elgin Park. They hope that by making the park universal, it will improve accessibility to the park for the entire community. The new park will incorporate sensory music play and opportunities for individuals, of all ages with differing abilities, to enjoy the space together in nature exploration, while enjoying a playground with wheelchair accessible features.

Town of Whitby: WindReach Farm’s Learning-4-Life adult day program redefined creativity during the Covid-19 pandemic when in-person programming was not possible. WindReach Farm adapted its program to connect with participants virtually to offer barn and local attraction visits, art projects and movie afternoons. Programming is now back on-site at 85 per cent capacity, welcoming many new faces to the program. In 2022, they expanded the program to add a second cohort Monday through Friday, to reach more adults of all abilities in Durham Region and beyond. Their wheelchair accessible wagon rides on the farm bring guests on an engaging sensory experience to take in the peaceful and expansive landscape, which is uniquely accessible to those who use mobility devices.

Durham Region: Mike Roche served on the Durham Region AAC from 2004 to 2022, the Durham Region Transit Advisory Committee, as well as the site plan sub-committee where he offered insights on accessibility for several key projects. Mike shared learning opportunities with his co-members and supported the Committee, Regional Council and staff in identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility. Mike played an important role on the team to advocate and raise awareness on issues that impact people with disabilities in our community, improving the quality of life and participation of everyone who calls Durham Region home.

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