Winners of the 2023 Accessibility Awards Announced
The City of Calgary’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility announced the 2023 Accessibility Awards winners today, December 12, 2023. The annual awards recognize individuals and groups who are helping persons with disabilities in Calgary live a good life. During today’s meeting of Council, Mayor Jyoti Gondek presented the Advocacy Award to the Accessible Housing’s Bridge to Home Program and the Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre. The Transportation & Mobility Award was presented to Fritz Peyerl of The Ability Workshop Society of Calgary, while the Universal Design Award, which celebrates individuals or groups who’ve made strides in improving access for people with disabilities in Calgary, was awarded to Krooshl.
“We're making progress towards our shared goal of a city all Calgarians can access and contribute to,” shared Mayor Gondek. “On behalf of City Council, congratulations to the four award winners, who have positively impacted our communities and are strongly committed to making Calgary an inclusive city!"
The Advocacy Award recognizes an individual or group that's helping people with disabilities in Calgary live fulfilling lives and/or, are advancing accessibility to improve quality of life for all. Accessible Housing’s Bridge to Home Program and The Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre were equally deserving of this year’s Advocacy Award. The Accessible Housing’s Bridge to Home Program supports individuals who have disabilities and are experiencing homelessness to exit homelessness and reconnect with the community. They believe that housing is the first step to rebuilding independence and moving forward, therefore the first and most crucial step is to find safe and accessible housing for new program participants. Since 2012 the Bridge to Home team has been able to support over 300 Calgarians in becoming independent and increasing participants’ overall quality of life, one recipient shared “I have a place to live and opportunity for change”. Congratulations to the nine staff members who provide individual support, community connection and advocacy for accessible and affordable housing units!
The Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre is the first Islamic Centre in Western Canada, and the second Centre in all of Canada to be Muhsen (Muslims Understanding & Helping Special Education Needs) Certified. They have built community with persons with disabilities through awareness, accommodation, and acceptance. They hired a facilitator to support and assist families, created programs and opportunities for individuals and families such as support groups, information sessions, American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, and counselling for families facing challenges. The Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre is working to improve how people with disabilities are viewed and treated in the Muslim community and raising awareness of the barriers faced by persons with disabilities. Their Centre is dedicated to establishing safe spaces, inclusion and making accommodation a priority, including braille Qurans and respite to caregivers.
Transportation & Mobility Award
The Transportation & Mobility Award honours individuals or groups dedicated to enhancing how Calgarians navigate the city. It was created this year in memory of Ella Anderson, who served on the Advisory Committee on Accessibility with grace, style and commitment to people with disabilities.
Fritz Peyerl, winner of the award, is a long-time volunteer with The Ability Workshop Society of Calgary; an organization committed to designing and building safe, economical, innovative solutions that promote accessible, independent living, healthy recreation, inclusive play, and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. As the Shop Foreman, Fritz can be found every Tuesday and Saturday morning at the Workshop. He has been described as a person who ‘always has a positive attitude, that can do spirit and is always thinking outside of the box in order to make the impossible possible’. His innovative design of a power wheelchair trainer provided children with a safe space to learn how to operate a power wheelchair, increasing their independence. He has also converted a manual wheelchair to electric to be controlled with a joystick and made a fiberglass sled for two wheelchairs to be pulled by an ATV. Fritz also shares his time and knowledge with the University of Calgary in designing electric wheelchair trainers and is now looking at innovative electronics to teach people how to control a vehicle with brain waves alone.
Universal Design Award
The Universal Design Award celebrates individuals or groups who’ve made strides in improving access for people with disabilities in Calgary. This year’s Universal Design Award winner, Krooshl, is a virtual map of certified-accessible and inclusive businesses in the city ‘connecting certified accessible venues with the people who need them,’ increasing access through technology. Krooshl enhances confidence and independence for persons with disabilities, knowing that the business they choose to visit can not only accommodate their needs but have taken steps to create a welcoming and inclusive environment. Krooshl works with local event organizers, as well as food and beverage businesses to complete an accessibility assessment. They work to educate, encourage, motivate, and assist local businesses to create accessible spaces achieving Universal Access in international standards. They consider the built environment and all accommodations available such as the implementation of innovative technologies, spatial aids, and product. This certification sets the bar for inclusiveness and creates a benchmark for other spaces to strive for.
The Advisory Committee on Accessibility’s annual awards program started in 2006. The committee is a City Council committee consisting of citizens with disabilities and a keen interest in access issues. Working closely with the community and The City of Calgary, the committee makes recommendations to City Council on policy and systems issues, and barriers impacting people with disabilities in Calgary. For more details on the awards, visit Calgary.ca/accessibilityawards.