‘Accessible for all’: Brockville champions of accessibility honoured

Photo via Cycling Without Age Brockville on Facebook

Four champions of accessibility were recognized at this week’s meeting of Brockville City Council.

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 28, council held a delegation in recognition of National AccessAbility Week. This year’s National AccessAbility Week is taking place from Monday, May 26 to Saturday, June 1. 

The purpose of this week-long celebration is to highlight the diverse populations of people living and working with disabilities in Canada, as well as to continue to remove all barriers and build ally-ship within all communities nationwide.

Brockville City Council heard from members of the Brockville Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (BMAAC) to honour several individuals and organizations in Brockville who are contributing to a barrier-free city for all. 

According to Canada.ca, this year’s theme for National AccessAbility Week is “Forward Together: Accessibility and Inclusion for All,” which “emphasizes the need for collective efforts to create a barrier-free Canada.”

Mayor Matt Wren opened the delegation by sharing, “This country’s strength lies in the diversity of its people – all its people – and we can all contribute to this vision. As an effort to celebrate collective efforts and in Brockville there are many of them, we welcome members of BMAAC to the chambers this evening.”

The three members of the committee who were present at the meeting were Chair Janet Jones, Councillor Louise Severson, and BMAAC member Greg Bamber. Bamber took to the podium and explained that they were there to honour people and organizations in the community who are shining examples of accessibility in the community. The first honouree Bamber addressed was Paddlers Place, a group that launches canoes and kayaks at St. Lawrence Park. 

Bamber explained that in 2023, a delegation to the council by Catherine Star and Andrea Ellis raised the issue of barriers for paddlers and people with mobility issues. Mayor Wren visited the area with members of the delegation and funds were sourced from grants to build a successful accessible launch. 

Bamber noted that “still, more work needs to be done to make sure the land in the St. Lawrence Park is also accessible.” He shared that the Paddlers Place group has increased their numbers to 765 members in the past year alone, and commended members on their commitment to making the Brockville waterfront accessible to all.

Bamber stated that there will be a meeting on Wednesday, May 29, at 6 p.m. to “highlight the accessible launch and it is expected that paddlers from other cities will attend to see what Brockville has to offer and will look to change their spaces as well.”

Members of Paddlers Place who were present in chambers were asked to say a few words before accepting their certificate from the Council.

One member, who did not state her name, spoke proudly into the microphone and said “We came up with this idea one night to make our sport more accessible to everyone and seniors. As we age, we have some dodgy bits that don’t bend or we maybe can’t stand, so we’ve provided help for a lot of people. We’ve had great feedback from parents who have special needs children who used to have to travel to paddle. Now they can do it in their own backyard.”

Chair Janet Jones then took the microphone to introduce the second honouree ‘Cycling Without Age.’ Jones explained that this initiative started in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012. The Brockville chapter was founded in 2019. 

Jones shared, “As of February 2023, there were more than 3,050 chapters around the world. Cycling Without Age Brockville is 100 per cent led by 22 trained volunteer pilots and relies on the generosity of individual donors, corporate sponsors, grants and service cubs to help keep our bikes in motion.”

As of 2024, Cycling Without Age Brockville offers rides to over 12 facilities, as well as to individuals who contact them. A representative of Cycling Without Age Brockville was then awarded their certificate from Mayor Matt Wren.

Greg Bamber took the podium again to introduce the next recipient. He began by saying, “Ken Spicer, though not a Brockville native, has made himself a fixture in the Brockville scene. He is the owner/operator of the Brockville Home Health Care and is very active with his son in youth hockey.

“For those of us on disability pensions” Bamber continued, “he helps to find ways to get the equipment we need at a price point that we can afford, or doing quick fixes at no cost, and always with his award-winning smile. His employees are the same, and I assume he fosters an environment of helpfulness and happiness.”

Spicer accepted his award and shared his appreciation and gratitude for council and the City of Brockville. He did issue a correction to Bamber’s statement that he was not a Brockville native, as Spicer’s familiar roots in Brockville stretch back multiple generations. Spicer elaborated, “I moved away for several years to chase a dream but it turns out my dream came true right back here in my hometown.”

Spicer continued, “I carry a very proud name. The accessibility world for me has been in my life for the past 26 years and my world is not so much a business as a lifestyle.”

The last person to be honoured, but certainly not the least, was BMAAC member Ryan Billing.

Billing first joined BMAAC in 2007, and used his extensive knowledge of accessibility as the acting chair for years before his resignation in 2023.

Chair Janet Jones shared, “Long known for his commitment to community service, Ryan embodies the spirit of volunteerism. His actions over the years are synonymous with stewardship. For his long-term service, he deserves the recognition brought forward this evening.”

Ryan Billing was noticeably emotional when he took the podium to deliver his speech. After taking a moment to collect himself, he stated “I always pride myself on the fact that accessibility should be accessible for all. We do something and it doesn’t just improve accessibility for people with disabilities, it improves it for everyone.”

Billing went on to thank the province for “energizing the community and giving the tools to the city to provide successful implementations of projects.” Billing also extended his gratitude to Brockville City Council, stating “I do appreciate council for taking on the vision of accessibility.” 

Councillor Louise Severson was also given a special shoutout for her continued involvement and commitment to BMAAC as their acting council representative.

Once all four certificate recipients were given their chance to speak and take photos with Mayor Wren, the meeting of Brockville City Council continued as planned with staff reports. 

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