Town of Orangeville presents awards to local champions in accessibility during small ceremony

June 2, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The Town recently recognized two groups and an individual who are making Orangeville more inclusive and accessible.

During a special ceremony at Town Hall on Monday (May 30), Orangeville’s Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee chair Coun. Lisa Post and Mayor Sandy Brown handed out the 2022 Accessibility Champion Awards.

The recipients this year are participants of Branching Out Support Services (BOSS), executive director of BOSS Kimberly Van Ryn, and Active Lives Canada.

Coun. Post first recognized the participants of BOSS, which is made up of adults with developmental differences, who are making Orangeville a better place to live. 

“The day service participants of Branching Out Support Services are being recognized for championing issues of accessibility in our community. The adults at Branching Out’s day program volunteer for a number of causes that make Orangeville a safer and more accessible place for all,” said Coun. Post at the awards ceremony.

Some of those volunteering opportunities include helping at and growing produce for the local food bank, carrying out various beautification projects in Orangeville, and volunteering with the library.

“The bravery and visibility of these adults in the downtown core remind all of Orangeville that we all belong. Their very presence and deep connection to helping their fellow community members makes their lives a statement of inclusivity, accessibility and belonging in Orangeville,” Coun. Post lauded.

“They’ve been doing such amazing work through the community, and there’s a huge need for neurodiverse people to have programs that help them feel like contributing members of the community.”

After awarding participants of BOSS with a certificate for the 2022 Accessibility Champion Awards, Coun. Post presented a separate award to executive director of the organization, Kimberly Van Ryn.

“Support professionals can only ever empower people to create accessibility and inclusivity in their own lives. She leads the organization to ensure that everyone has opportunities,” said Coun. Post when presenting the award to Van Ryn. “Branching out Support Services provides multiple services and activities to individuals in Dufferin County with neurodiversities, group sessions, one on one activities, evenings and weekends.”

BOSS is also working on fully launching its CommonFare Kitchen, which will be a place for workshops, training opportunities, and employment.

Coun. Post noted BOSS’s work over the last two years while COVID-19 was impacting the community.

“Kimberley and Branching Out Support Services supported many families through the pandemic, through lockdown with virtual activities… empowering this wonderful group of people,” Coun. Post remarked.

She told the Citizen beyond Van Ryn’s contributions to fostering acceptance and belonging for people who are neurodiverse, she champions accessibility in other ways as well.

“Kim has come to Council to advocate for better employment opportunities, for better transportation opportunities,” said Coun. Post. “She’s constantly advocating for more accessibility within the community based on the experiences that she has with the people in her program. Where she sees a gap in the community, she advocates for better.”

Speaking with the Citizen, Van Ryn said it feels good to be recognized with the accessibility award, but more importantly, it speaks volumes to the work that the BOSS team has committed to since launching the organization in December of 2019. BOSS is located at 5 First Street.  

With respect to BOSS’s participants, who are champions of accessibility in their own right, Van Ryn said it’s really great to see them being recognized.

“Our participants aren’t always recognized, so to be able to come to a public ceremony with their friends and people they know and have some public recognition around the work that they do… and valued role that they have in our community is really important.”

Creating a valued role for the participants of BOSS helps to make their lives better, providing them with more meaning and a sense of belonging in their community, said Van Ryn.

She added that there’s also the impact on the rest of the community when these valued roles are created, which fosters a mutually beneficial relationship.

BOSS’s flagship day program and one to one support program has resulted in many successes for people who are neurodiverse. Van Ryn says she sees a lot of positive changes when they get intensive support.

“Just recently, we’ve really seen someone blossom into some of their own independence, because we’re creating pockets where they can belong,” she noted.

“We know when we see those changes, that someone really starts to flourish, really starts to kind of create their own life and make their own choices, it’s because they finally feel like they belong.”

This Saturday (June 4) at 11 a.m., during the Blues and Jazz Festival, BOSS will be set up at 5A Dairy Lane, where the CommonFare kitchen is located to hand out free samples of food. Some of the available dishes include chorizo empanadas and vegan Jamaican patties.

Meanwhile, the third recipient of the 2022 Accessibility Champion Award is Active Lives Canada, who runs programming in Orangeville and Shelburne.

The programs are for all people, regardless of their abilities, and helps them to reach their true potential, said Coun. Post.

“The organization is focused on making a more inclusive community and emphasizing the strength of individuals not their disabilities,” she remarked.

“The individual that nominated Active Lives [for the award] has shared that her daughter attends the program and is always happy and extremely fulfilled the entire day.”

Active Lives Canada helps many young adults reach their potential and give their caregivers peace of mind knowing that they are treated with dignity and the utmost care, Coun. Post added.

“It has been difficult with COVID but the program has been under the guidance of public health and has been diligent with how the program works under those guidelines,” she noted. “Congratulations Active Lives for the exceptional work that you do as community champions.”

Nominations for the accessibility champion awards were made by members of the public who felt a group or person are working to remove barriers within the community.

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