The NWT Disabilities Council hopes to stop what the organization’s executive director calls an “exodus to the south” of people with disabilities.
The council is working to increase acceptance of Northwest Territories residents with disabilities – a cause it hoped to further during Disability Awareness Week, June 4-8.
The week’s theme was “broadening our acceptance, through accessibility.” Denise McKee, executive director of the NWT Disabilities Council, told The Journal the theme means removing barriers, both visible and invisible, to allow all individuals access to education, recreation, entertainment, services and employment.
“Through full inclusion, in every aspect of society, there is finally acceptance – an acceptance of every person as an individual and unique; acceptance of different, not less,” McKee said.
The week kicked off June 4 with a pancake breakfast at K’alemi Dene School in N’Dilo. Approximately 100 students and teachers attended. The organization worked with communities to run events in Yellowknife, N’Dilo, Hay River, Inuvik and Fort Smith. McKee said all communities were invited to participate and to declare it Disability Awareness Week.
“Disability awareness is important because estimates calculate that one in every nine residents of the NWT has a disability, and these only represent people that have identified a disability,” McKee said.
People with disabilities frequently have little choice but to head south to seek services they require, McKee said. She noted that people with disabilities, local communities and governments, Aboriginal leaders, service providers and advocates need to formally commit to ensuring equal access and opportunity is the norm for individuals with disabilities.
“Having a disability and not having access can be extremely isolating, and these events give the opportunity for people to come together in their community for a social event to celebrate our similarities and differences,” she said.
The council also identified several individuals and organizations for their contributions to “advancing the lives of individuals with disabilities living in the NWT.”
The NWT Disabilities Council also announced the winner of the competition to name a Graeme Shaw painting donated to the organization by the artist in 2009. The winning entry was “Within Your Eyes,” suggested by Kleinberg Fernandez, who won $100 in gift certificates to the Gourmet Cup.
This year’s Disability Awareness Award winners were:
- Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities Award – Raymond Massey of Inuvik;
- Council for Canadians with Disabilities Award – Karen Hollett of Yellowknife;
- NWT Disabilities Council Award – Kelley and Blair Weatherby of Weatherby Trucking, and;
- Human Rights Commission Award – CIBC Yellowknife branch.