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The annual Premier’s Council Awards publicly acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of individuals, groups, businesses and organizations to develop barrier-free, inclusive communities in Alberta.

Barrier-free, inclusive communities allow persons of all abilities to fully participate. Barriers to inclusion may exist at school, work, home or in the community, and can include:

  • the physical environment
  • systems
  • transportation
  • communication
  • personal supports
  • policies and laws
  • attitudes and behaviours

Individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in making positive, progressive and sustained change towards creating communities where all citizens can fully participate receive special recognition.

An individual, team or organization can only receive one award each year.

Award categories

Gary McPherson Leadership Award

This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership or achievement in enriching the lives of persons with disabilities. The award is named after Dr. Gary McPherson who dedicated himself to furthering the ideals of equality and citizenship for all Albertans. He also served as the first Chair of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Marlin Styner Achievement Award

This award is presented to an individual with a disability who has not allowed their disability to become a barrier in pursuing personal or professional excellence. The award is named after Marlin Styner, an accomplished public speaker who shared his experiences about living with a disability and his passion for equal and fair treatment for all persons with disabilities. He was appointed as a member of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities in 2005 and served as Council Chair from 2008 to 2011.

Awards of Excellence

Individuals, teams and organizations can apply. There are 4 award categories:

Education – to an educator, team or organization that has made a significant contribution to a barrier-free and inclusive educational or training program.

Employment – to an individual employer or team that has made a significant contribution to a barrier-free, inclusive work environment.

Community – to an individual, team or organization that has made a significant contribution to a barrier-free, inclusive community in Alberta.

Public Awareness – to an individual, team or organization that has increased the public’s awareness of the benefits and value of barrier-free, inclusive communities. This may be done through public relations, marketing, media, publicity, advertising, promotions or the arts.

How to apply

Deadline for nominations is now closed.

Step 1. Complete the application form

  • If you need a nomination form in an alternate format, or if you require further information, please contact the Council office.
  • Any missing information may result in the application not being accepted.
  • Complete the application form (PDF, 164 KB).

Step 2. Apply

Submit the completed form by:

Email: [email protected]


Awards Selection Panel
Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities
Box 232
Suite 1110, 10055 106 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5J 2Y2

After you apply

  • You will get a letter if you are receiving an award.
  • All winners will be listed on the Alberta government website.
  • Awards will be presented at International Day of Persons with Disabilities events across Alberta.

Award recipients

  • 2021 Award recipients

    The 2021 recipients of the Premier’s Council Awards are:

    Gary McPherson Leadership Award

    Frank Gilham (Medicine Hat)

    Frank Gilham has been active in his community for over fifty years as a volunteer, employee, advisor and is an excellent example of citizenship and leadership.

    After becoming a quadriplegic in 1970 due to a car accident, Frank quickly adjusted to his new reality and modified how he continued to do the things he loved, such as driving, hunting and fishing. He changed career paths from farming and being a heavy-duty mechanic to becoming a certified general accountant. He eventually became manager of finance and administration at REDI Enterprises – a large non-profit organization in Medicine Hat that supports individuals with disabilities, brain injuries, and mental health concerns. At REDI, Frank’s impact grew. REDI is now one of the largest employers in Medicine Hat and everyone from staff to clients knew Frank and many grew their dreams of what was possible for people with disabilities as a result.

    Frank is also a lifetime volunteer, primarily with Medicine Hat Fish and Game Association and the City of Medicine Hat’s working group for accessibility and inclusion.

    Awards of Excellence in Community

    The Ripple Connection (Barrhead)

    Barrhead’s Ripple Connection Support Centre is a non-profit, drop-in centre that provides a safe place for people of all abilities to hang out, learn, make friends and meet new people. The Centre is inclusive of all people with disabilities, their friends, families and community supporters.

    The Centre began as a small support group in 2010 and has grown to a 100 plus member community organization offering peer-supported learning opportunities, peer support groups, a caregiver support group and educational programs for everyone. They help people become and remain more independent in the community and increase community awareness of mental health and wellness. They are governed by a board of community members. At the Centre, everyone is welcome to come and share experiences, strength and hope, reminding us all that “you are not alone”.

    Lorri Sprlak (Whitecourt)

    Lorri Sprlak works at the Community Lunchbox Society in Whitecourt, where she is a valued member and contributes in many ways. Lorri was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder at birth and has been a member of the Whitecourt community both personally and professionally for many years.

    Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lorri participated in the lunchbox program that annually delivers 45,000 apples, 30,000 breakfasts and 13,000 lunches to students in the Whitecourt community. Additionally, she assisted in the cooking club with 125 students and supported the recycling program, which generates average revenue for the Society of $42,000.

    Lorri’s disability has not been a barrier to her success. She is committed to serving her community through her efforts and bringing awareness that it is possible to live a full life with a disability.

    Tyler Horrocks (Grande Prairie)

    Tyler Horrocks has cerebral palsy and is an active participant and advocate for adaptive sports in his community. Tyler has been involved with the Wolverines Adapted Sports Association for the past 16 years as a player, volunteer and advocate, while playing an integral role in helping the organization grow and evolve.

    The focus of Tyler’s work with the Wolverines has been on raising awareness for adaptive sports in schools, service clubs and in the media, fundraising through presentations and events and participating as a sledge hockey athlete for many years.

    Awards of Excellence in Public Awareness

    Lovepreet Deo (Airdrie)

    Lovepreet Deo is a 40-year-old athlete with cerebral palsy who wants to break down the labels and barriers people with cerebral palsy live with. She’s participated in multiple cycling race events, raising thousands of dollars for the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta. Lovepreet has raised the profile of those living with cerebral palsy by sharing her story in multiple publications, including a recent video with Accessible Media Inc. this summer when she climbed the 167 McHugh Bluff stairs in Calgary.

    She’s won six awards and honours from various organizations, beginning with the 2015 International Day of Persons with Disabilities Calgary Athlete of the Year Award. Lovepreet has since been acknowledged by the Alberta Abilities Lodges Society, Arpan Likhari Sabha Calgary, Punjabi Likhari Sabha Calgary, the Punjabi Writer’s Association and by Kent Hehr, former Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre. She also received the airdrielife magazine Amazing Courage Award in 2017.

    Michelle Sutley (Grande Prairie)

    Michelle Sutley is a community volunteer, advocate and self-advocate and educator who shares her experiences living with a disability and the positive impact of increasing accessibility in community spaces.

    Since 2018, Michelle has been active on the Accessibility Advisory Committee of Grande Prairie, even acting as the first co-leader of the Committee with a significant disability. In 2021, she was recruited by the City of Grande Prairie to the review committee for the barrier-free business grant. Michelle is also an active volunteer for Spinal Cord Injury Alberta, which includes participating in public engagements, public awareness campaigns and speaking to municipal staff about her concerns on behalf of persons with mobility issues.

    Michelle spoke at a local 2015 IDPD event, presenting a video on inclusive education from the United Nation’s 17 sustainable development goals program.

    Taylor Eveleigh (Calgary)

    Taylor Eveleigh is a young man with Cerebral Palsy who uses augmentative and alternative communication and has spent most of his adult life making a difference in people’s lives by being an advocate for communication, accessibility and inclusion for everyone.

    Taylor has a strong presence in his community and volunteered for many years at TELUS Spark and the Calgary Stampede. Taylor was a part of the March of Dimes Canada Breaking the ICE conference in 2019, speaking about living with a disability and how to break down barriers. He has been an active player in the Calgary Power Wheelchair Hockey League since 2000. Taylor was also an advisor at Renfrew Educational Services for their Augmentative Alternative Communication Everywhere project in 2019-20.

    Carlos Gonzalez-Deschamps (Edmonton)

    Carlos Gonzalez-Deschamps is the community education coordinator at Cerebral Palsy Alberta (CPAA), a pan-disability organization supporting persons with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

    Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Carlos was diagnosed after birth with spastic cerebral palsy. For the first 19 years of his life, Carlos lived in Monterrey, where he grew up with a loving, supportive family who always encouraged him to pursue his dreams, face his fears and achieve his goals. At age 19, Carlos moved to Edmonton, where he would live independently in a new, exciting and more accessible environment. He attended Kings University in Edmonton and obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Sciences with a minor in Communication Arts.

    Carlos joined CPAA in the call centre and was quickly promoted to community education coordinator, where he delivers motivational disability awareness presentations and instructs a digital skills program for adults with disabilities. At CPAA, Carlos found his path where he could fulfill his lifelong passion of helping others in his work. His most recent endeavour is co-hosting a new podcast for the disability community called “My Life Without Limits”.

  • 2020 Award recipients

    The 2020 recipients of the Premier’s Council Awards are:

    Gary McPherson Leadership Award

    Leslie Tanzi (Edmonton)

    Leslie Tanzi is a respected advocate in Alberta’s disability community. Her advocacy is fuelled by immense positivity and her experiences volunteering with countless disability non-profit organizations.

    For more than 30 years, Leslie has worked tirelessly to ensure individuals with disabilities are included and treated as valued members of the community. She has served on the board for Spinal Cord Injury Alberta and helped plan numerous events, including International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) events, galas and golf tournaments.

    In October 2011, the Tanzi Family Endowment Fund was established with the Edmonton Community Foundation to give back to the community. Numerous organizations have benefitted from the fund, including WILDNorth Northern Alberta Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, Edmonton Humane Society, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and Stollery Children’s Hospital.

    Marlin Styner Achievement Award

    Sean Crump (Calgary)

    Sean Crump is an accessibility and universal design expert and inclusion collaborator. After breaking his neck in a diving accident in 2004, he now lives as a quadriplegic using a wheelchair to gain independence.

    Sean has dedicated his career to bettering accessibility and inclusion in today’s society. He developed proprietary, international recognized, accessibility standards which helped him launch Universal Access, a self-sustaining social impact business committed to evolving accessibility on a global scale. His goal is to create communities where everyone feels comfortable conducting daily tasks, participating in social events and contributing to the economy as though spaces were designed to accommodate all people regardless of their unique characteristics.

    Sean sits on multiple boards in support of not-for-profit organizations to ensure they continue moving the needle in the right direction. He also hosts workshops and speaks at different engagements on accessibility and inclusion.

    Awards of Excellence in Community

    Dove Centre (Bonnyville)

    Since 1974, the Dove Centre has provided opportunities for individuals with disabilities to develop physical, social and educational skills and has become an integral part of the Bonnyville community.

    The centre helps individuals gain work experience and find volunteer work and paid employment with organizations in the community. The centre also provides supported independent living, community access, residential and respite supports. Plans are underway for the centre to also provide supports to children with developmental disabilities.

    The centre works with individuals, families and guardians to identify goals and work towards meeting these goals. The centre believes that building relationships and natural connections within communities allows people to be seen and accepted as vital contributing members of their community.

    Valerie Arbeau (Calgary)

    Valerie Arbeau is a physiotherapist who works with seniors. Her most important role is as a mother to 2 teenage children, one of whom lives with cerebral palsy. After attending a camp in Idaho for children who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and seeing her daughter able to participate in a summer camp like other children her age, Valerie realized the need for such a specialized camp in Alberta.

    After connecting with the director of the Idaho camp, Valerie approached the University of Alberta (U of A) communications department with the idea to set up a camp in Alberta. The U of A teamed up with March of Dimes Canada to set up the camp and 2020 marked the fifth year of Alberta’s annual AAC camp. Valerie was instrumental in creating a barrier-free and inclusive space in Alberta for children with disabilities. She remains on the executive planning committee and continues to be very involved in the camp’s yearly planning.

    Awards of Excellence in Education

    Aksana Kirton (Calgary)

    Aksana Kirton has found great meaning in advocacy for others and has been a volunteer with Autism Calgary for several years, which led them to become employed as an autistic peer mentor. Through experiences in many fields, Aksana has gained insight into people, mentorship and advocacy, with a specialty in understanding anxiety and pain. Aksana approaches clients with messages of validation, acceptance and genuine joy to be speaking with them.

    Aksana believe people do not need to be fixed or punished and, on the most basic level, people simply need the empathy and understanding of those they encounter. They also believe people need validation to discover solutions they already have within.

    Working to empower individuals and clients alike, Aksana is often stunned by others’ lessons of empowering acceptance, choices, self love and self belief.

    Adam Kedmy (Edmonton)

    Adam Kedmy is an autistic mentor with Autism Society Alberta and a respite worker for Autism Edmonton’s Occasio program. He is focused on growth for those he cares for, a great friend while creating advocacy plans and empathetic when advocating for people who experience the flaws in our system more so than seeing opportunities from it.

    Adam grew up undiagnosed until the age of 30, experiencing trauma while others in the same situation did not. His advantage is he grew to explain what was happening and he learned how to normalize it with people who were uncomfortable with his difference, making it his responsibility to provide the knowledge others need to accept him. He spends most of his time developing advocacy practices for himself and others, always with the goal of being realistic, productive and empowering everyone to be themselves.

    Adam believes that with the right supports and attitude, anyone can accomplish anything. His formula for success includes proper design practices, radical acceptance, realism, optimism, tenacity, perseverance and good communication.

    Award of Excellence in Employment

    Autism Society Alberta

    As the provincial voice, Autism Alberta addresses the common goals of the autism community by leveraging networks and resources to gather information, mobilize awareness, promote effective collaboration among stakeholders and taking focused action to ensure the lifespan needs of the autism community are met.

    In embracing this bold mission, Autism Alberta has recognized the lack of opportunities for autistic individuals to contribute meaningfully to society and the disparity in the province between large urban centres and remote/rural communities. Responding to these needs, Autism Alberta is committed to lead by example. A team of 8 staff (including 5 skilled autistic individuals) support collaborative work with autism society partners to address a provincewide COVID-19 response and recovery initiative, while a staff complement of 3 (2 autistic individuals) support core charitable community development.

    Autism Alberta encourages other community organizations, government and corporate sector to follow their lead to 'ensure you have staff representation of the 1/66 Albertans on the autism spectrum you will find, as we have, that autistic employees are loyal, committed and bring a unique set of skills that will advance your work in unexpected ways.'

    Awards of Excellence in Public Awareness

    April Welshman (Medicine Hat)

    April Welshman is someone who notices the emotional pain of others in the community and takes the time to reach out and let them know they are not alone. Employed in the social work field, April was struck by how disconnected her work could be from what she was seeing in the community. She is leading the way by reaching out with kindness and connection and others are following her example.

    April came across the You Matter movement online and decided to bring it to Medicine Hat. She purchased and printed small You Matter cards and started giving them to people she came across. She then created a social media campaign, a You Matter rock garden and writing positive chalk messages on city trails and sidewalks. April continues to spread kindness wherever she goes and she won’t stop until everyone she comes across knows that they matter in this world.

    Makrina Morozowski (Calgary)

    Makrina Morozowski currently works in the social services field and will soon be starting a provisional placement as she works towards her goal of becoming a registered psychologist. She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Lethbridge and completed her masters of counselling at the City University of Seattle.

    Through volunteering, she advocates for people with disabilities. In 2019, Makrina was the ambassador for Easter Seals Alberta – for the second time. Most recently, she presented to an international audience about being an advocate and coined the term 'able bodied ally,' which highlighted a call to action for everyone to learn how they may be able to advocate, support or engage with someone living with a disability.

  • 2019 Award recipients

    The 2019 recipients of the Premier’s Council Awards are:

    Gary McPherson Leadership Award

    Donna Desjardins (St. Paul)

    Donna Desjardins is a long-time advocate for people with developmental disabilities. She and her husband Ray are proud parents of two sons, one of whom, Daniel, has Down syndrome. Her advocacy is fuelled by her own experiences with exclusion and segregation to ensure her son has equal opportunities in life. Daniel, now 41, is an entrepreneur and advocate for himself and others.

    Donna has worked passionately for over 40 years to ensure individuals with developmental disabilities are valued members of the community. She served as a member of the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) Board for six years and spent nine years as vice-chair of the Northeast Alberta PDD Community Board. Donna also served on numerous provincial boards and committees, including Inclusion Alberta, Inclusion St. Paul and Portage College Advisory Committee.

    One of Donna's most recent accomplishments is her leadership in advocating for inclusive post-secondary education at Portage College in St. Paul.

    Marlin Styner Achievement Award

    Joseph Sask (Grande Prairie)

    Joseph Sask was born and raised near Grande Prairie. He worked as an oilfield welder until experiencing a spinal cord injury in 1987. Following rehabilitation from the injury, he attended Grande Prairie Regional College to study business and accounting. He then joined the insurance industry where he still works today.

    After his injury, Joseph volunteered for many years as a provincial board member for the Canadian Paraplegic Association and became Alberta President from 1992 to 1996. He participated in wheelchair basketball through the Wolverines Wheelchair Sports Association, first as a player and later as a coach. Since 1993, Joseph has been a member of the Wolverines executive team and is the current president.

    Under his leadership, the Wolverines have expanded their programs to include people with greater levels of disability through sports like power soccer, sledge hockey, hand cycling and fitness programs. His credo is to always include people no matter their situation. Developing abilities, giving people a team experience and helping create positive memories has always been Joseph’s purpose.

    Award of Excellence in Community

    Beaver River Fish and Game Association (Bonnyville)

    The Beaver River Fish and Game Association is a non-profit conservation group in Bonnyville. Members of this group demonstrate creativity, inclusivity and dedication in supporting a member with limited mobility to participate in their archery program. The group reached out to engineers and archers to design an adapted bow to meet the mobility needs of the member.

    The new bow features a release system that is controlled by the user’s mouth and places the weight on the user's shoulder. The group worked with the member to make adjustments and improvements to the system. It is important to the club that the member not only participate, but excel at archery. He will be returning for another season.

    Disabled Transportation Society (Grande Prairie)

    The Disabled Transportation Society started as a support group for people with disabilities in Grande Prairie during the early 90s, after Grande Prairie Public Education System opened a unique and barrier-free school. The support group consisted of parents and individuals with disabilities and led to the development of an accessible transportation system.

    The Society opened its doors beyond students, to people who experience difficulty accessing public transit or even taxis. With considerable support from the City of Grande Prairie, ridership grew to over 600 people with up to seven busses dispatched at a time. The growth became more than a volunteer board could handle and, as of September 2019, the bus is now managed as the City of Grande Prairie paratransit.

    The children of the original group of parents grew to be fully engaged in the community of Grande Prairie and other cities. They are participating on community boards, gainfully employed and have families of their own.

    Hope 4 MVC Kids Society (Mountain View County)

    Hope 4 MVC Kids Society was co-founded in 2013 by Lisa Nicholson and Suzanne Young. This volunteer-run organization helps families of children with disabilities in the Mountain View County area with the cost of adaptive equipment and adaptations to homes and vehicles.

    As a parent of two children with disabilities who also works with children with disabilities, Lisa learned there was a great need for supports for families, but found limited resources in the local area. Hope 4 MVC Kids was born after Lisa found out her daughter required a therapy pool. The local community helped raise much of the money needed and Lisa wanted to pay this forward while ensuring families had local support.

    The majority of the Society’s board members have personal or professional experience with children who have medical challenges. To date, Hope 4 MVC Kids Society has helped over 50 families to ensure homes, vehicles and schools are accessible.

    Lac Ste. Anne East End Bus Society

    The East End Service Bus began in 1996 and evolved to become Lac Ste. Anne East End Bus Society. The Society is a co-operative effort of the Lac Ste. Anne County, Alberta Beach and the Town of Onoway to provide affordable transportation for seniors and people with disabilities.

    With access to transportation, seniors and people with disabilities maintain an independent lifestyle and stay in their homes longer. Wheelchair and ambulatory assistance is provided in a clean, safe and reliable vehicle to transport individuals to their destination. On arrival, the driver will accompany individuals into the facility. This inclusive service is available to all community residents. Offerings include scheduled shopping/medical trips to West Edmonton Mall and Spruce Grove, along with excursion and rentals by service clubs and community members.

    This unique venture by the three municipalities is all about community. The impact from this service will be felt for many years as friendships are established, medical resources are made accessible for a reasonable cost and people are able to continue to stay in their own homes.

    Terri Duncan (Edmonton)

    Terri Duncan is the founder and executive director of Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton, a not-for-profit organization that provides intervention and support for children and families.

    Since working as an aide for a four-year-old boy with autism, Terri has been fascinated by the complexity of autism and the resilience of families dealing with the associated challenges they face on a daily basis. Terri has been a speech language pathologist for more than 22 years and believes that all children belong. She has worked tirelessly in homes, in schools and in the community across Northern Alberta to make space for children with autism to be included and accepted.

    Terri’s work includes hosting annual conferences, delivering workshops, offering training for people who volunteer or work with kids and expanding inclusive recreational programs. Her strong relationships with government, stakeholders and families help Terri shift the culture to acceptance and accessibility for Albertans with autism spectrum disorder.

    West End Bus Service

    The West End Bus Service began in 2012 and has evolved to provide affordable transportation to seniors and people with disabilities in the County of Lac Ste. Anne, Woodlands County and Mayerthorpe.

    Two wheelchair accessible vans, one holding six people plus two wheelchairs and one personal minivan, along with a 15 passenger Sprinter Van, provide transportation to people with mobility barriers. People who use the service enjoy shopping and social events and don’t have to worry about getting to and from medical appointments. As a result, seniors and people with disabilities experience more independence, form friendships and live healthier, happier lives in their own homes.

    All community residents can use this service for scheduled shopping/medical trips to Edmonton, along with a free seniors’ taxi in the Town of Mayerthorpe. This service is a great example of municipalities working together, crossing boundaries and making services work for the community.

    Award of Excellence in Education

    Alberta Schools Athletic Association

    In 2015, the Alberta Schools Athletic Association partnered with Special Olympics Alberta to bring Unified Sports to Alberta high schools. This was the first official partnership between the organizations and the first school-based Unified Sports program in Canada.

    Unified Sports provides people with and without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play on the same sports team, creating a space for friendships, physical activity and fun. Research has found that Unified Sports athletes with intellectual disabilities experience improved social competence and social inclusion. Unified Sports athletes without intellectual disabilities also improve their attitudes toward people with disabilities as a result of participating in the program.

    Unified Sports in Alberta schools helps break down barriers between students and teachers and creates a culture of inclusion. At the end of the 2019 school year, a five-year plan was established to ensure sustainable growth and expansion into underserved areas of the province.

    Award of Excellence in Employment

    Gateway Association (Edmonton)

    The Gateway Association builds meaningful, paid employment relationships that work for both employers and job seekers who live with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Gateway is unique in that they engage clients in a three-part one-on-one process to help job seekers discover their fields of interest, find a place of employment and ultimately maintain meaningful employment. Gateway’s support is ongoing for both the employer and the job seeker throughout the entire working relationship to ensure the process of employment goes smoothly. Gateway’s methodology has attracted research and peer-reviewed publications as part of the nationwide Canadian Disability Participation Project.

    Since its inception in 1975, Gateway has become one of the go-to organizations in the city for family support, education and employment. The organization is dedicated to assisting the community better understand disabilities. Gateway offers a variety of workshops for people with disabilities and their families to live full, authentic, meaningful lives and helps organizations build diverse and inclusive communities.

    Gateway believes deeply in the power of family support and devotes itself to help people with disabilities and their families navigate systems and services.

    Award of Excellence in Public Awareness

    Linda MacDonald (Edmonton)

    Linda MacDonald is a former physiotherapist and English Second Language teacher who performed as a Celtic folk musician throughout Alberta in the 1990s. She’s spent the past 15 years advocating and bringing awareness to her own conditions: myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) along with Fibromyalgia. Her goal is to reduce barriers experienced by those with ME/CFS, a complex neuro-immune disease with high levels of disability, unmet health care needs, poverty, food insecurity and social isolation.

    Linda was the first to survey research funding for ME/CFS in Canada. She was also instrumental in spearheading the creation of Alberta’s first clinical guidelines for ME/CFS. She received an accolade from the Voice of Albertans with Disabilities for her work in this area.

    Over the past 10 years, Linda has worked to ensure disability accommodation and accessibility for people with severe MCS in several Edmonton-area organizations. She also taught improved fragrance-free protocols to local health professionals for safer, fragrance-free access to care and increased inclusion in society for MCS. These amended services remain in place to this day.

    CommuniTEA Infusion (Edmonton)

    CommuniTEA Infusion is an innovative social change initiative in Edmonton. A rebuilt Volkswagen van acts as a mobile tea house to create a ‘pop up’ town square atmosphere where people gather, chat and share in community over a cup of tea. This sparks conversation and sets the stage for community members to get to know one another.

    People with disabilities are the key leaders of this initiative, taking on the role of community builders who make and serve the tea. Community builders help build our communities by bringing enthusiasm and warmth to the space, welcoming people as they approach the van and striking up conversation. Community builders are able to develop their social skills, problem-solving abilities, build new friendships, receive a wage and to bring joy to others.

    This initiative shows how people with a wide variety of strengths are leading community building in Edmonton. It also encourages citizenship and belonging for people with disabilities, as well as the general public.

    Susan Littlechilds (Westlock)

    Susan Littlechilds is described as full of energy and always on the go, whether she’s working on assignments to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology, volunteering in the community or working as a disability support worker.

    The word idle does not exist in her vocabulary. She sees time as an opportunity to do something productive and helpful. Susan is an avid volunteer. She’s a Rick Hanson ambassador, a CNIB champion and is chair of the Westlock Accessible Coalition.

    She’s been a key player in all stages of Westlock's accessibility challenge, where community stakeholders had the opportunity to experience moving around Westlock and doing day-to-day tasks as individuals with mobility challenges or other disabilities. This event highlighted the accessibility challenges present in the community. As a result, elected city officials are considering including people with disabilities in discussions about planned infrastructure and a local school is building accessibility ramps in its carpentry class. Other communities have also expressed interest in a similar event.

  • 2018 Award recipients

    The 2018 recipients of the Premier’s Council Awards are:

    Gary McPherson Leadership Award

    Anne Pype (Barrhead)

    For many years, Anne Pype sat on the board for the Barrhead Association for Community Living (BACL) – an organization that provides supports to families who have children with developmental disabilities.

    Through her work, Anne supported the creation of the School of New Hope, which allowed children to stay at home and attend school in their own community instead of being institutionalized. This was an important step forward to inclusion. She developed a successful relationship between the school and the media, while establishing workshops to facilitate inclusive learning for people with disabilities.

    The workshops eventually grew into the Blue Heron Support Services Association that continues to serve adults with developmental disabilities in the Barrhead community. Thanks to Anne’s efforts at BACL, the Barrhead community grew to better understand how people with disabilities can contribute to the community as a whole.

    Marlin Styner Achievement Award

    Colin Cantlie (Calgary)

    Colin Cantlie is a former ground personnel employee with Canadian Airlines. He experienced hearing loss early on in his career. Now retired, he is dedicated to promoting disability awareness and increasing access for people with hearing loss.

    Colin has been involved with numerous education initiatives, which included coordinating a three-year disability awareness training project at the Calgary International Airport. As a member of the Calgary Ability Network, he inspires and educates others about the challenges and limitations facing those who are hard of hearing.

    He previously served as president of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and is currently vice president of the Calgary branch. His work in advancing access for those with hearing loss extends to his community, where he strives to break barriers and create more inclusive communities.

    Award of Excellence in Community

    Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape (Red Deer)

    The Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape committee, comprised of several Red Deer community groups, collaborated with the City of Red Deer to build an accessible park where people of all abilities can play and learn together. The park is the brainchild of three parents who noticed children in wheelchairs were not able to play in the city parks. After connecting with interested community groups, Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape was created.

    After nearly three years, the park is nearing completion. Much of the consultation with vendors and community partners, site selection, budgeting, fundraising, site preparation and equipment assembly was accomplished through volunteer efforts of the committee.

    More than half of the park equipment is accessible, allowing children of all abilities to enjoy it. The committee made great strides in building awareness for the project, rallying other groups to join and garnering interest and momentum for a successful project.

    Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta

    The Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta is a registered non-profit organization that supports people affected by cerebral palsy and other disabilities. They focus on helping people with disabilities live, learn and have the chance to take an active role in their communities.

    They partner with other organizations to promote awareness, acceptance and understanding. Dedicated to an environment of dignity, integrity and respect, they offer programs that promote diversity and independence. These include community education, sport and leisure programs, a funding request program, advocacy and other supports for full citizenship.

    Associated Canadian Travellers (Grande Prairie)  

    The Associated Canadian Travelers (ACT) Club of Grande Prairie provides funding to people requiring specialty equipment not always paid for by government programs. As well as their regular fundraising activities such as casino volunteering, the club raises money through the sale of firewood. Volunteers harvest, split and deliver the firewood to community residents. The Club also obtained a community hall and made modifications to provide barrier-free access. The hall is maintained by the club and is available for rent (at an affordable rate) to community groups.

    City of Edmonton Programs for Persons with Disabilities (Edmonton)

    The City of Edmonton offers a variety of programs for persons with disabilities. These programs provide opportunities for persons with disabilities to take part in arts, crafts and other recreation activities. The courses and programs are offered throughout various accessible City of Edmonton recreation and leisure centres.

    The City believes that satisfying leisure time spent with others is as important as home, school and work activities. Program participants have the chance to develop relationships with peers, experience new things and build positive self-image.

    Romeo Crow Chief (Siksika)

    For 29 years, Romeo Crow Chief worked for Siksika Nation in various financial and management positions, as well as serving a term as a councillor. In 1994, he launched the Siksika Nation Disability Research Project to determine the number of Siksika people with disabilities. This was a three-month research project funded by Siksika Nation. Thanks to his work, in 1998 Siksika Nation Disability Services opened its doors with funding he helped secure.

    Romeo's areas of expertise focus on financial and administrative management, strategic planning as well as conflict resolution and community development. As a certified mediator, Romeo has had the opportunity to share his skills and abilities with indigenous people across Canada and abroad. He also lends his expertise to governments and private corporations.

    Valley Bus Society (Drumheller)

    The Valley Bus Society provides a barrier-free transportation service to the community of Drumheller and surrounding areas. Services available include dial-a-bus, charters in and out of town and charters to specialist's appointments in larger cities. Through partnerships with community organizations and businesses, the society offers subsidized rates, weekly sponsored trips to stores and special community events.

    The Valley Bus Society believes its program is key to inclusion and increases the quality of life for its customers, who are able to access essential services, visit friends and participate in their community. The society’s dedicated staff, board and drivers go above and beyond to ensure their community is inclusive and barrier-free.

    Award of Excellence in Employment

    Sean McEwen (Calgary)

    Sean McEwen is the program manager of Calgary Alternative Employment Services, and owner of RealEyes Capacity Consulting, which designs and directs employment services to help local employers leverage the benefits of workplace diversity and inclusion.

    Over the past two decades, Sean’s been focused on developing and managing programs and initiatives to facilitate increased workforce inclusion for people with barriers to employment. Throughout his career, he has gained experience in consulting, human resource management, career counselling, research and reporting, case management and disability awareness training. He also helps facilitate mentorships and peer supports, and supports business plan development for entrepreneurs with disabilities.

    Sean has been president of the Alberta and Canadian Associations for Supported Employment. He is also a co-chair of the Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) organizing committee.

    Award of Excellence in Public Awareness

    Daralynn Swensrude (Edmonton)

    Daralynn Swensrude is a speaker who presents to healthcare professionals, students and frontline staff on navigating the healthcare system as a person with a language disorder. Her work within a healthcare setting and lived experience as someone with an acquired brain injury gives her a strong understanding as both a patient and healthcare professional. During her talks, she recounts her story and provides strategies professionals can use to make interactions more positive and productive.

    She is an advocate for a healthcare system where communication assistants are always available to patients. She believes everyone has the right to understand and live independently, even with communication challenges. Daralynn also works to educate healthcare professionals around informed consent, advocating for language appropriate to the patient and their disability. No matter the communication issues, she believes it is important to listen and adapt to all needs.

    Dr. April Ruzycki (Medicine Hat)

    Dr. April Ruzycki is a passionate and proud Medicine Hat resident who is dedicated to improving the health and lives of those in her community. As a chiropractor at the Powers & Jans Centre, she has spent the last decade running a family-centred practice, focusing on pregnancy and pediatrics.

    She takes the time to acknowledge and celebrate each person she sees in a day, and gives back to her community as much as possible. April dedicates countless volunteer hours to organizations such as the Sunrise Rotary Club, the Advisory Committee on Disability Issues and her local International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) event organizing committee.

    Her involvement with the Medicine Hat IDPD committee began after she volunteered for one of their events in 2008. Over the next ten years, she filled various roles including volunteer coordinator and committee chair. Through this work, she helps raise awareness, advocate for and promote inclusiveness for all individuals.


Connect with the Premier’s Council Secretariat:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-422-1095
Toll free: dial 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]
Fax: 780-415-0097

Suite 1110, 10055 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 2Y2

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