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Region recognizes local accessibility champions

Whitby, Ontario – In honour of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, The Regional Municipality of Durham has awarded eight local champions the Accessibility Award. This award recognizes their dedication to removing barriers and making the Region more accessible for people of all abilities.

Each year, the local Accessibility Advisory Committees (AACs) nominate individuals, businesses or services based on their efforts in identifying, removing and preventing barriers for individuals living with a disability.

A video showcasing the accessibility champions and their work to make their communities more accessible can be viewed by visiting

2020 Accessibility Champions

Town of Ajax

Abiraa Karalasingam is a youth with a passion for accessibility. Abiraa is an active member of the Town of Ajax’s Youth Engagement Advisory Committee and the Recreation, Culture and Community Development Department Neighbourhood Engagement Social Team.

In her roles, she has worked with the Ajax Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) to identify barriers in her community, which has resulted in the development of several projects aimed at making Ajax more accessible.

Previously, Abiraa also served as a Youth Accessibility Leader under the Enabling Accessibility Fund, where she collaborated with local organizations to build a more inclusive and accessible Canada.

Township of Brock

Russell Fisher is the President of Fisher’s Your Independent Grocer in the Township of Brock.

Due to the challenges presented by the pandemic, Russell quickly responded to his community by removing barriers to provide greater store access for seniors and individuals with compromised immune systems.

He offered earlier store hours, online shopping, and improved access to aisles for an easier and safer shopping experience for vulnerable populations. 

Municipality of Clarington

Ryan Ormiston is the owner of Foodland Newcastle in the Municipality of Clarington.

Ryan recognized that people with disabilities are experiencing additional challenges finding and retaining gainful employment due to the pandemic. 

As a result, he removed barriers to make hiring practices more inclusive to support persons with disabilities. 

City of Oshawa

Linda Tamburro was a representative of the Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee (OAAC) and well-respected community member known for her passion to develop an accessible community for people of all abilities.

As a dedicated member of the Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee, Linda was instrumental in moving forward several actions to help contribute to a barrier-free Oshawa and raise awareness, including the launch of a new logo and flag for their committee.

The Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee flag was flown at half-mast at City Hall in February 2020 in memory of Linda Tamburro and the contributions she made to her community.

City of Pickering

Don Terry was the Co-Chair of the Durham Region 2019 Ontario Parasport Games Organizing Committee.

In his role, Don surpassed operational expectations including exceeding financial goals. He also provided leadership in setting ambitious goals intended to better the Durham community long after the Games’ completion.

His work established a legacy of support for parasports in Durham Region.

Township of Uxbridge

Brandon Bird is the CEO of Bernard Cole Corporation, a business located in the Township of Uxbridge.

Brandon welcomed feedback from the Uxbridge Accessibility Advisory Committee, residents and business owners to make his buildings more accessible.

As a result, Brandon is renovating his buildings beyond the requirements of the AODA legislation to improve access for all abilities.

Renovations included replacing pathways that were unsafe, widening doorways, regrading slopes, improving signage and ease of access through contrast of colours and materials used.

Town of Whitby

Sheridan Nurseries has removed barriers in their hiring and workplace practices to accommodate staff based on their ability and skills in the horticulture sector.

For example, management recognized that a staff with a hearing impairment may experience challenges reading the lips of customers wearing masks.

As a result, management worked with the staff member to have her provide other services needed at the nursery and use technology to communicate with other staff members.

Region of Durham

Roberta Atkinson was an original member of the Durham Region Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) that was established in 2002.

Roberta was a key contributor to ensuring the Region was complying with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.

Assisting staff to roll out the standards under these pieces of legislation was pivotal for Roberta and other members of the AAC. She played an active role in the customer service training for all staff and was able to educate them by sharing her experiences of living with a disability.


“I would like to congratulate the winners of this year’s Accessibility Awards. Their efforts are an example of how our various communities are working together to support people of all ages and abilities. We can all benefit and learn from these champions. Though we have come a long way, we still have a road ahead to make our communities more inclusive. We can only continue to do so by being innovative and responsive to the needs of our community.”

-        John Henry, Regional Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Regional Municipality of Durham

“It is an honour to recognize those in our community who are working towards making Durham more accessible. Removing barriers to everyday life allows everyone to fully participate in the fabric of our society. This could include incorporating automatic doors for your business or implementing more accessible practices in your organization. These additions can improve the quality of life for our most vulnerable populations. Through our Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, the Region will also continue to identify services and initiatives with an accessible lens to address the growing needs of our diverse community. We must all do our part.”

-        Elaine Baxter-Trahair, Chief Administrative Officer, Regional Municipality of Durham.


View this press release on the Region of Durham's website.

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