Locals recognized with 2019 accessibility awards

Mayor Darrin Canniff, Macs operator Naveed Pasha and Rick LaMarsh at the Accessibility Awards in Chatham on February 19, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Several local residents have been recognized by the municipality for their efforts in improving accessibility.

The Chatham-Kent Accessibility Advisory Committee handed out three awards on Tuesday afternoon at Son’s of Kent Brewing Company.

Mayor Darrin Canniff said a few words beforehand, saying the awards set a precedent for businesses across the municipality.

“I would love to see every business completely accessible so that there are no barriers throughout the community,” he said.

The owners of Sons of Kent were the first to be recognized, winning the “Dr. Veronica Vaughan, Accessible Business of the Year” award.

The chair of the committee, Mike Gerard, praised the owners for their efforts in making their brewery accessible to everyone. He said it’s rare to see a business that does more than just the mandatory accessibility guidelines.

“The bar is set very low so people with wheelchairs can access it. They have large bathrooms that are very accessible. They have a ramp to come in that’s very wide.  It’s things that they’ve gone above and beyond to do,” said Gerard.

Winners of the awards are nominated by people in the community. Members of the committee then go through the nominations to make their selection.

Naveed Pasha and the Mac’s Convenience Store he runs on McNaughton Avenue West in Chatham was nominated by Rick LaMarsh, a frequent patron of the store. Pasha accepted the “Sheila Lindsey-Powers, Accessibility Advocate Award” for their dedication to people of all abilities.

According to LaMarsh, Mac’s is one of the few convenience stores in the area with an automatic door. He said the door was installed in 2017, only weeks after getting a request from a customer with mobility issues.

Pasha said he’s thankful for the recognition.

“It’s all about giving them a different experience and we continuously take steps towards that as a company,” he said.

The final award was given to Juanita Luxton. Luxton was presented with the “Sid Ebare, Perseverance Award” for her steady persistence in living beyond limitations.  The award was presented by her friend Ann McKenzie who said, despite being in a wheelchair, Luxton has been heavily involved in volunteer work in the community since she was a child.