Changemakers honoured at 3rd annual Burlington Accessiblity Awards
Tina Depko-Denver, Burlington Post
There was a strong sense of community spirit and solidarity towards making the city a better place for those living with disabilities at today’s 3rd annual Burlington Accessibility Awards.
This afternoon’s ceremony at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre saw 14 awards presented to businesses, churches, non-profit organizations and residents of various ages.
The event is hosted by the Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee as part of National Access Awareness Week.
“A community that is truly livable includes community partners that contribute to the city,” said Marilyn Turner, vice chair of the Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Keynote speaker Diane Dupuy, president and founder of the Famous People Players, stressed the importance of celebrating each other’s differences.
“Embracing people is the most beautiful thing we can do for each other,” she said during her inspirational address.
Dupuy knows first-hand what it’s like to be ostracized for being different.
She was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at a young age and struggled through school, failing several grades.
She was bullied and called a ‘retard’ by other students.
“I now know ADHD actually stands for ‘awesome dreams with high drama’,” she said with a laugh.
Famous People Players is a professional black-light theatre troupe predominantly consisting of people who are developmentally challenged.
Dupuy founded the company in 1974, with a mission to give people with disabilities an opportunity to integrate into society.
She said the company has not only dramatically impacted people living with disabilities, but also society’s acceptance of people facing such challenges.
“People didn’t like the idea I was going to start FPP – they thought it was going to be a freak show, but we persevered,” she said.
Famous People Players is currently celebrating its 40th year.
Dupuy said she has seen the incredible, inspirational metamorphoses among members who have often been brushed aside by society.
She continues to be a vocal advocate for the inclusion of those with disabilities.
“That’s what happens when we all get together and everybody is included,” said Dupuy. “Something really wonderful happens – a magic.”
Dupuy said she was inspired by the stories of today’s recipients. She said they demonstrated the best things can happen when people work together.
“One person can make a difference, but it’s a team that makes a miracle,” she said.
danceScape’s founders Robert Tang and Beverley Cayton-Tang are well-known champions of ballroom dance.
They, along with Kristin Dufour and their fellow instructors, share their love of dance at their downtown Burlington studio through group and individual lessons.
With enthusiasm and respect, they created an accessible learning environment that welcomed a dance pair that included a partner who is blind.
Course instructors took the time to learn how the pair would best learn dance steps and developed unique signals that replaced visual cues a dancer would use if they were sighted.
These innovative teaching methods allowed the couple to share the pure joy of creative movement.
The pair is enjoying their lessons so much they have signed up for their third session, where they will learn the advanced steps for the foxtrot, waltz, rumba, cha-cha and the tango.