Since Rick Hansen’s 1987 Man in Motion Tour, the Partnership for Access Awareness Nova Scotia (PAANS) has commemorated National Access Awareness Week and kept its spirit alive in Nova Scotia. This year, May 26th – June 1st, features events organized to draw attention to the great work being done to remove barriers to inclusion and create healthy, inclusive communities through collaborative partnerships and engaging initiatives.
Every year during Access Awareness Week, PAANS presents the Mel Hebb Hourglass Action Awards to Nova Scotians who have demonstrated a commitment to inclusion in their community. The Hourglass Action Awards were initially launched during the 1992 National Access Awareness Week. In 2000 the name was changed to the Mel Hebb Hourglass Action Awards in honour of Mel Hebb, a former PAANS committee chair member, who passed away in October 1999 and was the personification of dedicated action.
PAANS also awards scholarships to students from across the province to help them begin or continue their post-secondary studies. 14 students will receive PAANS scholarships this year. Scholarship recipients are youth with disabilities chosen from communities across the province. These students demonstrated excellence in their field of study and have achieved success in their communities. However, their continued success relies not only on the completion of their program of study, but also on the assurance that they will have access – should they require it - to employment opportunities, supports, accessible transportation, affordable and suitable housing and other essentials that determine whether or not someone becomes a contributing, included member of their community.
(For the full list of award and scholarship recipients see below.)
Issues of ability and inclusion are important all year round. However, Access Awareness Week is an opportunity that allows Nova Scotians to really promote these issues to audiences from all walks of life. Through press conferences, forums, concerts, lectures and events we are able to engage the broader community on issues that sometimes get forgotten. PAANS aims for two things during the course of the week. The first is to celebrate what has happened to increase accessibility and the potential of things to come. Formally, PAANS achieves this with the presentation of the Mel Hebb Hourglass Action Awards and the PAANS scholarships. Informally, PAANS attempts to integrate this attitude into its approach to all things. The second is to bring issues of access to the attention of the public and the policy makers. Change can grow from the bottom up or implemented from the top down. PAANS wants both to happen - with the movements meeting somewhere in between.
In essence, Access Awareness Week is a week-long effort to educate, advocate and reflect on the many issues being addressed by individuals, families, volunteers, community groups and all levels of government. The real work takes place each and every day in communities around the province and around the country.
To learn more about Access Awareness Week, award and scholarship winners and ways you can be involved go to www.nsleo.com
2019 PAANS Scholarship Winners:
- Errol DaRocha
- Taylor Dean
- Caden Flynn
- Sophie Hunter
- Quentin Knock
- Ruis MacDonald
- Adam MacNeil
- Kyle MacNeil
- Sarah MacNeil
- Lauren Nickerson
- Emily Smith
- Sean Smith
- Zoe Thibault
- Megan Wright
2019 Mel Hebb Hourglass Action Awards Recipients:
- Community Action Award – Town of Wolfville
- Exceptional Service Award, Organization – TEAM Work Cooperative
- Exceptional Service Award, Member of an Organization – Veronica Dale, Easter Seals
- Access Award – Sobeys
- Andre McConnell Award – Anne MacRae
Sherry Costa, Provincial Coordinator
Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)