KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – For disability advocate Paul Vienneau, this year’s winner of the James McGregor Stewart Award, nothing about us without us is not an empty phrase, it is a motto that he lives by.
“Traditionally the way our community has been treated is that we’re told we hear you, and then they go away, and then they do it and they screw it up. They build a ramp but the door is permanently locked for security, what have you,” said Vienneau in a short speech after the award ceremony.
“We’re not looking to be served. We want to be enabled by the system. It matters to us that our voice gets heard,” said Vienneau, who sometimes writes for the Nova Scotia Advocate.
The Award recognizes leadership, effective advocacy and outstanding personal achievement of a person with a disability, and is awarded by the society of the same name.
Vienneau gained notoriety as the asshole with a shovel who, frustrated with being stuck in his apartment during that terrible winter of 2015, headed out on his wheelchair and started removing snow from the Spring Garden Road curbs.
Vienneau never looked back, and has become a tireless advocate for people who live with disabilities. What’s more, he gets results, something he credits to his reluctance to become needlessly adversarial.
“My old way was, if something bothered me I’d call 311 and yell at the poor people who had nothing to do with it. I decided not to get angry anymore,” Vienneau said. “Now I get results.”
The award was presented by Gerry Post, Executive Director of Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Directorate, and last year’s winner of the award.
“It’s good to see the impact of our advocacy. At the same time it is a form of treatment. We will always have dark periods. When this hits you, you enter a dark valley, and the way you climb out is through helping others,” said Post.
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