Ted, Andrea, Melissa

Breaking Down Barriers

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I was honoured to be the Keynote Speaker at the 2013 Breaking Down Barriers Annual General Meeting, on June 26th.As you already know from my talks, my blog and my website, I have committed my life to advocating for people with disabilities. That’s why it was an honour for me to share my personal story amongst fellow empowered people with disabilities in the communities of South Georgian Bay. This was doubly rewarding because it was the first time I’ve spoken to my cottage community, and I was overwhelmed by the embracing reception I received after the unexpected traffic I faced to get there.
Breaking Down Barriers (BDB) empowers people with disabilities, enabling them to live independently in the communities of South Georgian Bay. Among its many roles, the organization provides peer support, independent living skills, information and referral services, self managed attendant services, barrier free desgin consultations and emplyment support. Their work is phenomenal.
I was delighted to arrive at a Legion decked out with yellow table linens, and adorned with lemon and yellow flowered centrepieces. To top it all off, the team at BDB thoughtfully included my commonly used phrase in their distributed materials. If you know me at all, you will hear me say that “When life gives you lemons, and you’re sick of lemonade, make lemon meringue pie” alluding to the fact that people with disabilities must be resourcefully prepared to tackle plan b and plan c much of the time as well.
I am very grateful to BDB for the plethora of lemon-inspired treats. You’ll see in the lovely photos above that from a cheerful yellow hat and beautiful Sienna scarf to delicious lemon flavoured tea, gums and candies, the team truly went above and beyond to mark my keynote with a very personal touch.
The most rewarding part of my visit was hearing the stories of so many others in the BDB community as well. Theirs were equal stories of endurance and triumph and I loved hearing how this community is not only breaking down barriers but also helping to enable one another to live independent lives.

After a more than memorable visit to Collingwood, I know this is just the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with a remarkable community. I look forward to staying in touch with the BDB community online in the months to come.

I am particularly grateful to Andrea Abbott-Kokosin for making it all happen. To each and everyone of those in attendance, I raise a lemon-flavoured glass of juice and toast to your kindness. It was an honour to spend such a great evening with all of you.

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