Ambassadors in Ontario

"The ambassadors' presentation was heart warming story/presentation that focused on abilities, positive attitude and "Can Do" mindset. She provided a powerful message on equity, accessibility and inclusion."

Monica Joshan, Teacher, Arbor Glen Public School
"The presentation was fantastic! His presentation inspired both our staff and students, and reminded us what it truly means to perservere. It also gave us a lot to reflect on in terms of what accessibility and inclusion means to different people with varying strengths and needs."

Andrea Lane, Principal, Donwood Park School

Joshua Dvorkin

Photo of Joshua
Joshua worked hard and played hard. He had a good life and lived in the fast lane. Early one fall morning, Joshua was relaxing on his balcony with a cup of coffee, visiting with his neighbour. As soon as she went inside, Joshua had an epileptic seizure and fell over the first floor balcony to the pavement below. He fell seven feet, just enough to break his neck as he landed on his head. When Joshua awoke in the hospital and realized he could not breathe or eat on his own, talk, or walk, he was so panic stricken that he went into cardiac arrest. This happened five more times, and he now requires a pace maker.

Joshua is a counselor, a writer and a student about to undertake his third degree. He enjoys painting and is a collector of interesting things. He is a son, a brother, and an uncle who sets an example of never giving up! Joshua will tell you that with positivity anything is possible.

Harley Nott

Photo of Harley
Harley grew up a bit rough in the great outdoors of Vancouver Island. The family moved many times and lived in numerous locations, working in construction, forestry and logging, growing large and strong until the fateful day of Harley’s injury. In 1980, at 18 years of age, Harley dove into a river and broke his neck. His friends saw the accident and rescued him from the water.

When Harley accepted his new life and committed to the physical rehabilitation process, it became apparent that he needed some vocational rehab as well. This process had good results: Harley obtained a bachelor degree and then went to law school, both at the University of Victoria.

Harley and his wife, Margaret, enjoy being busy parents of two rapidly growing children, Evan and Margaret. Harley’s interests include history, travel, writing, etymology, theatre, music, gliding, sailing, reading, and long walks with his children and dogs.

Fernando Resende

Photo of Fernando
At the time of his accident, Fernando was happily married to his wife, Michele, and had a baby daughter, Taryn. He was on a successful career trajectory, having just been appointed as Creative Director for ELLE Canada. Michele and Fernando enjoyed traveling. Fernando was very social and quite active, playing ice hockey in a weekly recreation league, mountain-biking and snowboarding on weekends, and enjoying tennis and scuba diving.

Michele and Fernando were on vacation driving from Phoenix to Las Vegas. Taryn was in her car seat in the back of the car and Michele was driving. When Taryn started to cry, they pulled over and Fernando got into the back seat to give her a bottle. He soon fell asleep, and woke to the crushing sensation of impact as they were hit head-on by a large, out-of-control truck.

Fernando sustained a broken neck, rendering him a quadriplegic; at the hospital, a doctor told him he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and never walk again. In time, he learned that the full implications of his spinal cord injury: chronic nerve pain, high muscle spasticity and other related complications.

To be completely independent, Fernando mastered many skills. He learned to drive a car with hand-controls, and tried every sport again. After a couple of years, he resumed his practice of photography, art and freelance graphic design and opened his own business, called Most importantly, he learned to be a husband and father with no limitations, always being there and doing almost everything an able-bodied person achieves.

Jackie Silver

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Jackie was born with a vascular malformation in her left leg; the veins do not function properly. As a result, her leg is weak and she cannot walk long distances. When she was young, her condition did not have a major impact on her life; she was able to walk and was mobile. Then, one day, when she was 16 years old, Jackie was walking out of a math exam when she felt something strange in her leg. She was rushed to hospital and it turned out she had spontaneously fractured her tibia and fibula. She had to wear a plaster cast up to her mid-thigh for six months, a much longer healing process than what most people would experience with a similar injury. After she recovered from the fracture, her mobility was no longer the same. At this point, Jackie’s life completely changed. She now walks with two canes and her leg is much weaker. And yet she continues to move forward.

Jackie is finishing up her kinesiology degree at York University and will go on to study nutrition at Ryerson University to become a dietitian. In her spare time, she volunteers as a mentor for a youth group, speaks to groups of teenagers about dealing with life’s challenges, enjoys hand-cycling and exercising, baking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Lisa Derencinovic

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Diagnosed with a recessive genetic eye disease at age 4, Lisa could barely pronounce the name of her disease, much less understand the full implications. As her vision slowly got worse, she worried about smaller challenges, such as going door-to-door on Halloween, and not being great at sports. Yet her larger goals remained intact: she planned to attend university and dreamed of writing a novel.

Lisa’s family remained in denial about her eye disease, and it was only when she turned eighteen that she started to find her way towards acceptance. During her first year at the University of Toronto, Lisa’s text books were translated onto tape or CD and she learned to use a white cane to navigate the large downtown campus.

While volunteering with a youth group at CNIB, Lisa worked with a co-facilitator who became a powerful mentor. This experience ignited a passion for social work and Lisa has now opened her own business, Counseling with Lisa, and provides personal counseling on a range of issues.

Luke Anderson

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Luke was a gifted athlete, passionate about seeking adventure in the great outdoors, who loved working with his hands. He graduated from university with an engineering degree, and followed his dream of living in the mountains with likeminded outdoor enthusiasts and working as a homebuilder. Luke was riding down a tricky mountain biking trail he had heard other riders raving about when he decided to attempt a 25-foot jump. His life as he knew it would never be the same.

Luke is a licensed professional structural engineer and is cofounder of StopGap, an organization with a mission to raise awareness about barriers in our built environment. He is a volunteer bike mechanic at a do‐it‐yourself community bike shop and lives in downtown Toronto.

Marion Croft

Photo of Marion
When Marion was a child, she learned to walk at Christmas time. The following July, when she was just 18 months old, she contracted polio and had to learn to walk again. She did not have a chance to experience life to the fullest before becoming physically challenged.

Marion has always been a go-getter and after three years in hospital recovering from the effects of polio, she decided to make the most of her life.

Marion now works for Ontario Power Generation and teaches piano. She has a secretarial degree and attended Ryerson University to study Human Resources Management. She is also the president and owner of Vital Access. Marion lives in her own house, which she shares with her twin sons who act as caregivers.

Meenu Sikand

Photo of Meenu
Life was looking good when Meenu arrived in Toronto in March of1986. As a 22-year-old new immigrant to Canada, she couldn’t wait to reunite with her father and sister who had migrated to Canada earlier and she was looking forward to starting her Master’s degree in the fall. However, in May, she began to experience some back pain. An x-ray revealed that the Herrington rods inserted in her back to correct a childhood spinal curvature had become a problem. During surgery, Meenu sustained an unexpected spinal cord injury. She was completely paralyzed at the T5 level, leaving her a quadriplegic.

Meenu faced her life-changing event head on, and became a successful disability rights advocate in Canada and internationally. She has had exciting and financially rewarding careers in private, public and non-profit sectors. She has travelled extensively throughout Canada and overseas, receiving awards from the Canadian government, Indo-Canada Chambers of Commerce, Voice Media Group and NGOs. Meenu is proud to be a daughter, wife, friend and mother.

Life with an acquired disability has turned out to be different, yet extremely rewarding. “I cherish every challenge and all the opportunities that come with it.”

Rob Buren

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Robert felt blessed; married to his best friend, a father of two beautiful daughters, enjoying an exciting career, good health and a rich network of friends. The future looked bright, and he was determined to make the most of it. At the age of 37, on a Sunday morning mountain bike ride with a friend, he came across a jump someone had built in the forest. Often willing to try new obstacles, Robert took the jump but missed the landing. Hitting his head on the forest floor, he broke his back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Since the day of his accident, Robert continues to set goals and focuses all of his energy to achieving them. In addition to being an active husband and father, Robert has accomplished his pre-injury goal of becoming a triathlete. In the summer of 2013, he became the first Canadian with paraplegia to complete a Full Ironman race (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, 42.2 km run).

Robert Hampson

Photo of Robert
One day in 1997, at the age of 4, Robert was riding in the car and wondered why he couldn't see the CN tower on the horizon anymore. Later, at a doctor's appointment, he thought someone was playing a trick on him when he covered his left eye, because suddenly the room went dark. Doctors told him needed surgery to remove a brain tumor. After the surgery, it was dark all of the time, because Robert had become blind.

Robert spent more than 11 years battling his brain tumors, and every day since that first surgery he has had to learn how to adapt to a world without sight.

The will to overcome adversity defines Robert. He is a competitive swimmer, runs a successful charity and is a student at St. Lawrence College. Robert has received the King Clancy Award from the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons, a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, and has been inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in recognition of his work for people with disabilities.

Sharon Brant

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Sharon was born with glaucoma and has been blind since she was 13 years old. She wanted to become a doctor or a nurse and help people, but she was not able to do so, as she could no longer see. Instead, she got into acting, theatre and plays.

Sharon finished grade 12 and went on to college. For the past 26 years, she has worked for the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario. Sharon is married with two kids, and her hobbies include reading, listening to music and walking.

Sharon is interested in educating the public about living with a disability, and is a speaker for CNIB and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. She wants to show people that even though she has a disability she is able to live a full and complete life.