Congratulations Universal Access – #inclusive

REAP’s Be Local Awards have wrapped up for 2017, with Calgarian’s voting for their favourite REAP businesses from August until the end of October. On November 22, changemakers gathered at River Café to honour local businesses and nonprofits making an impact in their community. As part of this annual celebration, Thrive recognized a local organization that is strengthening the local economy by looking at more than just their financial bottom line. We are pleased to name Universal Access 2017’s Community Economy Leader.

When selecting our Local Economy Leader, we looked at a variety of factors including how the business contributed to community building, the local economic benefit provided by their service, and if they were adopting new practices that went beyond a single bottom line approach. Though Universal Access is a new start-up, they have ensured they are incorporating these approaches in their work from day one.

At its core, Universal Access builds community and brings together existing communities. Sean Crump, president of Universal Access , was frustrated with businesses claiming to be accessible only to arrive and discover barriers for people living with disabilities. He developed Universal Access to create understanding around what true accessibility is and to build a city where everyone is able to participate without barriers. Using a certification model, Sean and his team audit businesses and then work with them to upgrade the facilities. Businesses who train staff and create an accessible space in line with recommendations are given Universal Access Certification which includes being featured in Universal Access’ business directory as well as signage for their entrances. Beyond ensuring businesses are accessible, they partner with certified businesses to market effectively and promote local establishments who have shown they are committed to higher standards of business.

To ensure they are meeting the needs of the communities they serve, Universal Access engages with existing groups and associations in order to understand unique needs and perspectives, including associations for the elderly. Through consistent and open communication, the communities who benefit from Universal Access’ work in Calgary are the ones determining what true barrier-free access looks like.

Beyond the vital impact they are making in ensuring Calgary is accessible to all, Universal Access also ensures they are staying ahead of the curve when it comes to employment. Beyond paying a living wage to employees, students are routinely hired in order to give them firsthand experience in their field. Universal Access also develops employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Sean and his team also strive to work as locally as possible, partnering with local businesses and leveraging the REAP network whenever possible.

We are truly excited to watch Universal Access continue to grow in Calgary. Their commitment to an immersive, barrier-free community where all individuals can participate in their neighbourhoods is inspiring. That This commitment alongside being local and paying a living wage is why they are the 2017 Community Economy Leader. Congratulations Universal Access!

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