Justin Bachman speaks to the crowd at the Intercontinental Hotel.
In recognition of both Dancing Wheels Company's 35th anniversary as a local dance institution and the Americans with Disabilities Act's 25th anniversary, yesterday's "Best of Accessible Cleveland" conference cast a bright light on what many people in town are doing to include everyone.
Local high school student Justin Bachman won the "Champion of Inclusion" award for establishing the Honor Good Deeds program. The Cleveland Orchestra was given the "Arts Access" award, which Dancing Wheels co-founder Mary Verdi-Fletcher said was deserved for many important reasons. And Progressive Insurance was awarded "Best of Accessible Cleveland" for the company's work in reaching out to all employees and clients.
Despite the ADA's 25 years, there's still much work to be done to break down walls for people with disabilities. Keynote speaker Judith Heumann discussed the numerous barriers to employment that exist, which perpetuate high rates of poverty among populations with disabilities. "We believe very much that we need to have communities where disabled people can live and thrive within their communities," she said.
Prior to the awards ceremony, Verdi-Fletcher was joined by dancers from the company, and they launched into a stirring performance based around Aerosmith's "Dream On." By the end of the dance, the performers were hoisting signs that declared "Access is a Right!" and waving their arms in rhythm.
On a related note, check out this brief documentary about the origins of Dancing Wheels: